How Much Are Black License Plates in California: Pricing and Options

In California, the interest in specialty license plates, particularly the 1960 Legacy black plates, has seen a resurgence among vehicle owners seeking a classic touch for their vehicles. We understand the cost of these specialty plates is an important consideration. The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) offers these retro-style plates for a fee that includes an initial cost and a yearly renewal fee, which is in addition to the standard registration fees.

How Much Are Black License Plates in California: Pricing and Options

The black license plates, which bear resemblance to the state’s original plates from the 1960s, carry both an aesthetic and nostalgic value. We know that cost is often the deciding factor for many, but it’s not just about the price—it’s about adding a distinctive flair to your automobile while also adhering to California’s DMV regulations. We’ll guide you through the costs associated with obtaining and maintaining these sought-after plates, ensuring that your vehicle remains legally registered and stylishly outfitted.

Types of California License Plates

California offers a diverse selection of license plates to suit the varied preferences of its motorists. Each type serves a specific purpose and reflects a commitment to varied causes or interests. Our variety spans from the standard plates that every vehicle must display to specialty plates that contribute to California’s welfare in unique ways.

Standard License Plates

The very foundation of vehicle registration in California is the standard license plate. These plates feature a distinctive blue background with yellow characters. Each motor vehicle on the road is required to have these plates affixed to both the front and rear.

Black License Plates: Available under the California Legacy License Plate Program, the black plate with yellow lettering is a throwback to California’s past, honoring the vintage design from the 1960s.

Special Interest License Plates

Special Interest License Plates provide us the opportunity to support causes we care about while registering our vehicles. Proceeds from these plates fund various statewide programs and projects.

  • Environmental Plates: These protect our coastal and natural landscapes, wildlife, and promote clean air.
  • Arts Plates: Contributions go towards funding for arts education and local arts programming.
  • Legacy Plates: The black license plates fall within this category, supporting historical significance within motorist culture.

Personalized and Legacy Plates

Personalizing a license plate allows vehicle owners to express their individuality through customized text on their plates. California’s legacy plates offer a hint of nostalgia, enabling residents to obtain plates that replicate historic colors and designs.

  • Personalized License Plates: Motorists can choose their own sequence of characters, subject to DMV approval.
  • Legacy License Plates: A selection of styles from California’s past, including the coveted black license plate, is part of this program.
Legacy plates can only be ordered for vehicles that meet specific criteria set by the California Legacy License Plate Program.

Applying for California Plates

When acquiring or maintaining black license plates in California, we need to understand the process and respective fees for initial registration and any future renewals or replacements.

Initial Registration and Plate Acquisition

To obtain a black license plate, we must use the Special Interest License Plate Application (REG 17). Here’s a simplified breakdown of the initial steps:

  1. Confirm your vehicle is currently registered in California.
  2. Ensure your vehicle meets California emissions and equipment requirements.
  3. Decide on a plate type—sequential or personalized.
You will need information from your registration card to complete the application.

Renewing and Replacing Plates

When it’s time to renew or replace our black license plates, it’s important to handle the process promptly to avoid any complications.

For renewing, we receive a notice with the applicable registration fees. Retaining the black plate calls for an additional annual fee on top of the standard registration.
Replacing a lost or damaged plate will require a visit to the DMV or completing the process online, with replacement fees applicable.



It’s crucial to keep your plate’s information updated to reflect any changes to your vehicle registration.

Regulations and Legal Considerations

Navigating the legal landscape to obtain black license plates in California requires adherence to specific Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) regulations. Our focus is to ensure compliance with transfer and retention policies, as well as current legislation and law enforcement guidelines.

Transfer and Retention Policies

Transfer Application: When a license plate is transferred between vehicles, a proper transfer application must be submitted. Co-owners are permitted to transfer plates provided all legal requirements are met.


Should you wish to retain your specialty plates without transferring, an annual retention fee is required. Laws are in place to secure the rights of the plate holders.

Legislation and Law Enforcement

Assemblyman Mike Gatto authored legislation that allows California drivers to obtain retro-style black license plates resembling those of the past. This legislation adheres to the standards that prohibit any offensive content on both personalized and standard plates. Our involvement in the legislative process guarantees that we stay informed of any updates or changes.

Law Enforcement:

Compliance with legal standards for license plates is critical as law enforcement has the authority to issue fines or cancel plates that do not meet regulations.

Action Requirement
Transfer between vehicles Submit transfer application and fee
Retention of plates Pay annual retention fee
Gift or sale of vehicle Laws may allow for plate gifting under certain conditions

Familiarizing ourselves with these requirements ensures that our application or transfer of black license plates in California is fulfilled without complications. We are prepared to assist with navigating these policies for a smooth and lawful experience in acquiring the desired black plates.

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