Branstad, DOT: Apply Online For Personalized & Specialty Plates

Old car license plates on the wall

Des Moines, IA – At his news conference this morning, Governor Terry Branstad and Iowa Department of Transportation Director Paul Trombino announced a new service which allows vehicle owners purchasing personalized or specialty registration plates to complete the process online. This new online application allows customers to apply for plates where and when it is convenient for them rather than using the paper application that has been in place for many years. The online process can be completed by customers in minutes, with typical application processing around one day, rather than the paper application process which can take up to 18 days.

View the Iowa DOT’s Personalized Plate Application

The online product is another service from state government designed to increase the level of service and reduce wait time for Iowans.

Customers wishing to obtain personalized plates can now enter their personalization in the online system and immediately see if their desired combination is available. Plate fees vary depending on plate design and are shown in the system when a plate design is chosen.

The online process not only saves customers time, it reduces staff time by eliminating 14 paper processing steps. The online process will also eliminate postage costs, saving both the customer and the state money. In fiscal year 2014, the Iowa DOT processed 17,177 paper applications for specialty and personalized plates.

Here’s how the online process works:

  1. The customer must have an Iowa driver’s license or non-driver ID to complete the online process.
  2. Go to and enter information about the vehicle you are licensing and type of plate you are wanting.
  3. If the requested personalization and/or specialty plate requested are available, the online process will allow customers to see on-screen how their plate will look. The system will notify customers if their desired personalization and/ or plate are not available.
  4. Payment can be made online through the system using, Discover, MasterCard, or VISA. A $1.50 convenience fee will apply.
  5. The plate production time of 21 days remains the same for both paper and online processes.
  6. Customer will receive notification once plates are available for pick up at their county treasurer’s office. Current plates on the vehicle must be returned when the new plates are picked up.

All specialty and personalized license plate orders are subject to Iowa DOT approval. Reasons for denial of an application include personalizations which are sexual in connotation; a term of vulgarity, contempt, prejudice, hostility, insult, or racial or ethnic degradation; recognized as a swear word; a reference to an illegal substance or to a criminal act; offensive or a foreign word falling into any of these categories; or those that conflict with the regular license numbering system.

This online process is available for any license plate that does not require a qualification for the vehicle owner (such as firefighter, EMS, veterans, amateur radio, or persons with disabilities). Applications for plates that require a certification must still be ordered through the mail or at a county treasurer’s office. Complete information regarding personalized and specialty plates can be found online at

Standard design county numbered plates continue to be available at the customer’s county treasurer’s office.

About Chris Berg

Chris was born and raised in Webster City, IA. As a young kid, he would always be caught singing along to songs on the radio. He says he's good at karaoke but we think otherwise. ;) In his free time, he enjoys beginning new projects at home and hardly ever finishing them. Chris lives in Charles City with his wife Vicki and a daughter Brynlee.