current North Carolina plate

Rick Kretschmer's License Plate Archives 

current North Carolina plate

Current and Recent North Carolina License Plates

Part 1:  License plates typically issued to personal vehicles
(except special interest plates and military service plates)


This page illustrates some of the various types of personal vehicle license plates currently or recently seen on the streets of North Carolina. 

Latest noteworthy updates to this page
  • May 3, 2024  –  Added a photo of a natural 2025 expiration First in Freedom plate. 
  • February 3, 2024  –  Added a photo of a natural 2025 expiration In God We Trust plate.  Added placeholders for other 2025 plates. 
  • June 8, 2023  –  Added a 2022 First in Flight plate.  Replaced red-numbered 2008 plate photo. 
  • May 9, 2023  –  Added a photo of a natural 2024 expiration In God We Trust plate.  Removed information that's really no longer relevant to current plates and is available on the NC passenger car plate history page. 


This page illustrates some of the various types of license plates currently or recently seen on the streets of North Carolina.  There are also many additional types of North Carolina license plates, some issued in very small numbers, that do not appear on this page.  As I find them, I will add their images to this page. 

Please note that, unlike the other pages on this web site, very few of the plates shown on this page are from my personal collection, since I don't actively collect North Carolina plates.  Most of the plates shown on this page – the ones with bolts attaching them to vehicles – are simply photographs of plates that I've spotted on various vehicles found in parking lots, mostly in or near the city of Raleigh.  I haven't tried to individually identify the source of each plate shown.  However, all images on this page are photographs that I've taken, unless otherwise credited.  Oh, and if you're wondering what that arc of light is on some of the candid shots, it's just a reflection from my camera.  I get this when I have to shoot towards the sun due to the position of the vehicle.  (Remember when cameras were black and didn't reflect light?) 

I sincerely hope that you find this information useful. If you find an error or have additional information, or can provide a photo of a plate that is not shown, please send me an e-mail.  There's a link to my e-mail address at the bottom of every page. 

Move your mouse over each image to see a description of that plate.  Click on any image to see a larger version. 

Passenger car plates

In North Carolina, passenger plates are issued to cars, SUVs, passenger vans, motor homes, not-for-hire buses, and not-for-hire trucks up to 7,000 pounds gross vehicle weight.  The First in Flight base used for passenger car plates has been around since 1982, but the oldest plates still in use were issued in the late 1990s.  Lead zeroes are never used in the serial number, nor are letters G, I, O, Q, or U. 

Blue serial character First in Flight plates, part 1

2004 passenger (natural) 2005 passenger (natural) 2006 passenger (natural) 2007 passenger (natural) 2008 blue number passenger (natural)
Recent issue passenger car plates with natural expirations, 2004 through 2008.  First serial letters from "L" forward remain in use today. 

For 25 uninterrupted years, from spring 1982 until spring 2007, First in Flight plates were issued with royal blue serial characters.  In the spring of 1985, the current serial format xxx-0000 made its debut.  In this format, for some mysterious reason, the second letter was restricted to the range N through Z.  Also, lead zeroes are not used, nor is the number 1000.  Therefore, the format began at serial ANA-1001, and, for example, the next plate number after AZZ-9999 was BNA-1001.  In later years, the DMV went through about one first letter per year, with a new first letter introduced sometime in the summer of each year.  This format eventually got up into the early WTF series in the spring of 2007, when the state must have run out of blue paint or something. 

Also until the spring of 2007, any First in Flight plate issued since 1982 could still be used if the registration was continuous.  However, most plates that were on the road for more than ten years or so became quite ugly looking, and often had serious legibility problems due to fading and also flaking and general deteriorization of the reflective sheeting.  Off and on between 2007 and 2011 or so, the oldest blue-character plates were replaced with new red-character plates as they come up from renewal.  Since then and through the present day, the oldest plates still in use are from the late Lxx-0000 series, issued in late 1998. 

Red serial character First in Flight plates

2008 red number passenger (natural) 2009 passenger (natural) 2010 red number passenger (natural)
Previous issue passenger car plates with natural expirations; 2008, 2009, and 2010. 

