current North Carolina plate

Rick Kretschmer's License Plate Archives 

current North Carolina plate

Current and Recent North Carolina License Plates

Part 3:  License plates typically issued to commercial and government-owned vehicles

 

This page illustrates some of the various types of license plates not typically used on personal vehicles, currently or recently seen on the streets of North Carolina. 

Latest noteworthy updates to this page
  • July 8, 2014  –  Added photos of two more medium-duty truck vanity plates. 
  • September 18, 2013  –  Added photos of a flat weighted vanity plate, both full-sized and motorcycle versions of the new orange Permanent plates mostly issued to local government-owned vehicles, and a motorcycle trailer plate.  Numerous minor text updates. 

Introduction

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, none 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 parked vehicles, 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. 

North Carolina truck, bus, and other commercial motor vehicle plates

Regular light-duty trucks

Trucks with gross vehicle weights under 7,000 pounds are supposed to be issued passenger car plates, unless they qualify as "for hire" or apportioned vehicles.  This is regardless of whether the truck is registered to an individual or a business, or whether it's used for personal or commercial purposes.  However, it's just as common to see light-duty trucks in commercial use displaying medium-duty truck "weighted" plates as it is passenger car plates.  I have no idea why.  Personal light-duty trucks nearly always use passenger car plates.  Although less common, either commerical or personal light trucks can also run vanity plates, special interest plates, handicapped plates, etc. 

Regular medium-duty trucks

2006 weighted truck
2006 regular medium-duty truck 

"Weighted" plates are issued to trucks with gross weights between 7,000 and 26,000 pounds that are not used to transport passengers or property for compensation.  Generally, six-wheeled trucks fall into this weight class, plus some of the heavier capacity full-sized pickups and cargo vans.  Between 1981 and 2003, the legend Commercial was used on plates for this same vehicle class, regardless of whether a given vehicle was actually used for commercial purposes.  I presume that the legend was changed to Weighted due to increasing numbers of people driving trucks over 7,000 pounds strictly for non-commercial private use.  The term "weighted" apparently comes from the registration fees being calculated based on the gross vehicle weight. 

The current undated base plate was introduced in January 2006 as staggered registration began, with renewals being assigned an initial expiraiton between July 2006 and June 2007.  Weighted plates share serial format xx-0000 with several other plate types; however, they've only used first letters A through E as of September 2013. 

Medium-duty truck vanity plates

commerical vanity commerical vanity with special character embossed weighted vanity embossed weighted vanity flat weighted vanity
Medium-duty truck vanity plates, with the older Commercial legend, and both embossed and flat Weighted varieties (2013 plates: Weeks photos of plates in use)

Vanity plates with the legend Commercial were issued through 2003, when medium-duty trucks bore "commercial" plates, regardless of whether they were used for commercial purposes.  These vanity plates are no longer issued but continue to be renewed with stickers.  Since 2004, "weighted" vanity plates have been issued instead.  These look the same except for the Weighted caption at the top of the plate.  A variety of special characters may be ordered on North Carolina vanity plates, although they're not considered part of the plate serial number.  Vanity plates manufactured between mid-year 2008 and mid-year 2011 were made flat. 

Medium-duty truck vanity plates, whether "commercial" or "weighted", are infrequently seen.  The expiration month for both was always December through 2005, to coincide with the expiration date of standard, annually-issued commercial or weighted plates.  Since weighted plate registrations became staggered in 2006, the month sticker on vanity plates can now be from any month. 

Regular heavy-duty trucks

2007 permanent commercial truck, format 1 2008 permanent commercial truck, format 2 2012 permanent commercial truck, format 3
2007, 2008, and 2012 regular heavy trucks, serial formats 1, 2a, and 2b. 

Not-for-hire, non-apportioned trucks with gross vehicle weights over 26,000 pounds have a distinct plate type with the legend Permanent Commercial and serial prefix "YA".  For many years, these plates were issued with a YA-00000 serial format, but that format was exhausted in late 2006.  Now, regular heavy truck plates are issued with format YA000000.  Besides the somewhat bizzare 8-character format, these plates were also unusual by North Carolina standards, in that lead zeroes are used in the serial number.  Why the N.C. DMV just didn't continue sequentially into format YB-00000, which isn't being used for anything else, I have no clue. 

Apparently in the spring of 2010, after these plates had reached the YA020000 series or so, the state decided that lead zeroes weren't such a great idea after all, and they suddenly began issuing new plates in the Y1000000 series.  Go figure. 

This is one of several types of so-called "permanent" blue-on-white plates, issued to vehicles with gross weights over 26,000 pounds since the mid-1990s or so.  These plates and their registrations are in fact not permanent, but must be renewed annually.  The term "permanent" is a remnant from 2005 and prior, when December month stickers, but no year stickers, were used on these plates.  The plates were permanent in the sense that they were not replaced annually and did not require any renewal stickers.  However, the registrations did expire annually each December and had to be renewed.  Like most other non-passenger plate types, staggered registrations began in 2006, and since then, both month and year expiration stickers are required on these "permanent" plates.  July 2006 was the earliest staggered expiration date. 

