California License Plates

California uses the letters I, O, and Q in the second alpha position, but not in the first or third.


11 - black on red

12 - black on green

13 - black on orange

14 - black on blue

15 - black on yellow

16 - black on red

17 - black on green

Chris Cargill reports that California started the present sticker color rotation in 1978 with Green stickers. The rotation was Green - White - Orange - Blue - Yellow - Red. White was removed from the rotation after 1997.

He has also seen two different validation stickers being used for late 2012 and on 2013 registrations. Version one is as it's been before with a 4-digit year (2012 - 2013), but he has seen two-digit validations (12 - 13) and there is now an explanation. The difference is the 4-digit version has the random serial numbers on the sticker that CA DMV has always used. The 2-digit sticker has the license plate number printed as the serial number. The 2-digit stickers are issued by the self-serve renewal vending machines at the DMV offices. Every other method of renewal uses the 4-digit stickers.

Isaac Wilson IV reports 2-digit printed validation stickers do NOT have the plate number on them; they have the same standard Lnnnnnnn format as the four-digit stickers. 2014 stickers start with P, while 2015s start with Z.

Chris Cargill reports that California's Black with Yellow letter plates are coming back as a special issue, and will be issued similar to Yosemite and Lake Tahoe plates (special order, etc). The latest word is they will be 6 digits using a Connecticut style numbering sequence (but in reverse letters on either end, numbers in the middle, as above), such as A12 34B. We'll see if that sequence sticks when they hit the road.

Standard Passenger Plates

Passenger new

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Seen in San Francisco

Since California plates are not county coded, please include the area where your high was observed when reporting.

Gunther Frostyburger reports seeing what was obviously an error plate in Valencia, CA in Nov. 2015 with number 7QDK528.

Sesquicentennial was removed with the 4NPA series. Highest reported: 4NOZ383

Passenger plates now have the California DMV website: on the bottom.

High without: 6TPV999

Low with: 6TPW046

Series low: 1AAA006 2014-11-21 Scott Broady

Highest 6 digit: 971 ZZZ 2015-05-26 Chris Cargill

Simon Liu - 8 Jul ’24

Non-passenger Plates


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Seen in Oceanside, NY

Also called Power Units.  Started with AP in 1982.  Progressed to BP and CP, then jumped to SP, skipping TP, advancing to UP, VP, and now WP.

Spotted in West Sacramento

Brett Weisbrot - 9 Apr ’24


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Seen in Porterville, California

9A, 9B, 9C, 9D, 9E, and 9F are part of a series used for tractor-trailers.  These plates are found only on tractors, not standard light pickups.

Low:  9A04976 on the 1987 base.

9F52984 is the Tractor high with the DMV web on the bottom, spotted in Ontario, CA on 2016-02-19.

California was expecting to run out of Commercial plates in the current format in August 2008 at 8Z99999, but current indications are that it will be much later, possibly as late as July 2009.  The next format will be 00000A1 with the last digit staying constant as before.  After 99999A1 will be 00000B1.  After 99999Z1 will be 00000A2.

Original format high:  8Z99993

New format low:  00001A1

High without website:  99799E1

Low with website:  00036F1

Connor Reynolds - 22 Jun ’24

Disabled Person

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Spotted in Poway

00001A D/P followed D/P Z9999.  Now the series has advanced to D/P 001AA.

Ryan - 4 Jul ’24

Disabled Veteran

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01426D/V reported as a low by Gunther Frostyburger.

Ryan - 1 May ’24


1691399CA EXEMPT
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"CA EXEMPT" on the top of the plate.

Exempt plates are found on vehicles belonging to public agencies, such as state and local governments, school districts, etc.

E low: E007027 (E prefix dropped when 1000000 reached)

Exempt Motorcycle: 3011726 This is a new type that takes the place of the former diagonal and diamond E types. Low for this type: 3000231

Damien - 26 Jun ’24


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Same style as passenger plate, but with "LIVERY" printed in red at the bottom of the plate.

Series progressed from 1ZZZ to 3ZZA.

3 series low: 3ZZA020

Ryan Graham - 28 Aug ’22


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Jacob Juarez - 27 Jan ’24


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Seen in Tehachapi

Note:  21A through 29B (all the A and B prefixes from 21-29 were issued) were issued as blue cycles in the late 80s.  20A has been verified.  20B has also been verified on the current base.  Next, will they issue any prefixes between 21 and 29, or just go to 30A?  The DMV has never issued a zero in the 2nd position.  There are no 10A-10Z prefixes.  They started at 11A and 21A previously.

Low:  11E5389

From Scott Broady:  After 20Z9999, cycles go to 21C0000. They skip A and B due to these having been issued in the 1980s on blue cycles. They will go from C to Z for every one of the 20's from this point forward.

Franky Hernandez notes that the 21L series is using a narrower die with wider numbers and letters.

Joe - 24 Jun ’24

Permanent Trailer

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Seen in Wheeler Ridge, California

Trailer plates beginning with 4 are permanent issues.

Permanent Trailer plates are also available on the Yosemite special. Douglas Carmack reports 1ZX0017, which he got since they are so rare.

Low: 4AA1488 (seen in Irwindale)

Connor Reynolds - 26 Mar ’24


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Calvin - 27 Jun ’24


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Trailer plates beginning with 1 require annual registration (recreational trailers, fifth wheels, etc.)

On non-perm trailer plates, 1UA - 1ZY series are used for commercial weight fee trailers.  The high is 1XE1140 from Diedrik Edholm on 2013-08-19.

