United States License Plate Designs And Serial Formats
In the United States, the appearance of license plates is frequently chosen to contain staples, cultures, or slogans associated with the issuing jurisdiction, which are the 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, each of which independently registers motor vehicles.
Formats for license plate numbers, which are usually alphanumeric, are chosen to provide enough unique serials for all motor vehicles a jurisdiction expects to register. For example, less-populous states such as Delaware and Rhode Island are able to use formats of 123456 and 123-456, respectively, while several populous states use seven-character formats, including 1ABC234 in California, ABC-1234 in Texas, ABC-1234 in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, Washington, and Arizona, 1A/B2345 in Maryland, A12-3456 in Illinois, and 1234ABC in Indiana.
In some states, info such as the month of expiration or the county of registration is incorporated into the plate's serial. The last number on a Massachusetts license plate indicates the month the vehicle's registration expires (for example, 1234 AB would expire in April, the fourth month; 0 indicates October expirations; and X and Y were used for November and December expirations, respectively, on commercial plates and pre-1978 passenger plates), as does the first number or letter on West Virginia plates (1 to 9 and O, N, and D for January through September and October, November, and December expirations, respectively). In Alabama, Montana, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Wyoming, a one- or two-digit number representing the county of issue begins a license plate number. Standard-issue Idaho license plate numbers begin with a single-letter or a number-letter code representing the county of issue. County codes have been based on historical population figures, the county names in alphabetical order, or some combination thereof.
Only three places in the United States use letters to designate a residence where a vehicle was registered. In Hawaii, the license plates have a unique letter designation based on the island counties that residents purchased or registered the vehicles from; the first letter starting with A-G, J, N, P, or R-Z are issued to residents who live in The City and County of Honolulu, while H is registered in Hawai‘i County, K is issued to vehicles in Kaua‘i County and M for vehicles registered in Maui County. in the State of Idaho the first one or two characters are used to designate the county of residence/registration. For example all vehicles registered in Ada county start with 1A, vehicles in Twin Falls County start with 2T and vehicles in Valley county start with V (as there is only one county that starts with the letter V). In the US territory of Guam, the license plates use the first two letters that are coded by village of issuance, for example, "TM-1234" refers to a vehicle that was registered by a person who lives the village of Tamuning.
Several states—Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Tennessee—place the full name of the county of registration explicitly on their standard-issue plates but not as part of the plate serial. Florida allows its residents to choose either "Sunshine State" or "In God We Trust" slogans instead of their county, and in Miami-Dade County, all plates are issued with one of these slogans due to the targeting for crimes of cars registered there in the early 1990s. Florida also terminated a practice by which plates registered to rented vehicles had the letter Y or Z as their first digit, which also led to targeting of cars for theft due to the ease of replacement and the softer hit on the affected driver. The State of Georgia, as of 2011, allows drivers to choose the slogan "In God We Trust" in place of the county name where the vehicle is registered. Kansas plates display a sticker bearing a two-letter county code and Ohio plates a sticker with a two-number county code, but neither is a part of the plate serial. Texas places the county name on the windshield registration sticker, but it likewise is not part of the plate serial.
In most states, plates for vehicles, other than passenger cars, such as trucks and trailers, may use different numbering formats, either with or without the vehicle type appearing explicitly on the plate.
License plate numbers are usually assigned in ascending order, beginning with a starting point such as AAA-001. Thus an observer familiar with the sequence can determine roughly when the plate was issued. In a few cases, numbers have been assigned in descending order. For example, when Virginia switched to seven characters for its standard issue in 1993, numbers beginning with AAA-1000 were already in use for extra-cost, optional-issue plates; therefore, the new standard license plates were issued in descending order from ZZZ-9999. Virginia's "400th Anniversary" plate series, issued from 2003 until 2007, was numbered in ascending order from JAA-1001, commemorating the colony at Jamestown.
In the states, special plates displaying the International Symbol of Accessibility are issued to persons with disabilities that entitle them to special parking privileges. Alternately, a placard, which in some jurisdictions can be hung from the rear view mirror, is issued and has the advantage of being transferred from vehicle to vehicle.
Read more about United States License Plate Designs And Serial Formats: Current Standard-issue Passenger Plate Designs and Serial Formats, Plate Types No Longer Issued But Still Valid, See Also
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