How Can I Get A Black California License Plate?

Black license plates in California are a vintage styling choice that can make your car stand out. Though they are not issued today, you can legally get vintage recreations or custom black plates in California by applying through the DMV or third party vendors.  

Add an air of mystery and vintage cool to your ride with sleek black California license plates, legally available through specialty retailers or, with some work, even customized by you.

When Did California Have Black License Plates?

California had black license plates during various periods in its history. The first instance was from 1914 to 1917 when black plates with white characters were introduced. These plates were notably simple, featuring only the vehicle’s registration number without any state name. 

Another period with black license plates occurred from 1963 to 1969, and these plates displayed a gold state name and DMV registration sticker. The distinctive design was eventually phased out, replaced by blue plates in 1970. Both these historical periods contribute to the iconic status of black license plates in California’s automotive history.

When Did California Stop Using Black License Plates?

California stopped using black license plates for general issuance in 1969. The black plates with gold characters had been in use since 1963 and were a distinctive feature on Californian vehicles during that period. The change was part of the state’s transition to a new license plate design in 1970, replacing the iconic black plates with blue ones. 

While black plates are no longer the standard issue, they continue to hold nostalgic value for many and are sought after by collectors who appreciate their historical significance. Despite the shift, black plates are still allowed on certain vintage vehicles, preserving a connection to California’s motoring past.

What Do Black California License Plates Mean?

What Do Black California License Plates Mean?

Black California license plates hold nostalgic meaning for many car enthusiasts in the state. The vintage look of the black plate with yellow lettering evokes a classic, old school aesthetic from the middle of the 20th century. Some drivers enjoy the mystique of the dark plates hinting at possible hot rod status. So while they no longer indicate age alone, black California plates still represent automotive history and pride.

Can You Still Get Black And Yellow California License Plates?

Yes, black and yellow California license plates can still be obtained today. Since the 1960s specialty program, black plates have been offered to certain groups like disabled veterans and Medal of Honor recipients. More recently, California opened up additional black plate possibilities through its Legacy License Plate program which produces replica plates from earlier years. These authentic metallic replicas let car owners celebrate California auto history. Customers can also apply for custom black license plates with yellow lettering through third party dealers as long as the plates meet DMV regulations.

Can You Get Black California License Plates At Aaa?

Unfortunately AAA offices do not issue new black California license plates directly. However, a AAA membership can still assist drivers in obtaining black legacy plates or custom black plates for their vehicles through the California DMV. AAA locations provide license and registration services, including submitting DMV applications for specialty black plates. They can also handle renewals for any existing black plates registered to your vehicle. But the vintage replica or fully custom black plates would still come from other production sources.  

How Do I Get A California Black License Plate?

1. Check Vehicle Eligibility:

To obtain a California black license plate, start by confirming your vehicle’s eligibility. Typically, these plates are reserved for certain vintage and historical vehicles. Ensure your vehicle meets the criteria set by the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

2. Visit the DMV Website:

Navigate to the official DMV website to gather information about the specific application process for black license plates. The website provides details on required documents, fees, and any additional steps you may need to take.

3. Prepare Necessary Documentation:

Gather the required documentation, including proof of vehicle eligibility, registration details, and identification. Having these documents ready will streamline the application process when you visit the DMV.

4. Visit Your Local DMV Office:

Visit a local DMV office to submit your application for a black license plate. Be prepared to pay any applicable fees and provide the necessary documentation. The DMV staff will guide you through the process and address any questions you may have.

5. Wait for Processing:

After submitting your application, patiently await processing. Once approved, you will receive your California black license plate. Keep in mind that the processing time may vary, so it’s advisable to check with the DMV for updates on the status of your application.

How Much Do Black California Plates Cost? 

The cost for black California license plates depends on the specific type of plate. Professionally restored original vintage plates can cost over $500. State-issued legacy black plates cost $50 initially then $40 to renew. Custom black plates, including application fees and production, range from $100-$200 for a basic plate set to over $1000 for a completely personalized plate with custom graphics. Additional fees apply to register the plates with the DMV. Contacting a custom plate builder is the best way to get an exact price quote for a custom black plate order.

Do You Pay Extra For Black California Plates?

Do You Pay Extra For Black California Plates?

Yes, typically there are additional costs above the standard registration fee to obtain black California license plates, whether state-issued legacy plates or custom black plates. The $50 yearly renewal fee for regular plates jumps to $98 for legacy plates. Professionally restored vintage plates can cost many hundreds on top of registration fees. Even basic custom black plates often add $50 or more to purchase before extra registration fees. 

Creating fully customized text/graphics on black plates using a vendor costs well over $100. Disabled veterans can get specialty black plates at no extra charge but must pay vehicle registration fees. Essentially any official or novelty CA plate that is not the standard design incurs some supplementary expense for customers wanting the unique black look.  

What States Have Black License Plates?  