Jacob Juarez - 4 Feb ’24

Specialty Plates


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296NUG also spotted by Gunther Frostyburger on 2013-07-11. Scott Broady reports that there are several series being issued.  Alphas all over the place.  There really isnt a high at the moment.  Maybe after all the initial 7500 are distributed.

Connor Reynolds - 20 Sep ’23


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Jacob Juarez - 20 Dec ’23

California Museums

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Seen in Claremont, California

First available in 2015. Proceeds benefit the California Cultural and Historical Endowment (CCHE)'s grant program for museums in California.

Jacob Juarez - 21 Mar ’24

Coastal Protection

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According to the Los Angeles Times, the redesigned Whale Tail plate is set to debut August 2, 2011. The current plate is being retired in the wake of a dispute with artist Wyland, who created the original design. The new design is in use, which appears similar to the discontinued Wyland design except that the tail is not as wide and is drawn at an angle.

1VDZ316 was the original design, but 1VDZ559 was reported on the new design. However, 1VDY714 was reported on the new design, so there must have been some switching back and forth between the designs briefly.

Jacob Juarez - 29 Jan ’24

Coastal Protection Truck

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Jacob Juarez - 20 Dec ’23


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Now in the 123ABC format.  Spotted in Santa Clarita. The California Firefighter license plate can only be issued to a currently registered vehicle owned by an active or retired California firefighter.  The fees collected from these plates (which vary depending on if the plates are sequential or personalized) are deposited in the California Firefighters Memorial Fund, which was created and is sponsored by California Professional Firefighters (CPF).

Connor Reynolds - 12 Sep ’23

Gold Star Family

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Gold star on the left and GOLD STAR FAMILY at the bottom.

Chris Cargill - 20 Dec ’14

Lake Tahoe

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Lake Tahoe license plate was redesigned, and now it is a "Protect Lake Tahoe" license plate.

Lake Tahoe Truck high - 2Z39959 2009-01-07 Andy Smith

Chris Cargill reports 2Z38003 on a 2012 natural on 2012-11-16.

Jacob Juarez - 14 Dec ’23

Legacy (1963 style)

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Seen in Cypress

1963 colors of yellow/orange on black, but with a black reflective background.

These apparently started with B in the first position. No A plates have been seen. All plates reported so far have had zero (0) in the last position.

From Chris Cargill: It appears the numbers after the first letter and the second letter advance. I've yet to see one with something other than a zero in the last position. I'm guessing these may have started at B001A0 progressed to B999A0, then to B001B0, and so on. Though I have no official confirmation, it seems to be the logical progression.

Legacy Motorcycle plates are in the same format, but beginning with C.

Motorcycle high: C125U0 2015-07-14 Jake Bear Spotted in San Diego.

Calvin - 20 May ’24

Legion of Valor

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Legion of Valor in block letters, older plate with block CALIFORNIA embossed at top.

Jacob Juarez - 24 Dec ’23

Liberty Bell

1024 US
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CALIFORNIA embossed at top, graphic of the Liberty Bell (in red) separating the numbers and "US" with blue screened 1791 BILL OF RIGHTS 1991 at the bottom.  This is one of the rarest plates in California. Chad reports 0598 US on a Prius 2009-12-09, so it has obviously been reassigned.

Jacob Juarez - 1 Jan ’24

Press Photographer

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The letters "PP" are inside a triangle.

Jacob Juarez - 3 Jan ’24

Spay & Neuter

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Letter series also used: CAT, PUG, PET, SAT, apparently not issued in sequential order.

Jacob Juarez - 25 Dec ’23


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Logo of a yellow bear on the left side of the plate, underlined with "UCLA" written underneath. "BRUINS" at bottom of plate highlighted by a yellow background.

These plates are no longer issued.

David Miller - 4 Nov ’22

We Will Never Forget

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Jacob Juarez - 19 Feb ’24


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Yosemite plates have been in the UB- series, but Art Kraemer reports 1VBA093 on 2012-10-27.  In addition, Chris Cargill spotted 1VBA808 on 2013-09-12.  1VBB325 reported on 2009-05-11.

The V series has been used on the Whale Tail (Coastal Protection) plates, so it's possible that the VBA series Yosemite plates were just a production mistake.

Jacob Juarez - 28 Jan ’24

Yosemite Truck

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From Andy Smith: Not sure if these are still being issued; they were originally issued to match the current truck-format plates, with a number, letter, then 5 numbers, but with the same Yosemite background as the passenger plates.

Jacob Juarez - 30 Dec ’23

Military Veteran Plates

Ex-Prisoner of War

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Z Z - 5 Sep ’22

Honoring Veterans

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This is a new type available to the general public. It is not necessary to be a veteran to get it. The plate has a red stripe across the bottom with "HONORING VETERANS" as the legend. There is a space to the left of the registration numbers for a decal for different branches of the military. This plate replaced the original Veteran plate listed below, and it is now the only type of Veteran plate.

This license plate replaces the previous plate and was touted as a redesign in the media. The previous plate with the red and blue stripes across the bottom with the word VETERAN is no longer issued but can be revalidated.

Bob Gurwin - 14 Jul ’23

Pearl Harbor Survivor

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Pearl Harbor Survivor written out stacked on the left. State name in older block letters at top.

Z Z - 5 Sep ’22

Purple Heart

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Seen in Oceanside

Purple Heart badge on the left, "Combat Wounded" on bottom.  These also have been issued with PH as a suffix, which probably came before the prefix.

00PH01 came in after PH9999

Connor Reynolds - 8 Mar ’24


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Veteran plates ended up in the 123ABC format, but they are no longer being issued. The only Veteran plate in California now is the Honoring Veterans, listed above.

Gunther Frostyburger - 3 Nov ’14