Iowa License Plates

The current base was first issued in 1996.

Iowa Passenger plates have changed to blue to black screened registration characters, the same as Idaho and Minnesota did previously. The digit "zero" has been appearing with a slash (as has been used on Amateur Radio plates) since the late Yxx series.


11 - black on yellow

12 - black on blue

13 - black on orange

14 - black on green

15 - black on red

16 - black on gold

Standard Passenger Plates

2018 Series new

OXT 981
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Jay Maynard - 19 Jun ’24


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Adair Co.

County names originally appeared on stickers, but they began to be screened directly on the plates by the mid-to-late F suffix series. Chris jones reports 861 FLM had a Lee County sticker and 014 FYO had the Pottawattamie County designation screened on the plate

Dxx and Ixx series were skipped. The D series was used for trailer plates on the previous issue. I, O, and Q are not used in the first position on Iowa plates, but they are used in the second and third position. U and V were used in the second and third position on the original allotment of plates through EFF, but they have not been used in that position since. That means the highest plates with those letters in the third position should be EEU and EEV.

Iowa began issuing flat plates in the eight most populous counties (Polk, Linn, Scott, Woodbury, Dubuque, Pottawattamie, Black Hawk, and Johnson) with the HMZ series in Black Hawk Co., although at least one Cxx series flat plate has been reported from Story Co. (likely a test plate.) The other counties continued to issue embossed plates. Dale Schoening has seen 007 JXT as a flat (Emmet Co.). The switch to flat plates in all counties appears to have happened in the JXT-JYC range, although no clean break is identifiable. JXW was issued in both embossed and flat in Jones Co. JXX was issued in both formats in Lee Co. JXY was issued in flats in the early numbers in Lee Co., but Cedar Co. has higher number JXY plates embossed. Adair Co. has embossed JYC plates, but some higher JYC series flats have also been reported. 603 JYC (Davis Co.) was reported by Scott Fenzloff as a flat. All plates have been flat beginning with the JYD series.

Scott Fenzloff - 15 May ’10


889 ZZZ
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Franklin Co.

The early part of the Sxx series was skipped by Passenger since it was used for "Special Plates" - (Limited Use Farm Trucks) and was allocated 000 SAA through 999 SHG. Passenger plates resumed at 000 SHH. U and V series skipped. Plates jumped from TZZ to WAA.

The state name, county name, and plate number appeared in blue through the YPK series, but then changed to black in the YPL series. Kyle Ford reports a high of 982 YPK (Tama Co.) in blue, and a low of 090 YPL (Louisa Co.) in black.

The zero slash plates appear to have started at YYA. Kyle reports 840 YXZ (Polk Co.) without the slash, and 330 YYA (Washington Co.) with the slash.

Iowa has begun the rolling replate process, and Kyle reports that it appears reissued plates are being sent from different letter allotments than the new issues. Here are his notes:

For example, neighbor buys a new car and I replace plates on my old car in Union County on the same day. He gets ZNZ and I get ZKE. Reissues are also being run alphabetically by county name. I've seen YYX plates from Clinton, Crawford, and Dallas, YZK plates from Madison, Mahaska, and Marion, and ZAG plates from Story, Taylor, Union, and Wapello. This leads me to believe the reissues are generated automatically based on number of registered vehicles due for renewal per month, beginning with Adair and ending with Wright. This gives Iowa plate spotters something new to check as there will be an ongoing overall high for new issues (could be from any county) and a monthly high for reissues (in theory should always be from Wright Co. as its last registrant would complete that month's reissue series for the whole state). Talk about confusing!

Kenneth L. Barton - 9 Mar ’13

Flat - Forward Series

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Warren Co.

Iowa eliminated U and V in the second and third position in the embossed E series of numeric/alpha plates, but now they are back in use on the forward series. I, O, and Q are not used in the third position now, but they are used in the second position.

Low: AAA 005 Carroll Co.

Al Gorsky reports OUR 289, which is obviously way out of sequence, and Iowa traditionally has not used O in the first or third position, but he has also seen other O series plates recently. If anyone knows the significance of these plates, please let us know.