While the iconic black license plate is associated with California, a few other states have issued all-black plates over the years or still offer them in limited types today. These include New Mexico, Arizona, Michigan, Virginia, Vermont and New Hampshire. Certain military license plates are also issued in black across multiple states. Vintage enthusiasts enjoy tracking down authentic old black plates from various no-longer-issued state schemes to collect or use for restoration. Aside from these exceptions though, black license plates are primarily identified with classic California cars through the mid-1900s.

Are Black And White Plates Legal In California?

Yes, black California license plates with yellow lettering and numbering are completely legal to display when properly registered and renewed according to DMV regulations. Vintage collectors must ensure restored old plates are approved replicas. Custom black and yellow plates require submitting applications through authorized third party contractors. As long as the license plates, whether custom or legacy replicas, meet state DMV vehicle identification requirements, black California plates are legal to be made and installed on cars registered within the state.

Why Do Some Cars In California Have Black License Plates?  

There are a few reasons why some vehicle owners in California have black license plates:

1) To maintain an authentic vintage look on restored classic cars originally issued black plates from the 1930s through 1960s when they were the standard issue style. 

2) To recreate the distinctive appearance of muscle cars and hot rods from the classic black California plate era as a thematic automotive fashion statement.

3) To indicate historical state pride for longtime California drivers who have managed to keep renewing their original black plates over decades to retain them.   

4) For custom car aficionados to express their individuality and personalize their vehicle’s image using legally obtained novelty vintage-style black plates.

5) In certain special cases like disabled veterans, to denote particular military distinction granting drivers exclusive specialty black plate access from the DMV.

Related Post: Can I Throw Away Old License Plates In California?

Why Do People Have Black License Plates?

Why Do People Have Black License Plates?

People choose black license plates to make an aesthetic statement about their vehicle and driving history. Black plates stand out from busy modern plate designs and give vintage appeal highlighting California’s automotive heritage. They indicate automotive passion and personalized customization. Black plates also symbolize exclusivity since they are not standard issue. For those with authentic vintage restored plates, they represent multi-generational state pride. Even without an actual historical plate, drivers use unique black plates to embed their car within the state’s classic car culture and community.  

Can I Paint My License Plate Black In California?  

Can I Paint My License Plate Black In California?  

In California, altering the color of your license plate is generally not allowed. License plates serve as vital identification markers for vehicles, and any modification to their appearance may compromise the effectiveness of law enforcement and automated recognition systems. The state’s regulations mandate that license plates must remain reflective and visible under various lighting conditions, ensuring the accurate identification of vehicles on the road.

Painting your license plate black or making any color changes could lead to legal consequences, including fines or penalties. It is advisable to keep license plates in their original, issued condition to comply with California’s strict vehicle registration standards. If individuals have concerns about the appearance of their license plates or need replacements due to damage or wear, it is recommended to contact the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to explore legal and approved options for obtaining new plates.

Can I Change The Color Of My License Plate In California?

No, average California drivers cannot legally modify or change the color scheme of their existing license plates. Only the DMV has authority to issue plates within restricted state designs and color formats. Tampering by painting or altering a plate currently registered to your car would violate California vehicle code. However, vehicle owners can apply to exchange their current plates for optional alternative plates the DMV sanctions in certain approved vintage or specialty designs such as black and yellow. 

Legacy license plates may be available through California’s reproduction retro plate program for a fee. Custom black novelty plates can also be shopped through private dealers. Qualified drivers like disabled veterans may apply for custom black plates at no extra charge. Outside of these routes though, average drivers cannot change their plates to black.

Can I Change My License Plate Number In California? 

In California, changing your license plate number is generally not allowed unless there is a specific reason deemed valid by the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). License plate numbers are crucial identifiers for vehicles, and altering them without proper authorization can lead to legal complications. 

But, certain situations, such as documented cases of identity theft, may warrant a license plate number change. To initiate this process, individuals are typically required to contact the DMV and provide compelling reasons for the request, along with any supporting documentation.

It’s important to note that routine changes of license plate numbers for personal preference or convenience are not permitted. The DMV aims to maintain accurate records and ensure the integrity of the vehicle registration system. Therefore, any desire to alter a license plate number in California should be approached with a clear and legitimate rationale, adhering to the guidelines set forth by the DMV.

Do Teslas Need A Front License Plate In California?

Tesla vehicles, like all other cars on the road in California, are required to display both front and rear license plates as part of the state vehicle code. This is meant to allow easy identification of plates from either direction. However, Tesla’s clean design aesthetic on their electric models has led some owners to forego drilling into the front bumper for a bracket in violation of state law. 

While rarely ticketed just for the missing front plate, it does technically leave the Tesla owner liable for a fix-it citation. One legal alternative is to utilize a tow hook front license plate mount that attaches without drilling into the body of the vehicle. This allows Tesla drivers to stay within DMV registration compliance while maintaining the smooth look Tesla intended.

Do You Get 2 License Plates In California?

