Everything you need to know about a custom license plate in California

a custom license plate

Question: I want custom license plates and custom tags for my car. What do I need to do? Answer: To get a custom license plate in California, you’ll need to complete the proper applications and submit them either by mail or in person at a local DMV office. You’ll also need to pay the required fees. Plates must be approved prior to issuance.


Custom plates may be purchased from any Tag and Title service or DMV office. There is no limit on how many custom license plates can be issued, except the number of vehicle/s registered under your name; however custom license plates are not transferable between vehicles with a different registration. There is a custom plate fee for issuance, and an annual renewal fee. 

Custom license plates do not require a new registration period; they continue to be valid until any one of the following occurs:

  • When you sell your vehicle
  • Until the custom license plates are repossessed by the department after being reported lost or stolen
  • You cancel custom license plate coverage with the DMV

Custom plate fees for vehicles registered in California are as follows:  A standard issue of custom license plates costs $50.00 each through the DMV. A personalized custom license plate from a Tag and Title service costs a minimum of $51.25 per set. The difference in price is due to sales tax charged by Tag and Title services that varies according to county.


To apply for custom license plates in California you must be able to answer YES to ALL of the following questions:  Are you the legal owner of the vehicle with registration fees up-to-date?  Is your custom plate order being sent directly by mail? (Note: If not, please inquire about special instructions and custom plate processing time.) Are you renewing a custom license plate or replacing it after it has been lost, destroyed, stolen, mutilated, or never received? Are the custom plates personal; meaning do they display any one of these unacceptable messages: politically charged, vulgar, suggestive, offensive to any ethnic/minority group, obscenity…


For custom license plate information in California you should contact your local Tag and Title service or the California Department of Motor Vehicles. For custom license plate questions in California contact:  DMV – Californians are encouraged to contact their local offices for custom license plates. Tags And Titles – To speak with a representative regarding custom license plates. Please note that custom license plates may take longer to process through the DMV because they are personalized. Some Tag and Title services don’t have wait times, while others do depending on demand volume. The DMV has received reports of delay times ranging from 4 days to 6 months, so please plan accordingly. The custom license plate application process is the same for both Tag and Title services, however you’re local DMV may have custom plate restrictions that are not posted on their website. For example, some custom plates are considered offensive. Remember to always check with your Tag and Title service before submitting an application to ensure you get exactly what you want!


To get custom car tags in California, either visit or mail-in your completed applications, extra copies are included just in case you need them for reference later. Most custom license plate professionals offer personalization, custom graphics, custom colors /designs, logos/trademarks, etc., and custom license plate variety but they do not offer custom messages, custom political messages, custom offensive messages, etc. If you need custom license plates with a message that is considered free speech or politically charged, than you will have to apply directly through the California DMV. For custom license plates in California Tag and Title services typically charge $25 per set plus sales tax depending on county of residence.

Tag and Title services in California can process custom plates for motorcycles, commercial vehicles, trailers, boats, construction equipment/vehicles, etc., but custom license plates cannot be used on a standard vehicle. If you need custom tags for a standard car/truck the DMV must process your custom license plate application. Most custom license plate professionals do not have wait times because they are rooted within the Tag and Title industry. In most cases custom license plates cost more through a Tag and Title service than from the DMV because custom license plates may take longer to process depending on demand volume.


Custom license plates are an investment. Custom plate professionals can help you get the custom plate design you want, however custom tag services cannot promise custom messages. To ensure success and avoid any delays, contact your local DMV branch before ordering custom tags. If time is of the essence than mail-in applications should be considered.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *