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How to Check Personalized License Plate Availability

by Andy Pasquesi

While license plate numbers for a new vehicle are normally generated by an algorithm, motorists can pay extra to pick their own sequence of letters and numbers. Known as a "vanity plate," every chosen sequence must be unique within the state. For example, only one Illinois-issued license plate can have the number "GR8 1," but up to 51 U.S. license plates (i.e., one per state, plus Washington, D.C.) can have this vanity number. To help drivers decide on a vanity plate, each state's Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) or equivalent agency offers a searchable database of existing (and therefore unavailable) license plate numbers.

Visit your state's DMV or equivalent agency's website (in some states, for example, it's the secretary of state's office that handles automobile registration matters). For a complete, state-by-state directory of DMV websites, click the link in the Resource section.

Type "personalized license plate" in the text field next to the "Search" button, and press "Enter."

Locate the personalized license plate finder page in the search results and click on its link to load it.

Type the vanity plate number you want to get into the "Search" text field and press "Enter." If the search results say that the number is already taken, repeat this step until you find one that is available. If the search results say that the number is available, follow the site's instructions for reserving the number for yourself.

About the Author

A Chicago-based copywriter, Andy Pasquesi has extensive experience writing for automotive (BMW, MINI Cooper, Harley-Davidson), financial services (Ivy Funds, William Blair, T. Rowe Price, CME Group), healthcare (Abbott) and consumer goods (Sony, Motorola, Knoll) clients. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Harvard University but does not care for the Oxford comma.

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