How Many Characters Are In A License Plate?

Across the United States, standard passenger license plates typically have six or seven characters, with vanity plates having up to eight characters in some states.
License plates can also showcase symbols, colors, and slogans for specific states, counties, or causes. Let’s get into the details of license plate characters.
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License Plate Serial Formats

The number of letters or numbers on a license plate varies by state and depends on whether you choose a regular license plate or a vanity plate.
Across the US, license plates come with a different number of characters.

1. 23 states have six letters or numbers.
2. 15 states have seven letters or numbers.
3. 12 states have sequential coding.

Let’s look in detail at the different formats.

Six-Character License Plate States

Several states use a six digit alphanumeric format.

New Jersey
New Mexico
North Dakota
South Carolina
Rhode Island

Seven-Character License Plate States

Several states use seven-character formats on their license plates.

States that use three letter and four number combinations are:

1. California
2. Delaware
3. Georgia
4. Maryland
5. Michigan
6. Mississippi
7. New York
8. North Carolina
9. Ohio
10. Pennsylvania
11. Tennessee
12. Texas
13. Virginia
14. Washington
15. Wisconsin

States that use two letters and five number combinations are:


Maryland license plates have a unique combination of a number, followed by two letters, followed by four numbers (1AB2345).

Arizona license plates have six characters, which can be either letters or numbers, with the exception of the fourth character, which is always a number.

How Do License Plate Patterns Work?

Each state has its own logic for the assignment of license plate numbers.
In many cases, license plates follow a consistent structure that includes a combination of letters, numbers, and sometimes special characters. These combinations are designed to provide unique identification for each vehicle. The arrangement of characters on the license plate can hold significance, such as indicating the vehicle's origin, year of registration, or other specific information.

Some states employ specific patterns to distinguish various vehicle types, such as commercial vehicles, government vehicles, or personalized plates. These patterns can involve variations in character placement, colors, or designs. For example, commercial plates may have different coloring or additional characters denoting the vehicle's commercial purpose.

Some states implement specialized license plate patterns to support charitable causes, commemorate historical events, or showcase regional pride. These specialty plates often feature unique designs, symbols, or logos related to the chosen cause or theme.

It's worth noting that not all license plate numbers carry inherent meaning or significance. In some cases, the arrangement of characters may be purely random or assigned based on administrative considerations. However, even in these instances, efforts are often made to avoid creating offensive or inappropriate combinations.

Are Any Characters Forbidden in License Plates?

Certain states exclude specific letters from their license plate serial formats. The letters I, O, and Q are often skipped. A few states, such as Colorado, Georgia, and South Carolina, have reintroduced these letters into their license plate serials over the last couple of years. This change is intended to account for population growth and the decreasing availability of unique serial combinations.

The main reason behind skipping I, O, and Q is their potential confusion with numbers such as 0 and 1, especially when there is no space or a lack of dividers between letters and numbers.

In California, I, O, and Q are only used between two other letters, such as "1AQA000."

Texas is one of the few states that skips all vowels along with the letter Q on license plates.

To distinguish “0” (zero) from “O” some states use a unique slashed zero character instead of the standard "0" character.

Iowa is a one-of-a-kind example of this character's use, having begun using the slashed zero beginning in 2012 on all standard passenger plates in order to distinguish it from the letter "O," which is also used.

Different Types Of License Plates

There are four types of license plates:

1. Standard license plates. That's your average, everyday plate. These often come in a few designs. The number of characters can vary, but it commonly ranges from 1 to a maximum of 6 to 7.
2. Vanity license plates, also known as personalized license plates, allow you to customize your plate. For example, if you’re someone who loves their dog, you might create a plate reading "MAX." Another person might use their personalized plate as an advertisement for their small business. Just like standard plates, the maximum number of characters depends on your state laws.
3. Specialty license plates, also known as special interest license plates, include tags for veterans and disabled veterans, organizational affiliations, and environmental awareness, such as Breast Cancer Awareness and Tree Top Trail Ride Association.
4. Motorcycle plates. Depending on the type of bike, motorcycle owners can purchase either regular or specialty motorcycle plates.

How Much Do License Plates Cost?

We’ve created a handy guide to license plate costs. Click your state below to learn more about your state's license plate fees.

Alabama license plate costs

Louisiana license plate costs

Ohio license plate costs

Alaska license plate costs

Maine license plate costs

Oklahoma license plate costs

Arizona license plate costs

Maryland license plate costs

Oregon license plate costs

Arkansas license plate costs

Massachusetts license plate costs

Pennsylvania license plate costs

California license plate costs

Michigan license plate costs

Rhode Island license plate costs

Colorado license plate costs

Minnesota license plate costs

South Carolina license plate costs

Connecticut license plate costs

Mississippi license plate costs

South Dakota license plate costs

Delaware license plate costs

Missouri license plate costs

Tennessee license plate costs

Florida license plate costs

Montana license plate costs

Texas license plate costs

Georgia license plate costs

Nebraska license plate costs

Utah license plate costs

Hawaii license plate costs

Nevada license plate costs

Vermont license plate costs

Idaho license plate costs

New Hampshire license plate costs

Virginia license plate costs

Illinois license plate costs

New Jersey license plate costs

Washington license plate costs

Indiana license plate costs

New Mexico license plate costs

West Virginia license plate costs

Iowa license plate costs

New York license plate costs

Wisconsin license plate costs

Kansas license plate costs

North Carolina license plate costs

Wyoming license plate costs

Kentucky license plate costs

North Dakota license plate costs

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License Plates FAQ

Where can I get a license plate in Washington, DC?

Washington State Licensing (DOL) will issue you a license plate. They are in charge of vehicle licensing, registration, and license plate issuance in the district.

How do I know which special interest plates are available in my state?

Can I have just one number on a personalized plate?

How do I mount my new license plates?

How do I apply for a personalized license plate?

Do vehicle dealers have their own special license plates?

Are there state-specific guidelines for license plate applications?

Can I change how many characters there are on special interest plates?

How big are license plates?

Is it best to remove a license plate when selling a car?

How to change my license plates?

What is the best car insurance?