Yes, the California DMV issues two license plates – a rear plate and front plate – for every standard passenger vehicle registered in the state. Having both plates clearly visible from either direction enables law enforcement and traffic monitoring cameras to easily identify vehicles. The DMV does grant certain vehicle qualify for just a rear plate only, like commercial trucks and trailers. 

Regular passenger cars though must display the matching set of embossed metal plates on both bumpers to stay compliant. Drivers can face fix-it citations if caught missing either the back plate or front plate. Therefore all typical vehicle owners should ensure they properly have both plates installed after registration renewal or getting new California plates from the DMV. Proper installation guidelines must also be followed.

Why Is 69 Banned In California License Plates? 

Why Is 69 Banned In California License Plates? 

The number 69 is restricted from use on California license plates because the DMV has identified it as a configuration with “sexual connotations” that should be excluded. They want to prevent vehicles from displaying plates posting even somewhat lewd or inappropriate language. Along with 69, combinations like ASS, LMAO, FOO, etc are on California’s banned license plate list. While these policies may seem overly cautious, the DMV claims protecting state motorist decency as reason to prohibit certain combinations from being issued. Drivers cannot request plates with 69 or other banned number mixes.

How Do I Change My Car From Commercial To Private In California?

To change your car registration from commercial to private in California, you must submit an Application for Registration to the DMV. This form indicates you are switching the vehicle’s use and classification. Supporting documents may be needed like insurance meeting private passenger vehicle requirements. You cannot have outstanding parking citations, unpaid registration, or fees due on the commercial plates before converting them. Once approved, you’ll receive new standard plates and registration card listing the car as private. 

This also changes your insurance needs, fees owed, and whether the car requires smog checks going forward. Contact the CA DMV to confirm exactly which version of the application is current and what paperwork is needed as policies can occasionally update. Pay any due registration costs and turn in the old commercial plates. The vehicle can then operate as a standard private car with new plates going forward.

How To Renew California License Plate?  

Renewing your California license plate involves a straightforward process, typically done through the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Here’s a detailed guide on how to renew your California license plate:

1. Receive Renewal Notice

The DMV usually sends a renewal notice well in advance of your license plate expiration date. This notice includes important details such as the renewal fee and any additional requirements.

2. Review Renewal Notice

Carefully review the renewal notice to ensure all information is accurate. It will specify the renewal fee, which varies based on factors such as the vehicle type and location.

3. Payment of Renewal Fee

Pay the renewal fee by the due date mentioned in the renewal notice. You can pay online through the DMV website, in person at a local DMV office, or by mail. Accepted payment methods may include credit/debit cards, checks, or money orders.

4. Vehicle Inspection and Emissions Test (if applicable)

Certain vehicles may require a smog inspection or emissions test as part of the renewal process. Check the renewal notice to determine if your vehicle falls into this category, and complete the necessary inspections if required.

5. Renew Online

For convenience, many individuals choose to renew their license plates online through the DMV website. Follow the instructions provided, enter the required information, and make the payment electronically.

6. Renew by Mail

If you prefer to renew by mail, follow the instructions on the renewal notice. Typically, you’ll need to send a check or money order along with any required documents. Ensure the renewal notice and payment are sent well before the expiration date to allow for processing time.

7. Renew in Person

Visit a local DMV office in person to renew your license plate. Bring the renewal notice, payment, and any required documents. It’s advisable to check the DMV website for office hours and any COVID-19 related guidelines that may affect in-person visits.

8. Receive Renewed Registration

After completing the renewal process, you will receive a renewed registration card and a new expiration sticker for your license plate. Affix the new sticker to the license plate promptly.

By following these steps, you can successfully renew your California license plate and ensure that your vehicle remains legally registered and compliant with state regulations.

How Can I Get A Black California License Plate?


How long does it take to get a black license plate in California?

The processing time for a black license plate in California varies, and it’s advisable to check with the DMV for current timelines.

Can you legally change the color of your license plate in California?

No, changing the color of your license plate is generally not allowed in California. Plates must remain in their issued colors for legal compliance.

Can I get a blue license plate in California?

Yes, blue license plates are currently issued in California. They replaced black plates as the standard issue in 1970.

When did California have black license plates?

California had black license plates during two significant periods: from 1914 to 1917 and from 1963 to 1969.

Are colored plates legal in California?

Yes, colored plates are legal in California, as long as they adhere to the state’s regulations regarding visibility and reflectivity.

What state has black and white license plates?

Various states, including California, issue black and white license plates. The specific design and regulations may vary by state.


To sum it up, obtaining a black California license plate involves a meticulous process governed by the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). To embark on this journey, individuals must ascertain their vehicle’s eligibility, visit the official DMV website for pertinent information, and prepare the required documentation. 

A visit to a local DMV office, armed with the necessary paperwork, facilitates the submission of the application. Patience is key as applicants await processing. This meticulous process ensures the authenticity and legality of acquiring a black California license plate, blending nostalgia with the stringent regulatory standards upheld by the state’s DMV.

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