Montana License Plates

Montana’s iconic license plate designs featuring the state’s breathtaking landscapes and yellowstone national park easily make them one of the most widely recognized plates in the USA. But for residents and visitors alike, understanding Montana’s vehicle registration requirements goes far beyond admiring the scenic designs. 

All vehicles registered in the “Treasure State” are required to properly display current Montana license plates within specific guidelines. Whether new to driving in Big Sky Country or a longtime resident, this guide provides everything you need to know about Montana license plate laws.

Montana License Plate Basics

All vehicles registered in Montana must display front and rear license plates. Standard Montana plates feature a classic white background with blue and green hues depicting a mountain landscape graphic and the state name printed in green:

  • Standard plate dimensions are 6 inches tall x 12 inches wide
  • Made of embossed aluminum for durability  
  • Feature reflective coating for visibility  
  • Random plate letter/number issuance – no personalized plate options available
  • Month and year expiration sticker required on rear plate

Without the option of choosing personalized letter/number combinations, Montana uses a random assignment system for standard plates. License plates in Montana also do not allow special characters or custom phrases like some other states offer. 

The unique mountain landscape license plate design has graced Montana vehicles since the 1950s when the state first introduced the visual elements that ultimately became iconic. The yellowstone national park inspired green, blue and white color scheme has remained over the decades. Die-hard residents even decorate garages and “man cave” walls with out-of-date Montana plates collected over generations to showcase their state pride!

Registering Your Vehicle in Montana

When titling and registering a vehicle in Montana for the first time, you will need to provide county officials with the following:  

  • Proof of identification  
  • Vehicle/vessel title properly assigned to you   
  • Odometer disclosure statement   
  • Receipt for payment of sales or use tax  
  • Applicable fees – registration, title transfer, etc.   

Montana counties handle vehicle registration and title services through local County Treasurer’s Offices. Registration fees depend on the vehicle’s age and value but on average run $217 for a standard passenger car registration plus additional new title($12) and plate fees($5.38).

New residents or those transferring existing registration to Montana have 60 days to title vehicles locally after establishing residency. More details on registration transfers can be found in the section below. 

Failing to properly register your vehicle in Montana promptly carries steep $325 fine. Residency is determined by actions like obtaining a Montana driver’s license, registering to vote locally or not returning to original home state for extended periods over 90 days. 

Renewing Your Montana License Plate

To renew an existing Montana vehicle registration, registrants simply pay the annual renewal fee set based on the vehicle’s age and weight. Important notes for renewals:  

  • Registrations expire at the end of selected renewal month  
  • Renewals can be processed 90 days prior to expiration  
  • Recommended to renew at least 30 days before expiration to allow processing time and avoid lapse 
  • Renewal registration receipt to be displayed until stickers arrive 
  • Standard renewal fees around $130 for passenger vehicles  

Montanans have the option of renewing vehicle registrations for a 1-year or 2-year period, whichever they prefer at time of renewal. Two-year renewals are popular for the convenience of avoiding yearly processing. Many residents even renew right on expiration for the full 2-year renewal term going forward.

Failure to properly renew means driving on expired tags which carries heavy fines if ticketed by law enforcement:

  • 1-30 days past expiration – $25 fine
  • 31-60 days expired – $50 fine 
  • 60+ days overdue – $325 fine

Quick renewal ensures your Montana plates and registration stickers remain valid without breaking state compliance laws.  

Replacing a Lost, Stolen or Damaged Montana License Plate

If your Montana license plates become lost, stolen or damaged beyond recognition, you will need to apply for replacements right away. Required replacement fees for standard plates are $9.48 per plate that needs replacing.

You must carry the temporary paper registration receipt in your vehicle until the new plates arrive from the Montana plate manufacturer to avoid being cited for missing plates.

To obtain replacement Montana plates:  

1. Promptly complete [replacement affidavit]  

2. Contact your local County Treasurer’s office  

3. Pay required replacement plate fees    

4. Display temporary registration in vehicle until new plates received   

Prompt replacement saves major hassles if pulled over with missing or unrecognizable plates since this carries an automatic $325 fine in Montana. You can choose to replace one or both plates if only one is affected.

