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New license plates coming soon to a treasurer’s office near you

03/20/2018


IA PLATE_2017-01Remember when Iowans voted on our new county standard license plate designs online and at the Iowa State Fair last August? The chosen design is now ready to roll off the production line at Iowa Prison Industries and they will start arriving in county treasurers’ offices (and appearing on Iowa’s roads) in the next few weeks.

“The main purpose of license plates is to make the vehicle easily identifiable,” said LaVonne Short with the Iowa Department of Transportation. “We did quite a bit of testing to make sure the new plates serve that purpose well.”


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As with our prior plates, the graphics for the new plates will be on reflective sheeting that’s manufactured by 3M Company. The final sheeting 3M produced is a new, high-definition sheeting with better reflectivity, which means the new plates will be easier to see and read both at day and night. Best of all it came at no additional cost, so we’re getting a better product for the same price.

While the new plates began rolling off IPI’s production line in Anamosa March 19, you likely won’t see them on vehicles in the state until sometime in April. To avoid waste and expense we are not replacing all plates at one time, but will instead transition the new design into our existing plate replacement cycle (plates have a lifespan of 10 years and are replaced automatically when they are more than 10 years old). That includes new plates that are issued for newly acquired vehicles, replacement plates for those that have reached their “end-of-life” at 10 years, and plates that are issued to replace lost or damaged plates.

Crawford County plates

One thing that will make the transition smooth and cost-effective is the automated plate-ordering system we implemented with IPI and Iowa’s county treasurers a few years ago. The automated system tracks plate inventory at each county treasurer’s office to predict inventory levels so plates are produced and delivered as they are needed. Short explains, “A just-in-time inventory system for plates means that we don’t produce more plates than we need but we also deliver what counties need when they need it, without running short. It makes our plate production process effective and it saves us money. We estimate the automated system saved the state $400,000 annually through better inventory management."

After we use up the last of the sheeting for the old plates, IPI will transition to new sheeting and start shipping plates with the new design to county treasurer offices throughout the state. Because counties issue plates and receive new inventory at varying rates, it may take a few months for the plates to reach all county treasurers’ offices, but by summer the new plates should be in all counties.

LaVonne Short
LaVonne Short holds one of the new plates. The colors in the photo show reflection on the plate surface. The actual color you see as you look at the plate directly will be a bit different.

For many of the busier counties, Short expects they will begin issuing the new design fairly quickly, especially for the county standard plate, which is by far the most commonly issued plate.

Short explains, “Each county treasurer keeps license plates in stock so they have what you need when you need them. The treasurers won’t be issuing the new plate design until the inventory of old plates in that county is used up. You are required to register your vehicle in the county where you live, so if you want to get the new design, it's best to contact your county treasurer and see when they expect to begin issuing those. If they are issuing the new design, you can get one for $5, even if your current plate isn’t up for replacement.”

As a reminder, the new plate design will be available for county standard plates and special emblem plates, but plates already designed with a special background (like collegiate plates) will not change.

Here are some additional facts about Iowa’s new plates:

  • There was no cost for the new design. All design work was done in-house.
  • You can still get personalized plates, this change doesn’t affect the availability of personalized plates on county standard plates, collegiate plates, or specialty plates.
  • Plates will still have the county name on them. Iowa law requires that we include the county name at the bottom of license plates (other than collegiate plates).
  • Special processed emblem plates – plates that have an emblem on the left side of the plate that promotes a specific organization or cause – that are produced on the county standard background will be transitioned to the new design and issued as existing inventory is depleted.

Want more information on Iowa license plates? Go to our license plate web pages.


Hi Diane - The letters and numbers, the state identification (Iowa) and the county name are required to be visible on all license plates.

You can't see the county name on a lot of plates because those stupid license plate frames cover it up. Some of those even cover up the state name. Why aren't they illegal?

When I registered my vehicle in the new county I live in the County DMV said I could just keep my old plates with the old county on it that I didn't need new plates. And that my registration fees when due would be billed from the new county.

The county name on the plates should be changed when the vehicle is registered in a different county, and not updated every 10 years when plates are replaced.

I like my gold finch/wild rose one...

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Iowa highway in the evening