From the spring of 2007 until the fall of 2009, First in Flight passenger car plates were issued with red serial characters, although the background design remained unchanged.  According to the NC DMV, the red-character plates were supposed to debut on April 16, 2007, but some plate spotters began seeing them in use as early as March 2007.  Apparently, some DMV offices ran out of blue-number plates, and so began issuing the red-number plates early.  The serial format continued as xxx-0000, and picked up where the blue-number plates left off with no break, as fate would have it, in the midst of the WTF series, somewhere near plate number WTF-2000 or so.  The red-number plates continued until about the end of the ZND series. 

In my opinion, the North Carolina DMV succeeded in changing what was a dated, yet still attractive plate design, to one that remained dated, but was also downright dumb-looking.  Although it's not really evident in the photos above, the red paint is somewhat of an orangey color which clashes with the deeper red state name and First in Flight slogan screened on the plate.  Also, and more significantly in my opinion, even when new, the red characters are much harder to read at a distance than the blue characters.  But red dye, ink, and paint are all very prone to fading, and over time these plates have become even more difficult to read. 

Blue serial character First in Flight plates, part 2

2010 blue number passenger (natural) 2011 blue number passenger (natural) 2012 passenger (natural) 2013 passenger (natural) 2014 passenger (natural) 2015 passenger (natural) 2016 passenger (natural) natural 2016, version 2 expiration sticker 2017 passenger (natural) 2018 passenger (natural) 2019 passenger (natural) 2020 passenger (natural) 2021 passenger (natural) 2022 2023 passenger 2024 passenger 2025 passenger
Current issue passenger car plates with natural 2010 through 2021 expirations.  Two 2016 expiration plates are shown, with old-style and new-style expiration stickers, respectively.  The 2022 plate is not a natural. 
(2010-2012, 2014, 2016, 2020 plates in actual use; 2017-2019 and 2021 Casadonte photos and plates)

In March 2009, the N.C. DMV announced that it would discontinue issuing red serial letters and numbers, and red vanity plate characters, on its standard First in Flight license plates.  Existing red-numbered sequential plates were to continue to be distributed until they were gone from inventory.  Newly-ordered vanity plates began being made with blue characters immediately. 

The reason given for the return to blue serial characters was that the DMV was responding to complaints about the red plates from the public (presumably because they're ugly) and from law enforcement (presumably because they're harder to read at a distance).  It apparently didn't occur to the DMV to test the readability of the red plates before issuing them. 

Blue-character First in Flight standard passenger car plates resumed being issued in October 2009, at or near the beginning of the ZNE letter series.  These plates are visually identical to the blue-character plates that were issued between 1985 and 2007.  However, red-character plates continued to be issued as late as January 2010.  It would seem that various DMV tag offices ran out of red-character plates at different points in time. 

Plate number ZZZ-9999 was reached in December 2010, and plate numbers then rolled over to the AAA series, starting with plate number AAA-1001.  However, both Z-series and A-series plates were issued concurrently in December 2010, January 2011, and possibly beyond. 

Despite the return to A-series plate numbers, earlier First in Flight plate numbers are not being reused.  Recall that until December 2010, all seven-character First in Flight passenger car plates were issued with the second letter limited to the range of N to Z.  With the new plates being issued in the early part of the alphabet, the second letter is limited to the range of A to M.  So, newly-issued A-series plates were issued with numbers between AAA-1001 and AMZ-9999 only.  After AMZ-9999 came BAA-1001.  After BMZ-9999 came CAA-1001, and so on. 

The middle letter N-to-Z format lasted 25 years, from 1985 until 2010, so the middle letter A-to-M plates should keep us going for another 20 to 25 years before they're used up. 

Effective May 26, 2015, the DMV began issuing plain black-on-white expiration stickers showing both the expiration month and year on a single sticker, and ceased issuing the separate white-on-red month stickers and colored year stickers bearing the state shape that had been used for decades.  In general, plates issued since then have only the single month-year sticker affixed in the upper right corner, while older plates also still have the old red month sticker visible in the upper left corner. 

Since July 1, 2015, motorists have had a choice between the familiar First in Flight plates and a new First in Freedom design.  Since July 1, 2019, they've also had a third choice, a new In God We Trust design.  These two newer plate designs are addressed separately, below.  Apparently, all three designs will be offered for the forseeable future. 

