Last updated: August 2023

How to Get a Custom or Vanity License Plate

No matter where you drive, you have to display a license plate. So, it might as well be a personalized message you love, right? If you’ve ever had questions about vanity plates or thought about getting one, consider this your guide. We’ll teach you how to get a custom license plate, look at the laws surrounding them, share some vanity plate ideas, and more.

Custom License Plate Rules & Laws

While you can get a custom plate anywhere, every state has different rules regarding vanity plates. However, here are some things you can generally expect.

  • Custom messages can typically be up to six or seven characters: Knowing how many characters on a vanity plate are allowed will help you brainstorm ideas, but it’s important to find out the exact character count where you live before settling on a message.
  • A ban on offensive words or inappropriate language: Just about every state will ban offensive, vulgar, or hostile messages. This is not the time to be crude or rude; keep it clean.
  • You’ll probably pay additional fees: Many states require you to pay an additional fee for a custom plate. You might also need to pay an additional renewal fee to keep your personalized message.
  • Specific numbers and letters might be considered the same: If you’re thinking about using a “1” instead of an “I” or a “0” in place of an “O,” that might not be allowed. Many states consider them the same character.

To find out the specific rules where you live, run a quick search for “custom license plates in [YOUR STATE]” or “vanity plates in [YOUR STATE].” These searches should lead you to a state website where you can get a confirmed character count, allowed numbers and symbols, fee amounts, and everything else you need to know.

How to Get a Custom License Plate Step by Step

Wondering how to get a personalized plate? We’ll walk you through it step by step. Please note, every state is slightly different, and this is just an idea of how to move through the process, generally speaking.

  1. Find the rules and regulations in your state: Use one of the search queries we mentioned above to locate an official page about vanity plates where you live.
  2. Brainstorm ideas: Now that you know how many characters you can use and which symbols are allowed, come up with something clever.
  3. Identify several top ideas and see if they’re available: Even though you’re clever and funny, someone else might’ve had the same idea before you. Your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles site or Registration Office site probably has a place to put in your potential messages and check their availability.
  4. Follow instructions to secure your new license plate: Once you’ve found an available message you love, follow the steps to secure your plate. You’ll probably have to fill out a form with your top choices (ranked in order) and mail it with a check to cover any required fees.
  5. Put it on and show it off: Once you receive your plate in the mail or pick it up from the local Motor Vehicle Office, it’s time to display it for the world to see. You went through the work of brainstorming, checking availability, filling out forms, and paying fees, so don’t be shy!

How much does it cost to get a custom license plate?

Like every state has its own rules for allowed characters, symbols, and character counts, each state also sets a fee for custom plates. However, prices generally seem to be no more than $100 for first-time buyers and people paying to renew their custom plates.

Custom License Plate Ideas

Are you excited about the idea of getting a vanity plate? Do you need ideas for a custom message you can use? We’ve got some ideas to get your brainstorming started. Please note, someone might have claimed the ideas we list below in your state.

Personalized plate ideas for sports fans:
One of the most popular choices for personalized plates is the driver’s favorite sports team. If you love your alma mater to death or own season tickets for an NFL team, consider them for your custom plate.


Many states also have different license plate designs to choose from, meaning you might be able to combine your license plate letters with a team logo.

Personalized plate ideas for important things in your life:
If you have something in your life that matters deeply to you, let the world know with your license plate message.


Personalized plate ideas for inspiring people:
One word or sentence can motivate people. Maybe your license plate is the push someone needs to keep going.


Funny personalized plate ideas:
Maybe you just want to make people laugh. If so, think of a funny, clever phrase to put down.


A license plate isn’t the only thing you need to drive legally. You also need to meet your state’s minimum insurance requirementsCall 877-463-4732Request a quote, or visit your local Direct Auto store store to ensure you’ve got the proper coverage.

Note: At least according to a Vanity plate is only numbers or only letters, while Personalized plates use a combination of the two.

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