Sure. You can go the standard route with Utah license plates. You have three choices — Arches, Skier and In God We Trust — and Utahns pick one of them 89% of the time.
But the other 11% want to make more of a statement, and the Utah Division of Motor Vehicles is happy to accommodate with more than 70 options for special plates. Up until this year, the Utah Legislature has fielded requests for new license plate options, passing legislation for the ones they agree to. But this year legislators passed HB26 (License Plates Amendments), which now requires DMV to confirm the option meets the state’s requirements. If it does, the DMV sends it to the governor’s office for approval. If the governor’s office approves, it goes to the Legislature for final approval.
Legislators haven’t been shy about new plate designs, and in the last 20 years the options have blossomed.
Some – like plates for firefighters or drivers with disabilities – are only available to those who can verify their status. But most are available to anyone willing to pay extra. That extra can be as little as a one-time $17 fee for some special plates, but others require annual donations up to $40. Those donations added up to $2.6 million for various causes last year.
There were 3,190,013 license plates issued in Utah last year. That includes plates for motorcycles and trailers. While Utah continues to add vehicles (and license plates) along with people, not all of the license plate options are growing in popularity, according to data from the Utah Division of Motor Vehicles. All the numbers below are the totals at the end of 2022.
The Life Elevated Delicate Arch license plate is the most popular in Utah, followed by the Life Elevated skier plate. The In God We Trust plate, introduced in 2016, is in third place, but it’s the fastest growing. In the last five years, In God We Trust has seen a 242% gain.
And while the Arches plate also grew in the past five years, the skier plate has dropped 8.6%.
If you want the logo of a Utah college or university on your plate, it requires an annual contribution ranging from $25 to $40 that goes to fund scholarship programs at the respective schools. The plates are available to all Utahns and no connection to the colleges is required.
Utah’s flagship university, the University of Utah, is also the leader for college license plates, far outdistancing rival Brigham Young University. Even Utah State University tops the Provo school. BYU actually lost a little ground since 2018, when it had 122 more plates than last year.
DMV’s website still shows a plate for LDS Business College, even though the school changed its name to Ensign College in 2020. DMV spokesperson Cyntia Maya said an Ensign plate is in the works and will be available soon. In the meantime, 14 drivers are still flying the LDS Business College flag on their cars.
Utah wildlife plates have more than doubled in the past five years. Utah Division of Wildlife Services spokesperson Faith Jolley thought that may be tied to the big jump in hunting and fishing licenses they saw during the pandemic, when many people looked to outdoor recreation for relief.
Indeed, 92% of the plates feature big game (Elk and Mule Deer) or trout. The other wildlife plate option, the kestrel, is the latest in a string of bird plates. DWS rotates the species. Bald eagle and great blue heron plates are no longer available, but 380 vehicles still have them.
Wildlife plates require an annual $25 contribution that is directed to the Utah Division of Wildlife Services. The fee supports habitat creation and other wildlife benefits. Funds from the elk and deer plates support big game management. The trout plate supports fisheries management, and the Kestrel plate funds go to nongame wildlife management.
There are almost 20 different options for license plates linked to charitable causes, and most are seeing rising sales. Like the college and wildlife categories, all these plates require an annual contribution that is directed to a specific cause.
Plates honoring law enforcement lead the way in this category. Two plates – Honoring Heroes and Utah Law Enforcement Memorial – are more than a third of the total.
This category is also where some corporate logos show up, although they still must have a charitable cause behind them.
Sales of the Utah Jazz plate — which features the Jazz note logo with the team’s “Take Note” tagline — have more than doubled since 2018. Funds go to the Utah Jazz Foundation, which primarily funds scholarships in underrepresented communities. Jazz spokeswoman Caroline Klein credits five straight years in the NBA playoffs for the boost. “Utah is a basketball state.”
One notable decline came in Boy Scouts of America plates. There were 301 in 2018 when the Church of Jesus Christ was still participating in the BSA. Now there are 140.
Autism awareness went from 883 to 1442, a 63% increase. The plate funds work at the Autism Council of Utah.
The four most popular plates in the Military/Veterans category honor veterans of the four branches of the U.S. Armed Forces. Sales of those are up 61% since 2018. Although most of the buyers are likely veterans, service in the armed forces is not required for these plates. All require a $25 annual donation that goes to Utah Department of Veterans’ and Military Affairs to fund services.
Others, such as the Purple Heart, Gold Star and Prisoner of War plates, require proof of status. In the case of the POW plate, DMV says it “may be transferred to the surviving spouse of a former prisoner of war so long as the surviving spouse remains unmarried.”
Not surprisingly, there are now only 3 Pearl Harbor license plates on Utah vehicles, down from 5 in 2018.
About 5.5% of vehicles have license plates that are no longer available. Most of them have either the Ski Utah or Arches Centennial plates, both of which got Life Elevated redesigns. Utah’s plate commemorating the 2002 Winter Olympics hasn’t been available for 20 years, but there are still more than 3,000 of them around.
There are a few rarities. Two people are still driving around with the College of Eastern Plates. CEU became USU-Eastern in 2011. And there is apparently one car out there with the Prostate Cancer Awareness plate.
All of the plates in the first-responder category require verification of professional status or participation in search and rescue groups. More than 550 have been added in the past five years, meaning they’re growing more slowly than the general population.
Vintage plates are growing at a rate of about 6.5% per year, which outpaces the growth of vehicles overall. One concern about that is that older vehicles generate more air pollution. That has prompted DMV to separate vehicles into two categories. Some vintage cars made after 1980 still have to pass emissions tests to drive on Utah roads.
The farm plate allows exemption from emissions requirements in counties that have both emissions requirements and farms. If there is a perception that farms in Utah are going away, it’s not apparent in the number of farm vehicles registered. They’ve gone up 18% since 2018.
Interestingly, plates for people with disabilities have held relatively steady. The plates, which require a physician to fill out a form, have only grown 2.2% in the last five years, less than the population growth. Many people are opting instead for a transferable tag to hang from their vehicle’s rear view mirror.
The Women’s Suffrage, Martin Luther King Jr., Fraternal Initiatic Order and Civil Air Patrol plates are available to all, and there is no annual contribution to any cause. Amateur radio plates require an FCC license.
And all 104 members of the Utah Legislature are eligible for special license plates showing their elected status. Only eight legislative plates were in use last year.