How to Find Out If a Personal License Plate Number Is Available

by Tom Wagner
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Personalized (or "vanity") plates are available in all states, most provinces of Canada and in many other countries around the world. Most people who own these plates use them to send a message or as a way to advertise their business. In many states, the only way to find out if the letter-number sequence you want is available is by filing an application.

Step 1

Think of a letter-number sequence that conveys the message you wish to broadcast. In most states, the maximum number of figures for such plates is seven, although some states allow fewer. Check with your state's Motor Vehicle Department (online or in person) to find out how many figures you can use. You should think of several variations and be ready to submit them all due to the popularity of vanity plates.

Step 2

Go online to your state's Motor Vehicle Department website. Many states offer an automated search for letter-number sequences. If such a service is not available online, visit your regional Motor Vehicle Department office.

Step 3

Complete the application form to request a personalized license plate. The form will contain a box where it will prompt you to write in the letter-number sequence(s) desired. This form is available online in many states.

Step 4

Pay the application fee and submit the form. The Motor Vehicles Department will do a search to see if the requested sequence is available. If you submit the form in person at the office, the clerk should be able to tell you at that time if the requested sequence is available. The results can take a few days for online submissions. You may change your request if the desired sequence is already in use.

Step 5

Collect a refund of your fee if the requested letter-number sequence is already used in your state. Return to the Motor Vehicle Department with your receipt to collect your refund. If you filed the form online, the website will direct you on how to collect your refunded fee. In most states, there is no limit to the number of times you may file this request.

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