Vehicle registration plates of the United States

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In the United States, license plates[1] are issued by a department of motor vehicles, an agency of the state or territorial government, or in the case of the District of Columbia the city government. Some American Indian tribes also issue plates. The U.S. federal government issues plates only for its own vehicle fleet and for vehicles owned by foreign diplomats. Until the 1980s, diplomatic plates were issued by the state in which the consulate or embassy was located. California is notable as the first state to introduce a seven-digit format for their plates, in 1979.

Line for automobile license plates, Los Angeles Department of Motor Vehicles, 1940

Mounting[edit]

  State requires both front and rear plates for passenger vehicles.
  State requires only rear plate for passenger vehicles.
  State requires front and rear plate for most, but not all, passenger vehicles.
Mounting scheme States & Territories
Front and rear plates Alaska, California, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Connecticut, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, Wyoming, and US Virgin Islands.
Rear plates only Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Tennessee, and West Virginia
Front and rear for most, but not all, passenger vehicles Massachusetts, Nevada

Temporary/transit registrations[edit]

A temporary 30 day license plate on a motorcycle in North Carolina.

Vanity and specialty plates[edit]

An ABNORML license plate in Delaware

The state of Virginia offers more than 200 unique designs for license plates.[2] A tenth of all U.S. vanity plates are in Virginia, giving it the highest concentration of vanity plates issued by a state.[3]

See also: Wooley v. Maynard, Walker v. Texas Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans

Sample version of Ohio's DUI plate mandated on DUI offenders with limited driving rights.


Vanity plates sometimes cause unexpected difficulties for their owners. In 1979 a Los Angeles, California resident received 2,500 parking citations from throughout the state because the DMV's computers matched his plate, NO PLATE, with citations for cars without license plates. Other such cases have been reported for plates that say MISSING, NOTAG, VOID, and XXXXXXX.[4]

Low-digit plates[edit]

Delaware's three-digit plates can now bring $50,000 and two-digit plates can bring $200,000. One expert broker has estimated that a single-digit Delaware license plate can now bring $400,000 at auction.[5]

US Government Plate seen on a Chevrolet Impala.

Diplomatic license plates[edit]

U.S. diplomatic license plate of the style issued until 2007.
U.S. diplomatic license plate with surface-printed serial.
Of the style issued since 2007.