First in Freedom plates

2016 "First in Freedom" (natural) 2017 "First in Freedom" (natural) 2018 "First in Freedom" 2019 "First in Freedom" (natural) 2020 "First in Freedom" (natural) 2021 "First in Freedom" (natural) 2022 "First in Freedom" 2023 "First in Freedom" 2024 "First in Freedom" (natural) 2025 "First in Freedom" (natural)
Natural 2016, 2017, 2019 through 2021, 2024, and 2025 expirations.  (2016 and 2017 plates in actual use)

On July 1, 2015, the North Carolina DMV introduced a new First in Freedom plate, which is a second standard plate design available at no extra cost.  From July 2015 through June 2019, motorists could choose between the familiar First in Flight design or the new First in Freedom design.  Starting in July 2019, a third option was made available; this third design is addressed in the next section. 

The First in Freedom slogan was last used on plates issued between 1975 and 1978, and it was considered controversial, as some objected to North Carolina's right to make such claim since the state allowed slavery until 1865.  They've made it a bit more clear what the slogan refers to this time, with the addition of two dates:  May 20, 1775 and April 12, 1776.  These two dates, which also appear on the state flag, represent the dates that the Mecklenburg Declaration and Halifax Resolves were passed.  These two resolutions declared Mecklenburg County and the entire colony of North Carolina, respectively, to be independent from Great Britian some months before the Declaration of Independence was signed by representataves from all 13 colonies.  Really, "First in Independence" would have been more correct than "First in Freedom", but it just doesn't have the same ring to it. 

Freedom plates use the same numbering format as do Flight plates, but plate numbers began at PAA-1001.  I have no idea why they chose to begin in the P series.  Once PMZ-9999 was issued in 2019, numbering jumped to RAA-1001, since Flight plates in the PNA through PZZ series issued in 2001-2002 are still in use, and of course, Q is not used.  Since the Freedom plate design was introduced over a month after the plain black-on-white expiration stickers made their debut, all Freedom plates should have these new stickers. 

In God We Trust standard plates

2020 "In God We Trust" (natural) 2021 "In God We Trust" 2022 "In God We Trust" 2023 "In God We Trust" 2024 "In God We Trust" 2025 "In God We Trust"
Natural 2020 through 2022 and 2024 and 2025 expirations.  (2020 plate in actual use)

On July 1, 2019, the North Carolina DMV introduced a new In God We Trust plate, which is yet a third standard plate design available at no extra cost.  Motorists may now choose between the existing First in Flight and First in Freedom designs or this new In God We Trust design, all for the same charge. 

This plate features the text In God We Trust, which is the official motto of the United States, across the top, over a graphic image of the U.S. flag in the background.  It also has the text 'To Be Rather Than to Seem' bounded by single quotes, which is the English translation of the Latin official motto of the state of North Carolina, just above the state name at the bottom.  The numbering format is the same as the First in Flight and First in Freedom plates, with numbering starting at TAA-1001.  TMZ-9999 was issued in the spring of 2024, and numbering jumped to VAA-1001, since Flight plates in the TNA through TZZ series were issued years ago and are still in use. 

Other North Carolina In God We Trust plate designs, with a graphic image on the left side of the plate and with stacked suffix letters S/A, are extra-cost specialty plates. 

First in Flight plate replacement program

A state law was passed in 2019 that requires North Carolina license plates to be replaced at the time of renewal if the plate had reached seven years of use, or would exceed seven years of use during the upcoming registration period.  This plate replacement program was to be conducted on an ongoing, permanent basis.  It was supposed to have begun on July 1, 2020, but was delayed for six months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  And so it did begin on January 1, 2021, but it was then suspended after only four months, due to significant, worldwide shortages of aluminum, which is of course what modern plates are made of.  This shortage is apparently also related to the pandemic, though I'm not exactly clear how.  By ceasing to replace older plates, the state could then make their existing stock of aluminum plate blanks last much longer.  However, the 7-year replacement law remains on the books, and so it will just be a matter of time before the plate replacement program starts up again and the older blue-number plates, as well as all red-number plates, are gone. 

Until that happens, though, the oldest plates on the road continue to be seven-character, blue-number plates near the very end of the L series.  The oldest of these were originally issued in late 1998 with natural 1999 expirations. 

