How to Check Available Custom License Plates

Jason Tushinski
Mar 1, 2022 · 5 min read
The DMV is the place to go to check if the vanity plate you want is available. Whether in person or online, both processes will require filling out forms, selecting several combinations of your preferred vanity plate name, and paying a small fee.
Keep in mind, self-expression has its limits. The DMV will likely reject any vanity plate applications with inappropriate or vulgar plate monikers.
If you want to know the nitty-gritty of getting a vanity plate, the car insurance comparison shopping and broker app Jerry has compiled everything you need to know—so you can get that H0TW3ELZ license plate you’ve always wanted.
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How to check if a number plate is taken

If you want a vanity plate, you’ll have to visit your local DMV to get the ball rolling. In some states, the county clerk’s office may handle vanity plates. Either way, check out to determine where in your state you’ll need to go to get vanity plates.
Once you’re in the right place, you’ll have to see if your license plate name is taken as fill out some paperwork to order your plates.
Again, depending on which state you live in, there may be a variety of specialized plate options to choose from, including themed plates—where your fee supports the non-profit organization featured on it.

Vanity plate costs

Yes—showing the world your personality does come at a price, but it is a reasonable one (about $100 depending on where you live). You must pay this fee along with your regular car registration fees. Keep in mind, you’ll have to renew your vanity plate on a yearly basis.

Vanity plate restrictions

While a vanity plate can be a great canvas to show off your personality, there are limits. Be sure to keep your character count within your state’s limits, and heed any instructions regarding the use of numbers and/or letters. While it’s always fun to show off your personality vulgarity is not permitted, so keep it clean!


Any process wouldn’t be complete without the requisite paperwork, and vanity plates are no exception! This is routine, and you’ll have to give the DMV or county clerk the requisite information they’ll need about you and your vehicle.
You’ll also have to choose specific character combinations for your plate, in case your preferred moniker isn’t available.
Key Takeaway Make sure you get all of your paperwork right if you want your license plate sorted.

Pay and wait

Once you fill out the paperwork and have paid for your vanity plate, it’s time to play the waiting game! Once ordered, you’ll have to wait a few weeks before your plates arrive.
Some DMV and county clerk offices only order vanity plates at certain times of the year. Keep this in mind when ordering your new plates.

Ordering vanity plates online

Living in the Internet Age, most states will allow you to view online what vanity plate options are available, and order them online.
Double-check with your local DMV if you can order vanity plates online in your state. If not, you’ll have to visit the DMV or county clerk’s office in person.
First, find your state’s DMV page. Then, click on the Registration and Titling tab. From there, click on the License Plates and Placards tab, where you’ll find the section for vanity or specialized license plates. You may have to enter the ZIP code where your car is registered to see vanity plate options.
At this point, you’ll be able to see what kind of vanity or specialized plates are available. Note any restrictions about what you can put on your vanity plate, as well as the fees for ordering the plates.

Online forms for vanity plates

It’s sad but true—the wonders of the internet won’t save you from filling out the necessary forms in order to purchase your vanity plates.
Once you’ve filled out the forms and selected the vanity plate you want, submit them online if allowed in your state, along with payment. Otherwise, print the forms out and mail them to your local DMV or county clerk’s office.
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Pay fees and wait

Similar to going into the DMV in person, you’ll have a wait a few weeks to receive your vanity plates once you’ve ordered them online.

Frequently asked questions

Can I order my vanity plates online?

Check with your local DMV—most states allow residents to view vanity plate options and order them online, but not all of them. If your state doesn’t allow online ordering, you’ll have to check the availability and apply for your vanity plates in person.

What can I put on my vanity plates?

Umm, not quite. There is certainly leeway in terms of what you can and cannot put on your vanity plates, but ultimately you’ll have to follow your state’s rules.

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