California License Plate Information Summary
Registering your vehicle in California will get you the license plates you need. Your California license plates must be renewed with your registration on a regular basis. You'll also get two stickers – one showing the month your plate expires, and one showing the year.
You can keep your monthly sticker forever. The year sticker will change when you renew your California driver's license.
California License Plates Offered
California changes its standard license plate fairly regularly. At the moment, it is white with blue letters.
The state also offers a wide selection of non-standard plates including vanity, special interest, legacy, historical, antique, purple heart, Pearl Harbor, disability plates, and others.
You can contact your DMV for a full selection of the many types of plates offered.
Passenger cars, vans, and trucks need license plates on the front and back of the vehicle. You only need a California license plate on the back of a motorcycle.
To get a California license plate, you must go to the DMV with a registration application, a check for registration fees, proof of car insurance, a smog check, and any information about previous vehicles you have owned.
When You Need To Get California License Plates
Temporary license plates do not exist in California. You must get new California license plates the day you take ownership of a new vehicle. If you move to the state, you have 20 days to get new California license plates.
Keeping Your License Plates Up To Date
You need to renew your California license plates every year. Get a smog check, then go to the DMV. You will get a new yearly sticker.
If Your California License Plates Are Stolen
Should your license plates be stolen or damaged, you can replace them at the DMV or by mail.
You will have to pay $21 for the license plates and another $21 for the stickers.
You can make an appointment with the DMV so you're not waiting in line for hours.
Transferring Or Surrendering Your License Plates
When you sell your car, your plates go with it.
Should you have a vanity plate, you can apply to keep it for a new vehicle. Fees vary quite a bit, so contact your DMV to find out how much the transfer will cost you.
There is no program in place to surrender your license plates to the state.
California License Plate Costs
The cost for new California license plates vary widely, depending on the type of vehicle and where in the state you live. This is also true for renewing your license plates.
To find out how much it will cost you, you need to contact your local DMV.