As part of the plate replacement program, the state is allowing motorists to keep their old plate numbers if they desire.  Replacement plates with old plate numbers are being made with flat, blue numbers, regardless of whether the original plate had blue or red numbers.  The only flat NC plates with passenger car numbers are these recent replacements with old numbers.  The plates being flat provides a visual cue that the old plate number is still valid. 

The flat plates with old numbers are available at no charge, but only on request.  The default is to get an embossed plate with a new number.  The state is not promoting or encouraging motorists to order replacement plates with old numbers due to the additional cost and effort necessary to make plates to order.  As a result, few of these have been made, and I've personally not yet seen one.  I have seen photos of them, so I do know they exist. 

Optional plates, geographically-oriented

6 character Outer Banks 7 character Outer Banks 7 character Outer Banks with lead zero 8 character Outer Banks 8 character Outer Banks with suffix letter Global Trans Park
Outer Banks plates in various formats, including those with six characters (Weeks photo of plate in use), seven characters without and with a lead zero (both plates in actual use), eight characters with no letter suffix, and eight characters with a letter suffix (plate in actual use); Global TransPark economic zone plate. 

North Carolina has issued a couple of no-extra-cost optional plates used to promote certain geographic areas within the state.  The best known of these uses the serial prefix "OBX", which stands for "Outer Banks", the term for the string of barrier islands jutting out into the Atlantic.  There are several different numbering formats of OBX plates in use, including one that mimics the current format of standard passenger car plates.  However, passenger plates never use the letter "O", and did not use any letter earlier in the alphabet than "N" in the second position on seven-character plate numbers until December 2010.  Also, lead zeroes are used on OBX plates but not on standard passenger plates. 

Seven-character OBX plate numbers began at OBX-1001 and continued through OBX-9999, then rolled over to OBX-0001 and went up OBX-1000, exhausting the format.  Next, OBX plates were issued in an eight-character format that began with plate number OBX10001.  In approximately 2019, that format was also exhausted, and now OBX plates are being issued in format OBX0000x, where the suffix letter advances after all the numeric digits.  I don't know whether lead zeroes are used on this format. 

I had thought that OBX plates were only issued in seven- and eight-character varieties until a fellow plate collector sent me this photo he took of plate number OBX-803.  It's obviously an old plate, but was still in use at the time the photo was taken in October 2014.  I've since seen a few of these in use myself.  I'd venture to guess that six-character OBX plates preceded the seven-character plates.  When exactly they were issued, I can't say.  Six-character First in Flight regular passenger car plates were only issued from 1982 to 1985 but were replaced and off the road by August 2008. 

A second such geographically-oriented plate is the Global TransPark plate.  The Global TransPark is an economic development zone in eastern North Carolina in the vicinity of the town of Kinston, featuring an airport capable of handling large jets with an adjacent industrial park.  These "GTP" plates were issued to residents of the surrounding area; but only for a few years in the 1990s, as far as I know.  The only serial format used for these is the eight-character format GTP00000.  Probably, these began at serial GTP10001. 

The OBX plates are available for sale only at one DMV tag office that's actually located on the Outer Banks in the town of Manteo.  One must go there in person to get one of these plates; however, they're available for any North Carolina motorist to purchase at no extra cost.  I don't know how one would have obtained the GTP plates, but it's a moot issue since these stopped being issued quite a few years ago. 

Government official and National Guard member personal vehicle plates

2005 retired judge 2013 magistrate 2014 retired court of appeals 2007 State Senate 2003 National Guard officer National Guard junior enlisted 2009 National Guard officer National Guard retired
2005 retired judge ("J" indicates judge; "X" means retired), 2013 magistrate ("MJ" indicates magistrate) (Weeks photo of plate in use), 2014 retired Court of Appeals judge ("X" means retired) (Weeks photo of plate in use), 2007 State Senate with incorrect 2008 sticker applied (Fox photo of plate in use), 2003 annual assigned number National Guard, undated unassigned National Guard member with 2007 expiraiton, 2009 annual assigned number National Guard with flat serial characters and year, undated retired National Guard member with 2009 expiration. 

Plates issued to current government officials and members of the National Guard for their personal vehicles are made on the standard passenger base.  Current government official plates are reissued annually and have the registration year actually stamped on the plate in the upper corners.  Some plates issued to government officials clearly state what position they hold in the state or federal government; others are cryptic but can be decoded, and still others simply have all-numeric serials numbered 200 and below. 