U.S. diplomatic plate country codes
Codes Country or Organization
AA  Congo
AB  Taiwan (Issued with "E" status code)[6][7]
AC  Ivory Coast
AE  Uzbekistan
AF  Japan
AH  Madagascar
AJ  Panama
AK  Cape Verde
AQ  Syria
AU  Uganda
AV  Israel
AW African Union
AX  Marshall Islands
BL  South Africa
BV  Solomon Islands
BW World Bank
BY  Solomon Islands
BZ  Iraq
CB  Cambodia
CC  Ethiopia
CE  Moldova
CG  Marshall Islands
CK  Namibia
CM  Micronesia
CN International Organization
CS  Afghanistan
CT  Bhutan
CU  Botswana
CV  Myanmar (Burma)
CW  Cameroon
CX  Burundi
CY  China
DA  Colombia
DB  Costa Rica
DC  Cuba (UN only)
DD  Cyprus
DF  Dominican Republic
DG  Ecuador
DH  Ivory Coast
DI  South Africa
DJ  France
DK  Greece
DL  India
DM  Iran (UN only)
DN  Denmark
DP  Bangladesh
DR  Slovakia
DZ  Palau
FC  Soviet Union (discontinued)
FF  Antigua & Barbuda
FG  Central African Republic
FH  Ireland
FJ  Lebanon
FK  Kenya
FL  Liberia
FM  Libya
FN  Malta
FP  Morocco
FR  Philippines
FS  Netherlands
FT  Qatar
FV  Sri Lanka
FW   Vatican City
FX  Sierra Leone
FZ  Suriname
GC  Sweden
GD  Ukraine
GE  Azerbaijan
GG  Zambia
GM  Turkey
GN  Turkey
GP  Albania
GQ  North Korea (UN only)
GX  Vanuatu
GY  Chile
HB  Tonga
HD  Argentina
HL  Saint Lucia
HM  Andorra
HN  Mongolia
HV  Belgium
HW  Guatemala
HX  Benin
HY  Guinea-Bissau
HZ  Haiti
JB  Honduras
JC  Kuwait
JD  Mauritius
JF  Nigeria
JG  Portugal
JH  Somalia
JJ  Chad
JK  Turkey
JM  Yugoslavia (discontinued)
JP  Tunisia
JQ  Togo
JS  Slovenia
JT  Croatia
JY  Cyprus
KB  Monaco
KD  Eritrea
KE  Georgia
KG  Equatorial Guinea
KH  Hungary
KJ  Lithuania
KK  Fiji
KL  Jordan
KM  Jamaica
KN  Gabon
KP  Luxembourg
KQ  Israel
KR  Malaysia
KS  Mexico
KT  Namibia
KU  São Tomé and Príncipe
KV  Saudi Arabia
KW  Seychelles
KX  Sudan
LC  Venezuela
LD  Vietnam
LG  Turkey
LH  Israel
LJ  Israel
LK European Economic Community
LM  Macedonia
LN  Saudi Arabia
LR  Bosnia-Herzegovina
LW  Germany
MF International Monetary Fund
MG Unknown
MK  Djibouti
ML Diego Garcia
MN  Comoros
MP  Bahamas
MW  Maldives
NA  Oman
NB  Papua New Guinea
NC  Paraguay
ND  Romania
NQ  Angola
NX  Malaysia
PA  Austria
PB  Barbados
PC  Belize
PD  United Kingdom
PF  Bolivia
PG  Belarus
PH  Czech Republic
PI  Israel
PK  Norway
PL  Chile
PM  Brunei
PR  Argentina
PS  Zimbabwe
PV  Democratic Republic of the Congo
QA  Yemen
QD  Burkina Faso
QL  St. Kitts & Nevis
QM  Bulgaria
QN  Laos
QP  Latvia
QQ  Lesotho
QR  Malawi
QS  Mozambique
QT  New Zealand
QU  Nicaragua
QV  Niger
QW  Poland
QX  Pakistan
QX  Iran (DC only)
QY  Yemen
QZ  Indonesia
RB  Rwanda
RC  Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
RD  Senegal
RL  Uruguay
RM Unknown, Seen DC July 2013
RO  Romania
RQ Unknown, Seen DC February 2011
RV  San Marino
SF  Czech Republic
SG  Israel
ST  Dominica
SX  Soviet Union (discontinued)
TC  Mali
TF  Algeria,  Iraq (DC Only)
TG  Canada
TH  Egypt
TJ  Germany
TK  Liechtenstein
TL  El Salvador
TM  Iceland
TN    Nepal
TP  Mauritania
TQ  Mali
TR  Italy
TS  Iraq (UN only)
TT  Guyana
TU  Guinea
TV  Ghana
TW  Gambia
TX  Finland
TY  Grenada
TZ  Peru
UA  Bahrain
UF  Estonia
UH  Spain
UX  Trinidad & Tobago
VF  Thailand
VG  Tanzania
VH   Switzerland
VJ  Brazil
VK  Singapore
VL  Swaziland
VM  Nauru
WB  United Arab Emirates
WD  South Korea
WM  Samoa
WZ  United Kingdom
XA  Bangladesh
XC  Fiji
XD  Myanmar (Burma)
XE  Ghana
XF  Turkey
XG  Norway
XY  Ireland
XZ  Australia
YA  Armenia
YJ  Tajikistan
YK  Kazakhstan
YM  Moldova
YR  Russia
YT  Turkmenistan
YY  Kyrgyzstan
YZ  Azerbaijan

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ The spelling license is preferred in the U.S., and in Canada the spelling licence is preferred for the noun and license for the verb.
  2. ^ Commonwealth of Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles
  3. ^ Va. drivers vainest of them all with their plates
  4. ^ Mikkelson, Barbara and David P. (2009-10-22). "Licensed to Bill". Snopes. Retrieved June 21, 2012. 
  5. ^ License Plates at Auction: Still a Wild Market in Delaware
  6. ^ Taiwan’s representatives in the US are given diplomatic license plates (2015/02/25), Formosa News of Formosa TV. Retrieved February 25, 2015.
  7. ^ 駐美代表處 掛上外交車牌, CNA (ROC). Retrieved February 25, 2015.

External links[edit]