How to Get Michigan License Plates

January 27, 2012

Getting Michigan license plates is easy, as long as you have the necessary documentation before visiting a Michigan Department of State office. Whether you are buying a vehicle from a franchised dealership or from a private party, it is important to get your vehicle properly registered in order to get your license plates. Be sure to contact a Secretary of State office directly if you have any specific questions regarding vehicle registration and license plate laws in the State of Michigan.

  • Collect the proper documentation. Before visiting a Secretary of State office, it is important to have the required documentation to get your license plates. If you are purchasing from a dealership, you should already have the vehicle title in your name. If you are getting license plates after a private party transaction, be sure to have the title signed by the seller and proof of Michigan no-fault auto insurance before visiting the branch office. If necessary, proof of no-fault insurance may be faxed directly to the Secretary of State branch office
  • Transfer the title. If buying from a private party, make sure the seller signs and dates the title after completing the odometer statement and entering the selling price for the vehicle. All of this documentation must be correct in order to title the vehicle and issue plates
  • Show proof of insurance. Although your new vehicle will be covered under an insurance policy you currently have, the Michigan Secretary of State requires a new owner to furnish proof of insurance showing the vehicle identification number of their new vehicle before a registration and license plates may be issued. Remember that Michigan no-fault insurance can be costly, so you may find it best to carry only liability insurance if the vehicle is older or has high mileage
  • Register the vehicle. In Michigan, registration and license plates are issued together and their expiration dates are the same. Once a title is transferred and no-fault insurance provided, the vehicle is eligible for registration and license plates. If you would like to further personalize your vehicle, you can search for Michigan personalized license plates and their availability online at Plate It Your Way, a service of the Secretary of State
  • Choose Your license plate. Whether you are looking for a personalized license plate or one of the variety of specialty Michigan plates, you can complete a Michigan license plates search online at the Department of State license plate store. This guide walks you through the costs of different fund-raising and specialty license plates available for Michigan drivers. In most cases, you will be issued a license plate immediately while at a branch office. In the event your specialty plate is out of stock or you choose a personalized plate, you will receive your plate in the mail

How to Get Personalized Michigan License Plates

Michigan vanity license plates are available in most license plate styles, including the standard white and blue, Spectacular Peninsulas and fundraising styles. Be sure to check the availability of your license plate before visiting a Secretary of State office.

  • Confirm eligibility. The following classes of vehicle are eligible for personalized plates: passenger vehicles, pickup trucks, motor homes, buses, vans, hearses and motorcycles. Any vehicle titled as a utility vehicle or with a gross vehicle weight license plate is not eligible
  • Choose your plate style. The Secretary of State's Plate It Your Way website lets you check out different plates available. You may personalize standard plates, veteran and military plates, university fundraising plates, and special cause plates like those that support Michigan lighthouses, veterans' memorials and water quality. Remember that the Secretary of State may discontinue personalized plates on certain special cause plates any time. The Plate It Your Way website or a Secretary of State branch office can provide you with specifics
  • Check plate availability. Once you determine the style of plate you would like to personalize, select it on the Plate It Your Way site. Enter the characters you would like to appear on it. The number of characters allowed on a personalized plate will vary based on the size of the special design. Most plates allow for six or seven characters to be stamped. If you are ordering a plate for a motorcycle, trailer or commercial vehicle, Michigan's special university, fund raising and veteran plates are not available for these classes of vehicles. When choosing the characters to include on your plate, remember that blank spaces count against your allotment of characters. In Michigan, personalized plates may only contain letters and numbers. Input the characters in the text boxes and click "check plate availability." If the plate is unavailable, you will be informed of this. If the plate is available, you will be told to check ordering and plate fee information
  • Visit a Secretary of State office. You cannot complete your personalized plate order online. You must apply for the license plate at a Secretary of State office. You do not need to wait until your registration expires to order a personalized plate. If you change plates mid-year, you will be given a partial refund of the fees on your current plate. Visit a Secretary of State office soon after confirming the plate is available online. As there is no reservation system, your preferred license plate may not be available by the time you get to an office. All personalized plate applications must be approved by the Department of State. Once the license plate is approved, your plates will be mailed within a few weeks. Contact the Secretary of State if you do not receive your plates within a month
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