The 2007 State Senate plate should not have the 2008 sticker applied to it – such plates are re-issued annually and only have embossed years.  Since North Carolina sticker numbers match the plate numbers, it's evident that this sticker was intended for a completely different plate.  Thanks, Mike Fox, for sending in this photo. 

National Guard member plates look much like extra-cost special-interest plates.  The serial format is a one-digit to four-digit number followed by the stacked letters "N/G".  Officers and senior noncommissioned officers are assigned plate numbers 1 through 3000 in order of rank and seniority.  They also get new plates bearing the registration year on an annual basis, with presumably lower serial numbers each year, as those ranking above them retire or otherwise leave the Guard.  Plate number 734 N/G, shown above, was issued to a captain.  Plate number 1 N/G was obviously issued to the commanding general of the National Guard. 

Lower-ranking enlisted National Guard personnel are assigned numbers starting from 3001 on a first-come, first-served basis.  These were also issued annually and had embossed years through 2005; beginning in 2006 these higher-number National Guard plates are undated and are kept current with stickers.  There is no additional charge beyond the normal registration fees for Guard members to obtain these plates. 

Some retired government officials and retired National Guard members are also entitled to receive distinct plates; some of these have the year on the plate and are replaced annually, while others are issued undated base plates and use stickers to indicate the expiration date. 

Most, if not all, annual government official and National Guard plates dated 2009, 2010, and 2011 were flat rather than embossed.  Likewise, undated base plates issued to such individuals issued between late 2008 and late 2011 are also flat.  North Carolina discontinued producing flat plates in mid-year 2011. 

Antique vehicle plates

antique auto with embossed characters antique auto with flat characters horseless carriage 1966 passenger car plate used as YOM
Antique Auto plates with embossed and flat serial characters, respectively; embossed Horseless Carriage plate; 1966 passenger car plate used as a YOM plate. 

Antique Auto plates are available to vehicles more than 35 years old.  Serial format is 00000Horseless Carriage plates are similar to antique auto plates, except that they show an image of a very old car on the plate.  These are available to vehicles from model year 1943 or older.  The serial format for these is 0000.  Like other special interest plate types, the state issued antique auto plates, and likely also horseless carriage plates, with flat serial characters between about the fall of 2008 and the fall of 2011. 

In North Carolina, antique auto and horseless carriage plates are both considered to be special interest plates, and cost $10 extra than regular plates, and so there's no restriction against driving the vehicle daily, if desired. 

Vehicles over 35 years old are also eligible to display "year of manufacture" (YOM) plates, which are old license plates from the year the vehicle was built.  YOM plates are permitted only if the vehicle is currently registered with a modern plate, and the modern plate is kept somewhere in the vehicle when being driven.  The modern plate may be a standard plate, an antique auto or horseless carriage plate, or any other appropriate plate. 

Personal vehicle vanity and amateur radio operator plates

Passenger car vanities

vanity with special character vanity with special character vanity with special character wide die 5 character vanity wide die 6 character vanity narrow die 8 character vanity wide die 4 character vanity vanity with special character narrow die 7 character vanity vanity with special character red letter vanity with special characters red letter, narrow die 8 character vanity red letter vanity with special characters red letter, wide die 6 character vanity red letter vanity with special character
First in Flight embossed character vanity plates ("ACHOO!", BTMLINE$, RELIEF!, and SOOOO..? are Kunsman plates.  "CONTE$$A" is a Weeks photo of a plate in use.)

flat red letter vanity flat blue letter vanity with special character flat blue letter vanity
First in Flight flat character vanity plates

vanity with special character
First in Freedom embossed character vanity plate (Hyder photo and plate)

Up to eight characters and spaces are permitted on regular North Carolina vanity plates.  A variety of special characters, or punctuation characters, are permitted on the plate, although these are not considered part of the serial number.  Like all other North Carolina stickered plates, the plate number is printed on the sticker, but in the case of vanity plates, any special characters or spaces on the plate itself are omitted on the sticker. 