Scott Fenzloff - 3 Nov ’21

Non-passenger Plates


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Started with Cnnnn format, then nnnnC, Jnnnn, nnnnJ, Ynnnn, nnnnY, nnnnZ, Znnnn, Wnnnn, Xnnnn, Tnnnn, now AEnnn. Iowa broke format by passing up the nnnnW series, and advancing to the Xnnnn series.

Michael Belz - 9 Mar ’24


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Series started at 0000 GA. Same series is used for untitled trailers. Flat plates are now being used in this type, having started in the high KD series. Dale Schoening reports a flat JE series from Polk Co., but embossed plates have been seen far above that. Black font for registration characters appearing in the NM series.

Motorcycle Veteran: V4030 (Linn Co.) 2011-07-19 Jesse Wodstrchill

Michael Belz - 9 May ’24


712 SFG
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Polk Co.

Limited Use Farm Truck

This numbering series also includes "Business Trade" plates, issued to vehicles used in such fields as construction, excavation, and heating/cooling/plumbing, etc.

Specials run from 000 SAA through 999 SHG.

Special plates started going flat with SPECIAL on side during the SCN issues. SPECIAL is now appearing in red font.

Passenger plates in the S series used the remaining 000 SHH through 999 SZZ.

Kyle Ford - 1 Dec ’11

State Patrol

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Black number between two red stars on yellow background. The plate number is the badge number.

Jeff Reinhard - 23 Apr ’21


KU 0868
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Standard size plate used for titled trailers and non-apportioned semi-tractors. Series began at 0000 AA and reportedly changed to flat screened style in the BI series, but Dale Schoening reports 6693 BF from Pottawattamie Co. as a low for flats, and embossed 1902 BG (Boone Co.) and 1345 BH (Marshall Co.) so they must have changed back and forth without a clean break.

Trailer plates reversed to 0000 AA when the Passenger plates reversed. The high for the suffix series is 1011 EY (Polk Co.) reported by Jesse Wodstrchill on 2012-12-30.

- 1 Apr ’24

Specialty Plates


PZ 444
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Johnson Co.

Part of the Bird series.

Kenneth Barton reports that Iowa has recalled 1,400 of the new Eagle plates because of complaints from law enforcement agencies that the eagle's wing hinders the view of the letters. New plates are being issued with the eagle rotated so as to not block any letters.

See comments for Bird plates regarding the numbering on these plates.

Michael Belz - 11 Mar ’21

Fire Fighter

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This type does not have a county name.

FF plates are now using same format as Vet and Handicap plates

Earlier numbering system: FFnnn, nnnFF, FDnnn, nnnFD, nnnnF, Fnnnn

Embossed high: 4666F

Flat low: 5478F

High before format change: F7434

Michael Belz - 18 Mar ’24

Gold Star

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Dale Schoening - 22 Mar ’10

Iowa State University

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Plate is school colors, red on yellow. The current high is embossed, but more recent issues are flat.

Michael Belz - 4 Jan ’22

National Guard

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Warren Co.

Started at N0000.

Kenneth L. Barton - 28 Apr ’10

Natural Resources

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Johnson Co.

The goldfinch (Iowa's State Bird), eagle, and pheasant plates have been joined by plates depicting a trout and a deer. They are all Natural Resources plates. They are all DNR issues that share the same numbering system. The Goldfinch, Eagle, and Pheasant plates use the same numbering system. The issues of the 3 Bird plates are rotated. They use one number on a base, and than the next issue goes on the next bird plate. Example, ME 125 is Goldfinch, ME 126 will be Eagle, so on as a rotation.

Trout high - MP804 (Marion Co.) 2010-12-26 Kenneth L. Barton

Michael Belz - 4 May ’23

Professional Firefighter

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unknown Co.

Jesse Wodstrchill - 19 Jul ’14


ZC 799
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Marion Co.

Series started at ZA 000.

Dale Schoening - 16 Aug ’10

University of Iowa

UI 6735
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Flat Staff - 23 Aug ’19

Military Veteran Plates

Purple Heart

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Now flat

Michael Belz - 9 Mar ’24


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unknown Co.

U.S. Flag on left with "VETERAN" below the flag.

Michael Belz - 14 Oct ’23