A personalized license plate is a great way to add a fun element to your vehicle. It’s an opportunity to use both the front and the back of your car to project something to the world and your fellow drivers, or just to make you happy every time you walk to your car.
In the state of Illinois, you not only get to choose a custom message for a personalized license plate, but you also get to select a plate design. There are dozens of different plate designs, which let you cheer on your favorite sports team, represent your alma mater, or support an organization or cause that you feel strongly about. And, if you’re interested in getting a personalized license plate, there’s more good news: it’s an easy process, and relatively affordable.
Part 1 of 3: Choosing a personalized license plate
Step 1: Go to the Illinois website. Visit the official website for the state of Illinois.
Step 2: Go to online services. Visit the online services page.
Under the menu titled “Online services”, click the button that says “More online services . . .”
Step 3: Go to license plate purchasing. Head to the license plate purchasing page on the website.
From the online services menu, click on the link titled “License plate purchasing (pick a plate)”. You can reach this link by scrolling down the page, or by entering it in the search box.
Step 4: Select your vehicle type. Select the type of automobile that you have.
Click on the vehicle icon on the left side of the page that matches your automobile type. You can choose between a coupe or sedan, a van, an SUV, and a truck. There are also specialty options to choose from, such as motorcycles and antique vehicles, but the personalized plate options are limited.
- Tip: The vehicle that you are getting personalized plates for must be registered in the state of Illinois, and must be registered in your name, at your current address. Neither company vehicles, nor leased automobiles are eligible for personalized license plates.
Step 5: Choose a design. Select a license plate design.
After clicking on your vehicle type, you will see a drop down menu with the following options: specialty, collegiate, sporting series, military, and sororities/fraternities. Each of these groups has numerous license plate themes to choose from. Click on the group that interests you most.
Click on the license plate design to see a preview of it. When you find the plate that you wish to use, press the “Continue” button.
Tip: You can also select the standard license plate, which is the cheapest option. To do this, select “Passenger” or “B-truck”, depending on your vehicle.
Warning: Different license plate designs cost different amounts of money. Be sure to look at the prices underneath the preview picture to see what your desired design will cost.
Step 6: Choose between personalized and vanity. Decide on whether you want a personalized plate or a vanity plate.
Personalized license plates have both letters and numbers; first the letters, then a space, then a number or two. Vanity plates have only letters or only numbers, with a maximum of three numbers.
Warning: Different license plate designs have different character limits. Be sure to read the rules under the preview of the plate you choose, so you know what restrictions that plate has.
Tip: While the prices vary depending on plate design, the personalized plates are always cheaper than the vanity plates. For instance, with the standard plate option, a personalized plate is $76, while a vanity plate is $123.
Step 7: Choose a plate message. Decide on your custom license plate message.
Type your message onto the plate that you have selected. This offers you a preview of what your license plate will look like.
Tip: There is no different button for a personalized plate or a vanity plate. Whatever message you type in will be categorized into whichever style of formatting it fits.
Warning: Crude or offensive license plates are not allowed in Illinois. If you opt for a vulgar plate message, your application will be rejected.
Step 8: Check the availability. Check to see if your license plate message is available.
After typing in your message, click the button that says “Send”. The website will then search to see if this message is available. You will see an alert saying that the message is either available, unavailable, or improperly formatted.
If the message is unavailable or formatted incorrectly, click the button that says “Reset”, and keep trying until you find an available license plate message.
Part 2 of 3: Ordering your personalized license plates
Step 1: Click purchase. After finding an available plate message, click on the “Purchase” button, then the “Continue” button.
Step 2: Verify your registration. Verify that your vehicle is currently registered in Illinois.
Where prompted, enter your vehicle’s current license plate, the expiration year of your vehicle’s registration, and the last four digits of the vehicle identification number.
- Tip: The vehicle identification number is located on the driver’s corner of the dash, where the dash meets the windshield. You can easily spot the number from outside the car, by looking through the windshield.
Step 3: Verify your information. Verify all of your driver and owner information.
Follow the prompts on the screen to input your personal information, to verify that you are the owner of the vehicle. If there is a secondary owner, list that person’s information where prompted.
- Tip: Double check your information before proceeding, to make sure that everything is accurate.
Step 4: Pay your fee. Pay the personalized license plate fee.
After all your information has been entered, pay the personalized license plate fee, which changes depending on what design you chose, and whether you opted for a personalized plate or a vanity plate.
The personalized license plate fee that you pay is in addition to any standard license and registration fees and taxes.
Tip: You can pay with any MasterCard, Visa, American Express, or Discovery credit or debit card. You can also pay with a check.
Warning: In addition to the personalized plate fee, you will be billed $3.25 as a processing fee.
Step 5: Confirm and purchase. Confirm and purchase your personalized Illinois license plates by following the on screen prompts.
Part 3 of 3: Installing your personalized license plates
Step 1: Get your plates. Receive your personalized license plates in the mail.
- Tip: It can take up to three months for your application to be processed and your plates to be manufactured and shipped. Do not be alarmed if your personalized plates don’t arrive quickly.
Step 2: Install your plates. Install your personalized license plates.
As soon as you receive your personalized Illinois license plates, install them on both the front and back of your vehicle.
Tip: If you are uncomfortable installing the license plates by yourself, you can always hire a mechanic to come help you.
Warning: Always put current registration stickers on your new license plates before driving.
With Illinois personalized license plates, you’ll be able to add something new, exciting, and uniquely you to your car. There are no bad personalized license plates, as long as you find one that fits your interests.
This article originally appeared on YourMechanic.com as How to Buy a Personalized License Plate in Illinois and was authored by Brady Klopfer.