Prior to the spring of 2007, all vanity plates were made with blue, embossed serial characters.  Vanity plates issued between the spring of 2007 and the spring of 2009 have red serial characters, just like standard passenger car plates of the same time period.  Prior to mid-year 2008, these were also embossed; but then North Carolina began making all vanity plates with flat serial characters, as this process significantly sped up the maufacturing process for one-of-a-kind plates.  Beginning in the spring of 2009, the state resumed using blue serial characters, but they were still flat.  In the summer of 2011, the state discontinued making flat plates, and resumed making vanity plates with blue, embossed characters.  To summarize, vanity plates currently in use may be embossed or flat, and may have blue or red serial characters. 

For decade, embossed vanity plates with six or fewer characters and spaces were usually, but not always, made with the wide serial dies used on various non-passenger plate types.  Embossed plates with seven or eight characters and spaces are made using the narrow dies used on passenger car plates.  Flat vanity plates are made using a narrow font regardless of the number of characters.  Newly-issued vanity plates with six or fewer characters and spaces began being stamped with narrow serial dies well before other plate types. 

Although it's extremely rare to do so, trailers can also be registered with a vanity plate number, and when they are, for the longest time, they were issued a First in Flight passenger base with the requested plate number.  In other words, vanity plates issued to passenger vehicles and those issued to trailers were indistinguishable.  This must be very confusing for law enforcement; it would appear that the motorist had put a vanity plate actually registered to a passenger vehicle on their trailer. 

I believe the state may have recently begun making vanity trailer plates on the red-on-white trailer base that has the Trailer legend, but if they have, I've yet to actually see one.  Also, if they have, I can't say whether they're replacing existing First in Flight vanity trailer plates.  As I said, vanity trailer plates of any stripe are quite uncommon. 

I've seen conflicting reports whether or not older vanity plates are being replaced as they come up for renewal  I believe that they are not being automatically replaced, but rather that some motorists may have requested that their old vanity plates be remade simply because they had become ugly looking. 

Other personal vehicle vanities

Standard-sized and motorcycle handicapped plates are currently available with vanity registrations, but I've never seen an actual example of either type.  Special interest and military service plates may be had with vanity serial numbers; these are addresed on the Current North Carolina license plates, part 2 page, which covers all types of special interest and military service plates. 

Amateur radio operators

2005 amateur radio operator 2008 amateur radio operator (2nd vehicle) 2009 amateur radio operator (flat)
Two embossed and one flat amateur radio operator plates

"First in Flight" graphic plates do not have a place for a legend to identify the plate type, so amateur radio operators must make do with these plain, non-graphic plates, which are similar to commerical or weighted vanity plates.  I presume that the plate with the "/2" at the end is intended for a second vehicle owned by the holder of the call sign. 

Starting in the latter part of 2008, amateur radio plates were made completely flat, with blue features on a white background.  Although the shade of blue is a bit darker, the flat radio plates otherwise mimic the all-embossed version, even including the blue border around the outside edge of the plate.  Since mid-year 2011, they're once again being made with embossed characters. 

Handicapped person plates and placards

100% disabled veteran, format 1 100% disabled veteran, format 2 100% disabled veteran, format 3 handicapped, format 1 handicapped, format 3
First in Flight 100% disabled veteran formats 1, 2, and 3; handicapped formats 1 and 3

Freedom 100% disabled veteran
First in Freedom 100% disabled veteran

Both standard handicapped plates and 100% disabled veteran plates can be found with their identifying serial letters used as either prefixes or suffixes.  Standard handicapped plates originally had four variable digits, first in serial format HD0000 and then in format 0000HD, but these were both exhausted.  Next came format H/D00000, which is now also used up, and now format H/D0000x with a variable last letter is being issued.  100% disabled veteran plates have been made in serial formats D/V0000, 0000D/V, x000D/V, 0x00D/V, 00x0D/V, 000xD/V, and xx00D/V where "x" is a variable letter. 

Partially disabled veterans also have a distinct plate type, but I don't have one to show you.  For the longest time, this type did not have a wheelchair graphic and used numbering format P/D0000.  Also, it cost $10 extra.  For these reasons, they were rarely issued or seen.  However, in the past few years, they've issued partially disabled vertan plates with the embossed wheelchair graphic in format P/D000x, with a variable suffix letter.  On the NC DMV website, the wheelchair version is the only one currently available, and it does not cost anything extra. 

Handicapped plates may be had with vanity registration numbers.  Handicapped and disabled veteran plates have always been made with blue characters on the First in Flight base, and sequentially-numbered versions have always had embossed serial characters. 

