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Personalized & Specialized Plates Help

​​The N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles' personalized and specialized plates service allows individuals to order and personalize online license plates about a wide variety of topics and causes.

Note: Only vehicles currently titled and registered in North Carolina may be ordered online or via mail.

View the frequently asked questions below for quick answers to common topics. For additional questions or concerns, send a message or call the NCDMV Customer Contact Center at (919) 715-7000 from 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. on weekdays.

Frequently Asked Questions

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  • Can I get a personalized plate when I register for the first time?
    ​You cannot order a personalized or special license plate online or by mail for a vehicle not currently titled and registered in North Carolina. You can, however, order one in person at an NCDMV license plate agency when you title and register your vehicle.

    NCDMV will initially issue you a standard license plate to use until your personalized or special plate arrives in the mail within 6-8 weeks. When you receive a personalized plate, swap it out with the old plate and return the old plate to an NCDMV license plate agency.
  • Why does it take so long to get a personalized plate?
    ​Personalized plates orders are manufactured by an outside vendor. Once the NCDMV receives the plate, it is mailed to address listed on your registration record, along with a new registration card and validation sticker. This process takes about 6-8 weeks.
  • What does "plate not available" mean when I order a personalized plate online?
    ​"Plate not available" means that your personalized plate choice is being used by another applicant, conflicts with another plate class or might not be allowed because of poor taste.
  • What happens if I ordered a special license plate and it is no longer in stock?
    ​Special plates are made in limited production runs, so your chosen plate may not be available at the time you request it. Some special plates are replaced with new designs; others may be discontinued. You are free to choose another plate that is available, or if the plate is out of stock, you may choose to have it mailed to you when it is restocked.
  • What text is acceptable?
    Personalized text may consist of any combination of letters, numbers or special characters. The N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles reserves the right to refuse submissions that are:
    • Deemed offensive to good taste and decency.
    • Over the space limit allowed for each plate style.
    • Duplicates of another plate issued to a registered North Carolina vehicle.

    Supreme Court case law has deemed state-issued license plates as "government speech" and provides the issuing agency with broad discretion in refusing to issue or recall a plate with an indecent word/phrase or meaning. Therefore, such speech is not subject to a First Amendment analysis.

    ​Note: If you are ordering by mail and your choices of text are rejected, your application will be denied and you will be notified by mail. You may reapply with other choices at any time.

  • How many character spaces are allowed on personalized plates?

    ​The number of character spaces allowed depends on the type of North Carolina license plate you choose.

    ​License Plate Type​Character Limit
    ​Personal vehicle​8
    ​Private motorcycle​7
    ​Private trailer​8
    ​Disabled license plate​6
    ​Special license plate ​4

    Note: Personalized special plate requests must contain at least one letter.

  • Can numbers or special characters be used on personalized plates?
    You can use numbers and some special characters, including the question mark (?), ampersand (&), dollar sign ($) and the “at” symbol (@). Get creative and use symbols or numbers where letters would take up too much space. The letter “O” is automatically converted into a zero (0) on your personalized license plate to avoid confusion.

    Note: Personalized special plate requests must contain at least one letter. Some special characters occupy one-half space in width. Half-space characters are allowed on motorcycle license plates.
  • Are some special plates only for members of certain groups?
    ​Specialty plates for most military and civic clubs can be obtained only if you can verify that you are a member of that specific group, club or have obtained a specific recognition. For example, you cannot obtain the “Purple Heart” special plate unless you can verify that you had received the Purple Heart Award.
  • Can I order a standard personalized plate by mail?
    Yes, you can personalize a standard plate design by filling out a personalized plate application form and mailing it, along with the fee, to:

    N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles
    3155 Mail Service Center
    Raleigh, North Carolina 27697-3155

    If you would like a special registration plate (personalized or not personalized), you must fill out the appropriate special plate application.

    Note: There is an additional fee if you want to personalize your special plate.
  • How do I order a personalized plate at a NCDMV Office?
    ​If you don’t want to purchase your plate online or by mail, you can download and fill out the appropriate plate application form and take it to an NCDMV license plate agency.
  • How do I transfer a personalized plate to a new or a different vehicle?
    ​Please see the transfer license plate to another vehicle page for information on how to move your license plate from one vehicle to another.
  • Can I give a personalized plate to a friend or relative?
    If you have a personalized plate and would like to give that plate to a friend or relative you cannot give the plate to them, but you can release the rights to the personalized plate text to them. You would need to complete an MVR-27N (personalized license plate relinquish form) and return the personalized license plate along with the completed form to an NCDMV license plate agency.

    The personalized plate will be turned in with a special code that will relinquish the plate text to the friend or relative. Once the plate has been turned in with the special code, the friend or relative may request a personalized plate with that same personalized text and pay the $30 personalized fee along with any other fees that might be due at that time.
  • How do I replace a silk-screened personalized plate with an embossed plate?
    You can request a new embossed plate at the time of your vehicle’s registration renewal. Simply write on your renewal card: “Request new plate – embossed,” and send it in. A new, embossed personalized plate will be sent to you in 6-8 weeks.

    Note: You will not be able to request a new personalized plate if you renew online.
  • How do I replace a lost or stolen personalized plate?
    ​If your license plate has been lost or stolen, it’s possible that someone may be using that plate illegally. To avoid the potential for duplication, NCDMV must wait until the current expiration date on that license plate has passed. When that happens, you may order a new personalized license plate with the old text.
  • Can I request a new plate with the same personalized plate text?
    ​Yes. If you request a new personalized license plate at the time you are paying the license plate renewal fee for a current personalized plate, a new plate will be manufactured at the cost of the renewal fee (the plate text may be the same or a different text). If you request a new personalized plate any other time than when you are paying the renewal fee for a personalized plate the cost will be the standard personalized plate fee.
  • How do I return an unwanted personalized or special plate to NCDMV?
    ​At the time of your vehicle’s registration renewal, you may visit an NCDMV license plate agency and request a standard license plate to replace the personalized plate. Please bring the personalized plate in with you for surrender. You will receive the standard license plate and pay the standard renewal fee.

    If renewing by mail, please indicate on your registration card that you request a standard plate. Include a check for the registration renewal fee, minus the personalized plate fee. Your registration will be renewed and a new license plate will be mailed to you in about 10 days. When your new plate arrives, please destroy the old personalized license plate, or send it to the address below:

    N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles
    3148 Mail Service Center
    Raleigh North Carolina 27697-3148

    Note: You will not be able to request a standard plate if you renew your registration online.

9/15/2020 10:41 AM

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