Related Post: What Do Montana License Plates Look Like?

Specialty and Personalized Montana Plates

Specialty and Personalized Montana Plates

While personalized vanity text and custom plate designs are not available in Montana, the state does offer over 10 different specialty plate designs residents can upgrade to. Fees vary by plate type but most cost $25-$50+ more than standard plates initially, with the extra amount going to support related programs. Montana’s specialty plates include:   

  • State parks plates – extra fees support Montana state parks   
  • Various Montana university plates – University of Montana, Montana State, etc. 
  • Choose Life plates – promotes adoption with added donations
  • NRA sponsored plates – funds shooting range grants 
  • Wildland firefighter plates – honors firefighters lost in the line of duty  
  • Military honor plates – recognize veterans  
  • Amateur radio operator plates   
  • Collector vehicle plates – for antique, classic cars
  • And more!  

Despite no custom name plates allowed, specialty designs still offer some Montana pride customization options. Upgrading to specialty plates also helps fund causes drivers care about on the roads of Big Sky Country.

Transferring License Plate Registration to Montana 

Individuals moving to Montana from another state will need to transfer their vehicle registration and be issued new Montana license plates within 60 days of establishing residency. 

To transfer an out-of-state registration, provide your local County Treasurer’s office:  

  • Valid out-of-state title or registration proving ownership  
  • Successful Montana vehicle inspection from approved mechanic   
  • Acceptable proof of insurance on the vehicle
  • Completed registration application forms  
  • Payment of applicable title transfer fees and taxes  

Once processed, you will be issued new standard Montana plates and registration stickers for your vehicle. Transfer fees outlined earlier apply for registration changes.  

It is also import to officially notify your previous home state of the registration transfer. Some states refund partial registration fees when notified promptly.

Failing to transfer registration to Montana within 60 days carries stiff penalties around $325. Residency is determined by actions like obtaining a Montana driver’s license, registering to vote locally or spending over 90 days in the state continuously.   

For active military members stationed in Montana, exceptions do allow non-residents to legally drive with out-of-state valid registration. But most new Montana residents need to promptly title vehicles locally and be issued standard Montana plates.

Key Things to Know About Montana License Plates  

  • Standard plates randomly assigned – no vanity plates allowed   
  • Both front and rear plates always required  
  • Monthly expiration stickers mandatory on rear plates
  • Standard fees $217 new registration, ~$130 renewals   
  • Specialty plate options available at added cost  
  • Replace lost/stolen plates promptly, fines steep!

Montana License Plate Renewal and Replacements Just Click Away

While Montana license plates used to require in-person visits to handle replacement and renewal transactions, online services now offer convenient alternatives. As of November 2021, Montana motorists now access many key registration services through a new electronic system called “Motor Vehicle Division Online.” 

Through the official [MVD Now] web portal and mobile app, local Montana drivers can now conveniently:  

  • Renew vehicle registration  
  • Replace lost, damaged plates
  • Update contact information 
  • View registration records 

The fast digital options join mail and in-person methods for key license plate needs. Online and mobile access adds flexibility for Montana’s rural residents and those with busy schedules.   

Convenience fees up to $5 still apply for the premium digital processing. But renewing, replacing and updating records electronically can now be done in minutes versus the old lengthy in-person processes. 

Key Takeaways – Montana License Plate Guide Essentials  

For both Montana residents and visitors driving the scenic roads of Big Sky Country, properly displaying current license plates is mandatory. Keep this checklist top of mind:  

  • Standard Montana plates feature stunning mountain landscapes that easily stand out. No vanity plates allowed.  
  • All vehicles registered locally must title and obtain Montana plates within 60 days of becoming a resident.  Both front and rear plates required. Rear plate needs valid month/year expiration tab.  
  • Regular registration renewal and replacement fees apply. Specialty plate upgrades available.   
  • Lost, damaged or stolen plates must be promptly replaced to avoid steep fines.
  • Online renewals and replacement requests now available for added convenience.   


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