Types of Texas License Plates
Driving around Austin and the surrounding cities, you might have glimpsed a variety of different license plates. These days, the most common will be the familiar, beautifully simple faded blue background and bold text design that is the modern official plate of our Lone Star State. However, you may also see designs representing hobbies, organizations, or nature, or might come across an outdated colorful plate.
What exactly are the different types of license plates Texas vehicles can have? Texas license plates fall into three categories: General Issue, Specialty, and Souvenir. Let’s take a moment to look at each.
General issue license plates are the standard license plates provided by the Texas DMV (TxDMV). These are the plates that most vehicles in Texas will have.
The Texas Classic
The Texas Classic is the current official license plate of Texas. Introduced in 2012, the Texas Classic is a light blue color with bold lettering and a star emblem in the upper-left. Smaller text at the bottom says, “The Lone Star State.”
The Texas Classic was introduced in July 2012. A special feature it boasts is two bands of high-visibility security thread embedded in the plate sheeting. This thread makes it easier for law enforcement to verify that plates are authentic. The Texas Classic is the first plate in the country to utilize this measure.
Read More: License Plate Laws in Texas
Lone Star and Panoramic Texas
Before the Texas Classic became the new standard, the “Lone Star Texas” design was the main license plate seen out on the streets. First launched in 2009, Lone Star Texas is notable for its full color, full-plate graphic design.
This design was selected by Texans in an online e-vote. However, law-enforcement was not a big fan of the utility of this plate, and some owners also didn’t like the colorful look.
Lone Star Texas was the first digital general-issue license plate, and the beginning of Texas license plates utilizing a seven-character plate number. The reason for moving from six to seven characters is that Texas’s population growth finally exhausted all possible alpha-numeric six-character patterns.
The preceding design, Panoramic Texas, was launched in 2000. Its design contains just a little bit of everything most iconically Texas, albeit in a subdued fashion. These plates were the last of the six-character era, and the last of the stamped plates.
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Specialty Plates are unique license plate designs that cost an extra fee and represent something presumably special to the driver. The fee varies based on which plate design you choose.
A wide variety of specialty plates can be perused via the TxDMV website. Themes range from military, high schools, and Texas institutions, to hobbies, nature, sports, and even fraternities/sororities. Some support particular charities, which the purchase fee will generally go to.
Specialty plates can be personalized with a special message or phrase, though that message must first be approved by the TxDMV. Restrictions include no profanity, no gang or drug references, and no number “69” unless it’s used in combination with a vehicle make.
The number of characters allowed varies based on the plate that’s chosen. Personalizing likewise has a fee.
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Souvenir plates are not street legal, and are instead intended as decoration. A single souvenir plate costs $20, and personalization is available for another $20.
Souvenir plates can be ordered via a form on the TxDMV website. Like specialty plates, they can be used to support causes such as cancer-fighting or charities, or to represent organizations, fraternities, universities, hobbies, and more. They just can’t be put on your vehicle as they don’t have a real number, and some may not have a number at all.