How Much Does a Vanity Plate Cost in Each State?

Many cars are stylish in their own right, but customizations can make any given model truly stand out. Many modifications aren’t covered by insurance, though you can get some costs covered for installing necessities like wheelchair lifts. If you’re looking for more subtle customization options, consider getting a new vanity plate.

Vanity plates require a little extra planning, as they have to be renewed each year like a regular license plate. However, CostHelper breaks down the average cost of a vanity plate and how to get one.

Why do people buy vanity plates?

A Virginia vanity plate that spells 'OCN MTNS' for Ocean Mountains
A Virginia vanity plate | Joe Sohm/Visions of America/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

If you’ve ever looked into car modding, you know how expensive it can be. Even cheap paint jobs can cost up to $875, depending on the size of your vehicle. Additionally, if you want a thorough custom paint job, it will probably cost upwards of $1,000. Furthermore, showroom-quality paint with a glossy finish might cost as much as $5,000. On the other hand, vanity plates usually only cost somewhere in the double digits.

Drivers also need to be careful when choosing customization options, as making certain modifications puts you at risk of voiding your car insurance. According to Global News Canada, one Subaru driver had to pay $35,000 in damages after a wreck, even though he wasn’t at fault. It was because he had modified his car with a performance exhaust, which was also quite pricey at nearly $2,000. Insurance providers generally don’t consider vanity plates to be liabilities, but you should still review your policy to be sure.

How much does it cost in my state?

The initial fee varies across different states. Some states might only require as little as five dollars, but $20-$50 seems to be the average charge. In some states, specific designs on vanity plates can also increase their prices. For example, Autoblog reports that specialty license plates cost around $70 in Tennessee.

California requires all drivers to pay $98 for a vanity plate, though discounts are offered for certain affiliations. Texas requires drivers to pay extra per added digit, meaning drivers can pay up to $195 in renewal fees. Texas is also known for auctioning rare and valuable vanity plates, with some costing hundreds of dollars.

According to CostHelper, renewing a custom vanity plate can be anywhere from $0-$80. Renewal charges are typically collected yearly or every other year, depending on your state. Some states, including Texas, offer discounted rates if you pay on a three-year, five-year, or ten-year schedule.

How to order a custom vanity plate

First, check your state’s local guidelines to see which characters and messages are permitted for your vanity plate. Some states don’t allow spaces on vanity plates, and many prohibit obscene words or phrases. In other states, some vehicles aren’t permitted to have any vanity plates at all. For example, according to the Pennsylvania DMV, you cannot get one for your boat in Pennsylvania.

You also need to check an online registry to ensure that you don’t share the same plate number as another driver. As for the plate itself, you find a wide variety of options depending on your state of residence. Once ordered, you can expect to receive it in as little as eight weeks.

According to Autoblog, you can transfer your vanity plate to a new car, as long the vehicle type doesn’t change. All states require a small fee for transferring the plate to a new vehicle, around five or six dollars.¬†However, your custom plates can’t be transferred to another driver.

Unfortunately, vanity plates typically aren’t covered by insurance. If your provider doesn’t cover damages because you have one, you’ll have to decide if it’s worth it to dispute that decision. That aside, vanity plates are still a creative way to spice up your car without breaking the bank.

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