California License Plates

From designs that support the environment to stylish, throwback looks, Jerry has put together all of California’s best license plate options.
Written by Samuel Todd
Reviewed by Jessica Barrett
Updated on Mar 23, 2023
Whether you want to rock the classic red, white, and blue plates or support the environment with a custom design, there are a handful of awesome California license plates for you to consider.
License plates are more than just an identification number—they give you a chance to add a splash of personality to your ride. Luckily for folks in
Los Angeles
San Francisco
, few states have better customization options than California.
We're here to break down all of the best choices. We’ll walk you through everything you need to know about license plates in the Golden State: what they are, which ones are the coolest, and how you can get a sweet California license plate of your own.
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What are California license plates and why do I need them?

In a nutshell, license plates are like ID tags for your car. According to the
California DMV
, license plates “verify that your vehicle is registered, identify the type of registration you have, and help connect vehicles with their owners.”
If you ever get into an accident, license plates smooth out the process of determining who’s at fault. Plus, license plates help police officers track down stolen vehicles—so they’re pretty crucial to our society!
Per the
California Vehicle Code
, you should have a front and back license plate on your car at all times. So, before you take your new car for a spin, you’ll need to make sure that you’ve got the right license plates for the road. Let’s take a look at some of your top options in California. 

What license plates does California have?

California license plates fall into three main categories: 
  • Standard plates
    , which you’re probably used to seeing by now. Most of these are white with red and blue lettering.
  • Special interest plates
    support specific causes like the environment, arts, or breast cancer awareness.
  • Special plates
    come in all shapes and sizes. Special plates can be used by people who drive antique motorcycles, horseless carriages, mopeds, and more!

Standard license plates

  • Red, white, and blue plates: Whether you go for a cursive script or regular lettering, these patriotic plates have an undeniable West Coast vibe.
  • Black and yellow plates: Also known as Legacy Plates, these vintage designs have been in circulation since the 1950s. For just $50, you can get one of your own—a small fee for such a unique style, if you ask us!
  • Blue and yellow plates: Another throwback look, your best chance of landing one of these uncommon plates is through a third-party seller like

Special interest license plates

  • California Agriculture (CalAg): CalAg plates are some of the most popular special interest plates on the streets. If you opt for these plates, your payment will go towards preparing students for successful careers in the agriculture sector.
  • Environmental: These fees support environmental programs—plus, you get to customize your plate! With California’s environmental plates, you can finally hit the streets of
    with that “GOGR33N” plate you’ve always wanted. 
  • Arts Council: Complete with palm trees and a falling sun, this design adds a splash of color to your car and supports the
    California Arts Council.
    Win-win, right? 
  • Firefighters: If you’re an active or retired California firefighter, you can contribute to the
    California Firefighters Memorial Fund
    by adding these plates to your vehicle.
  • Breast Cancer Awareness: Your investment in these plates, which feature the instantly recognizable pink ribbon, will go towards the
    Every Woman Counts Program
    , which supports breast cancer detection and treatment.

Special license plates

  • Amateur Radio Call Letters: If you hold an amateur radio license from the FCC, you’re in luck! You could get plates with your call letters (e.g. W6BXX) by submitting
    Form 17A
  • Antique Motorcycles: Only available to folks who own a motorcycle that was made before 1942, you can request an Antique Motorcycle Plate by sending
    Form 17A
    to your local DMV office.
  • Disabled Persons/Veterans: If you’re a
    person with a disability
    or a
    disabled veteran
    , these plates come with the International Symbol of Access, which gives you special parking privileges.
  • Horseless Carriages: Okay, these might not be the most popular plates in the state—but if you’re the one person reading this that has a vehicle from 1922 or earlier (or a 16+ cylinder engine from before 1965), it’s your lucky day! Submit a
    Form 17A
    and be on your way, with these red and white plates in tow.
  • Mopeds: Complete a
    Moped Plate Application
    —not only are they stylish, but they’re legally required in the state of California!

How do I get a California license plate?

Getting new plates in California is pretty simple—all you need to do is
register your vehicle
through the California DMV. If you’ve already got plates, but want to branch out with a new design, you can request the new plates when you
renew your registration
To register your vehicle, you need:
  • Your vehicle’s title (with its mileage, if the car is less than 10 years old)
  • A Smog Certificate (if your vehicle is over four years old)
  • Payment for fees ($46 for registration plus a $23 highway patrol fee)
And that’s it! If you just need to replace your plates,
follow the instructions from the California DMV
. You should be rocking your sweet new design in no time.

How to customize your car insurance for savings in California 

Now that you’ve picked your favorite license plate, why not pair it with a personalized
car insurance
, our insurance shopping super app, is easy to use and saves the average driver over $800 on car insurance!
All you need to do is download the app, sign up in 45 seconds, and let Jerry find you the best prices from the nation’s top insurers. We’re with you every step of the way, even helping you to cancel your old policy and get started with your new one.
After you’ve switched, congratulations are in order: you’ve just joined the team of over two million customers who found their perfect insurance with Jerry!
quoted me a price that saved me almost $4000 a year in California! I definitely recommend Jerry.” —Patricia B.
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Though some of California’s license plates are no longer issued by the DMV, they’ve still got over twenty types ofplates, ranging from special interest designs to moped plates.
Yes! Though the no-plate look can be pretty sleek, California requires both front and back license plates for you to legally drive in the state.
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