Handicapped motorcycle plates, both standard and vanity, are addressed in the motorcycle plate section, below. 

long-term handicapped placard short-term handicapped placard
Long-term and short-term handicapped windshield placards

Handicapped persons have the option of obtaining either a handicapped license plate, or standard plates with a long-term handicapped placard to be hung from the vehicle's inside rear view mirror.  For unknown reasons, the vast majority of North Carolina handicapped motorists choose the placard. 

Motorcycle and moped plates

Standard-issue motorcycle plates

2003 motorcycle 2009 motorcycle
Natural expiration motorcycle plates from 2003 and 2009. 

Motorcycle plate numbers advance like an odometer, so the left-most digit is the last to change.  These were originally all numeric; once 999,999 motorcycles were registered, a new serial format 0x0000 was begun.  In this format, the left-most digit started at 1.  After the 1A series came the 1B series, after the 1Z series came the 2A series, etc.  However, after the 3H series, the state mistakenly made and issued motorcycle plates in the 4H and 5H series before resuming the original sequence by next issuing 3J series plates.  Motorcycle plate dimensions are 7 inches wide by 4 inches high. 

Other types of personal motorcycle plates

motorcycle vanity motorcycle vanity motorcycle vanity handicapped motorcycle 2010 motorcycle trailer
Three motorcycle vanity plates (TAR-DVL: Weeks photo of plate in use); unstickered handicapped motorcycle plate (O'Dell photo / plate); motorcycle trailer plate (Sowers plate)

Moped plates

2017 moped
2017 moped plate (Weeks photo of plate in use)

North Carolina began requiring mopeds to be titled and registered effective July 1, 2015, and began issuing moped license plates at the same time.  Moped plates have black characters on a white backgound, say N.C. Moped across the top left and top center of the plate, and use numbering format Mx00000.  Dimensions are the same as motorcycle plates.  There's no place on the plate for a month sticker, but since this plate type was introduced after the start of combined month-year stickers, that was never an issue.  Moped owners may elect to obtain vanity plates; these look the same other than the plate number. 

Temporary cardboard plates

30-day temporary 30-day temporary
Previous design 30-day temporary; current design 30-day temporary

These cardboard plates are issued by car dealers to their customers who have purchased vehicles and are not transfering the plate from another vehicle.  These plates provide time for the DMV to mail the vehicle owner their new permanent metal plate and registration papers. 

Until mid-year 2010, temporary plates were of the design shown above left, with large serial numbers.  Since then, beginning at about serial number 17600000, a redesigned temporary plate is being issued, as shown above right.  On this new plate, the serial number is much smaller and occupies the bottom half of the plate.  A place for the expiration date has been greatly increased in size and relocated to the upper half of the plate.  The state name has also been moved to the bottom edge of the plate, to bring it into conformance with all other North Carolina plates. 

(Since these are pretty easily to duplicate, I've chosen to pixelate the plate number of the current-design temporary plate, so that someone doesn't use this photo as the basis for a fake plate that could be traced back to the motorist to whom the plate was issued.) 

General information about stickers, expiration dates, etc.

All plate types that use stickers to indicate the expiration date use the same type and color of stickers. 

Stickers issued prior to May 26, 2015

Prior to May 26, 2015, North Carolina issued separate month and year stickers.  Month stickers were  white on red , and included the month number and the letters "NC", which are stacked vertically on the left.  If you look at the various numeric month stickers on this page, you'll notice that they did not use a consistent font for the month number.  Older month stickers indicated the month alphabetically with three or four letters, and included the letters "NC" horizontally on the bottom.  Sometimes month stickers become quite faded over time, but I haven't noticed any discernable patterns. 

