License to Drive

June 2012

Examining license plate configurations and best practice design.

License plates began appearing in North America around 1901 and since that time have experienced many changes in format, construction and regulation. Many surveys have been conducted by jurisdictions over the last few years related to license plates. One of the most recent surveys was conducted by the Automated License Plate Reader (ALPR) Working Group.

In partnership with the Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection, AAMVA formed the working group to address issues of effectiveness of license plate reader technology. In the future, the working group will be producing a best practice for improving the effectiveness of ALPR through uniform license plate design and manufacture. The recently released License Plate Configuration Design Booklet is the first step toward that best practice and provides comparative information on license plate design. Here is a sample of the data collected from 58 jurisdictions.

Maximum number of alpha-numeric characters?

  • 4 to 6: 1 jurisdiction
  • 6: 10 jurisdictions
  • 7: 29 jurisdictions
  • 8: 3 jurisdictions

Stacked numbers on plates?

  • Yes: 32 jurisdictions
  • No: 22 jurisdictions

No with exceptions: 4 jurisdictions (exceptions include government vehicles, specialty plates or old permanent plates. (Please see the full report for details.)

15 jurisdictions allow different numbers of characters ranging from 4 to 8 based upon a variety of circumstances including type of vehicle, stacked and non-stacked letters, etc. Please see the booklet for details.

The License Plate Configuration Design Booklet contains additional information on the use of non-alpha-numeric characters and sample plate designs.

Source: For more information, visit the working group at

Personalized Plates

Will your state issue a personalized license plate that consists of one alpha or one numeric only? Of the 28 jurisdictions that responded:

  • Yes: 23 jurisdictions
  • No: 5 jurisdictions

January 2012

Number of Plates

What is the number of license plates required on passenger vehicles in your jurisdiction? Of the 38 jurisdictions that responded:

  • One: 8 jurisdictions
  • Two: 30 jurisdictions

January 2010

For additional details on these statistics and other surveys, please visit

If you are looking for data or information and cannot find what you need, contact Janice Dluzynski at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 703-908-5842.