Vehicle Industry Registration Procedures Manual

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Section 2 of 38

Chapter 1: General Registration Information

1.075 License Plates (VC §§4850 and 4850.5)

License plates, identify the type of registration (passenger, commercial, trailer, etc.), and provide a means of locating the vehicle owner through DMV files. For information regarding California automobile, motorcycle, and trailer license plates issued from 1914 through 1969 and commercial license plates issued from 1914 through 1972, see Appendix 1E.

Trailers, motorcycles, special equipment (SE), tow dollies, and commercial truck tractors with a TR, DR, or DS body type model are issued one license plate. All other vehicle types registered in California are issued two license plates except apportioned vehicles base-plated in another state, which are issued only a sticker.

Truck tractors must have the license plate attached to the front of the vehicle. If truck tractors are assigned special interest license plates, the license plate with the stickers must be attached to the front of the vehicle and the other license plate destroyed.

Exception: Truck tractors defined as cotton module movers (VC §§36012, 36101) and issued an SE identification plate are exempt from the vehicle license and weight fees but are subject to the registration and CHP fees on an annual basis. See Chapter 16 for special equipment and Appendix 1F for fees.

Undesirable License Plate Configurations—Vehicle owners who request issuance of substitute license plates to replace an undesirable license plate configuration may be issued replacement license plates for no fee. Refer to Chapter 20 for substitute
license plates.

Surrender of License Plates

Any license plate(s) currently assigned to a vehicle must be surrendered to DMV when new license plates are issued for the vehicle.

Exception: Retention of special interest license plates (plate-with-owner) by the license plate owner as authorized by statute for that license plate type.

Central License Plate Issuance (CLPI) Program—A central issuance facility in Sacramento issues and mails the majority of license plates, stickers, and registration cards submitted by mail and as bundle items. The central inventory file is transmitted electronically every night to DMV headquarters and the registration cards are printed.

Exception: License plates for vehicles being registered to rental companies that request immediate license plate issuance, leasing companies at the lessor’s address when the lessor requests issuance of the license plates for personal delivery to the lessee, and hardship cases may be issued in the field office.