Current and recent year stickers, issued prior to May 26, 2015, were colored are as follows: 

2005 –  white on light blue sticker  2009 –  white on purple sticker  2013 –  white on blue sticker 
2006 –  white on red sticker  2010 –  white on green sticker  2014 –  white on green sticker 
2007 –  white on green sticker  2011 –  white on yellow sticker  2015 –  white on hot pink sticker 
2008 –  white on blue sticker  2012 –  white on red sticker  2016 –  white on black sticker 
2013 expiration sticker
undated 60 day sticker

Year stickers issued prior to May 26, 2015 featured a prominent state outline with the letters "NC" inside; the year itself was relegated to the lower left corner of the sticker.  The sticker serial number was placed in a white box found at the bottom of the sticker, to the right of the year.  Some 1997 year stickers, and all year stickers since 1998, were printed with the serial number of the plate they were issued to.  This was done to minimize sticker theft and fraud.  Some 2004 year stickers had a problem with the orange color fading to the point of appearing to be white.  When this happened, though, the plate number printed on the year sticker in black did not fade.  The 2000 and 2005 stickers were colored white on light blue, and were rather difficult to make out due to the low contrast between the two colors.  The 2009 stickers were white on purple, the 2011 stickers were white on yellow, and the 2015 stickers were white on hot pink, all colors not previously seen on North Carolina registration stickers.  The yellow 2011 stickers also had significant legibility issues. 

In late 2013, some new plates began to be issued with an orange sticker with a large black "T" in place of the normal year sticker.  The North Carolina DMV has begun collecting vehicle property taxes at the time of registration, instead of the counties sending motorists a separate bill for the tax months later.  For newly purchased vehicles, the state allows motorists to defer paying the property tax for up to 60 days after the vehicle is titled and registered.  Newly-registered vehicles for which the property tax is not paid get these orange "T" stickers, which indicate a temporary 60-day registration.  Once the property tax has been paid, the motorist receives a normal year sticker to affix to the plate. 

Stickers issued since May 26, 2015
2016 expiration sticker, version 2
2016 expiration 60 day sticker

On May 26, 2015, North Carolina began issuing single expiration stickers indicating both the expiraiton month and year.  These are correctly placed in the upper right corner of the plate.  These  black on white stickers indicate the two-digit expiration month and two-digit expiration year separated by a dash, with the plate number in smaller characters immmediately below.  Otherwise, the stickers are completely plain, devoid of any state name or abbreviation, graphics, or other text.  Most of these stickers indicate expiration dates of May 2016 and later, but a small number of these new stickers with 2015 and early 2016 expiration dates have also been issued in situations where a new plate was issued as a replacement for an existing, presumably lost or stolen, plate, but the expiration date remained unchanged.  Also in cases where the plate was issued prior to May 26, 2015 with a "T" sticker, but the tax was paid on or after that date.  Apparently, the days of expiration stickers being color-coded to identify the year are over, and all expiration stickers going forward will be colored black on white, regardless of the expiration year. 

Plates issued on or after May 26, 2015 do not have a separate month sticker in the upper left corner.  Plates issued before that date which have been renewed with a new black-on-white month/year sticker will likely still display the old, now-redundant, white-on-red month sticker in the upper left corner of the plate.  However, the state initially told motorists they had to scrape off the month sticker when they affixed the new month-year sticker (they've now backed off from requiring that), but even now motorists are free to do so if they wish. 

With the elimination of separate month stickers, there would have been no way to know when a plate with a "T" sticker was issued or reached the end of its 60 day grace period.  So, the state began printing the month that the grace period ended on the "T" stickers, underneath the printed plate number.  Unfortunately, this date is impossible to read unless you're inches away from it, but it's better than nothing. 

Stickers issued since Spring 2021

In about May 2021, the state again changed the design of its expiration stickers.  They're still black-on-white, but otherwise are quite different from what had been issued for the previous six years.  These stickers have a three-letter month abbreviation across the top half of the sticker, a small two-digit year in the lower left corner, and the plate number across the remainder of the bottom.  I've spotted new-style stickers for every month starting with DEC 21, but they weren't widely used on plates with expirations prior to MAY 22.  The latest old-style sticker I've seen was dated 06-22.  I'm sure there was a hard cutover on a specific date, and so what kind of sticker you got depended on when you registered or re-registered your vehicle. 

Expiration dates

Related links

Page credits

Thanks to those who have directly contributed to the information on this page:  Mike Fox, Kenny O'Dell, Richard Baucom, George Kunsman, John Weeks, Neal Adkins, and Scott Hyder. 

Fox, O'Dell, Weeks, and Hyder photos are presumed to be copyrighted by Mike Fox, Kenny O'Dell, John Weeks, and Scott Hyder, respectively, and are used with permission.  Kunsman and Sowers plates are from the collections of George Kunsman and Brandon Sowers, respectively. 

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