Farm trucks

1994/2008 old-style farm truck 2008 farm truck
2008 old-style farm truck plate still in use, and current-style farm truck. 

Prior to 2006, farm trucks were among a small number of commercial vehicle types that were issued an undated base plate and year stickers.  Most, but not all, had December expiraiton months then; now the expiration months can be any time during the year.  All farm trucks are issued the same type of plate regardless of weight.  This is the only North Carolina plate type that actually has the word "truck" on it. 

Van pool vans

(no picture available)

North Carolina has a distinct plate type for van pool vans.  These plates have the legend Van Pool at the top of the plate, and the serial format is VP-0000.  Otherwise, they look like most any other non-passenger plate type.  These plates were issued annually through 2005, and since 2006 have been issued on the undated blue-on-white base. 

What's odd is that I've lived and worked in the Raleigh area since 2001, and I've never seen one of these actually in use.  Not once.  Ever.  Every van pool van I've ever seen (which hasn't been many) sported the now-obsolete black-on-silver Permanent plates that were issued to vehicles owned by local government bodies and nonprofit organizations.  That has likely changed, now that the current black-on-orange Permanent plates are not allowed on most nonprofit vehicles.  However, I've worked from home for the past several years, and I haven't actually seen a van pool van since the black-on-silver plates became obsolete, so I can't say with certainty what kind of plates they now use. 

Taxis

(no picture available)

Through 2005, taxis were issued annual plates with serial format TA-0000 and an embossed year, but with no legend identifying the vehicle type.  On the blue-on-white undated base introduced in 2006, the TA-0000 format continues, but stickers are used to indicate the expiration, and the legend Taxi is now embossed at the top center of the plate.  Sometime in 2011, the TA prefix was exhausted, and for the first time, taxi plates began to be issued with serial format TB-0000

Various commercial vehicles for hire

(limos, buses, light- and medium-duty trucks)

2007 for hire
2007 commercial vehicle for hire

Most vehicles used to transport passengers or property for compensation are issued these plates with six-character serials and the legend For Hire at the top of the plate.  The exceptions are taxis, apportioned trucks and buses, and trucks with gross vehicle weights exceeding 26,000 pounds; all of these vehicle types have their own distinct plates.  Examples of vehicles that would typically be issued six-character "for hire" plates include limousines, charter buses, tow trucks, package delivery trucks, and local household moving trucks. 

Prior to 2006, these plates were issued annually and had the legend Commercial For Hire.  As far as I know, prefix letters ZB and ZC were used in even years, and prefixes ZF and ZH were used in odd years on these annual plates.  Prefix letters ZA were/are used on "Drive Away" plates.  North Carolina generally avoids using the letter "G" on license plates.  Why they skipped prefix letters ZD and ZE, I have no idea.  Undated, six-character blue-on-white base plates with the For Hire legend were introduced in 2006 with staggered month and year expiration stickers.  The initial expiration date for these plates fell between July 2006 and June 2007.  Prefix letters began at ZB and have advanced alphabetically from there, including ZD and ZE. 

Heavy-duty trucks for hire

2007 permanent for hire
2007 heavy-duty truck for hire

The Permanent For Hire plate is the type issued to non-apportioned trucks with gross weights over 26,000 pounds used to transport property for compensation.  Mostly, these are issued to dump trucks, cement mixer trucks, and truck tractors (the cab portion of a tractor-trailer), and in any event, only on vehicles that are limited to being driven in-state.  These plates all have serial format ZB-00000

Year stickers and staggered month stickers were introduced in January 2006 with the earliest expiration occurring in July 2006.  See the article on regular heavy-duty trucks, above, for discussion of the term "permanent" and for registration periods and expiration dates. 

Apportioned buses and light- and medium-duty trucks

2007 apportioned
2007 apportioned truck or bus

Apportioned plates are issued to certain commercial vehicles that cross state lines.  Most are seen on heavy straight trucks and truck tractors.  However, North Carolina also has a distinct apportioned plate type for commercial buses and light- and medium-duty commercial trucks.  The plate pictured above was spotted on a commercial pickup truck.  In the case of buses, only fixed-route interstate buses need apportioned plates; charter buses are explicitly exempt from such a requirement.  Anyway, this is an infrequently seen plate type, at least in the Raleigh area where I live, which is close to the center of the state.  Perhaps they're more common in the Charlotte area, which is adjacent to South Carolina. 

Through 2005, apportioned plates for buses and light- and medium-duty trucks were issued annually; these had the legend Commercial Apportioned and serial format Lx-0000.  Starting in 2006, an undated, blue-on-white base plate with format Lx-00000 and just the legend Apportioned is used for these vehicles.  These plates have staggered registrations, with the earliest possible registration period ending in July 2006. 

Apportioned heavy-duty trucks

2009 permanent apportioned
2009 apportioned heavy-duty truck

Apportioned plates are issued to certain commerical vehicles that cross state lines.  The most common variety is this type, used for heavy straight trucks and truck tractors with a gross vehicle weight over 26,000 pounds.  These have the legend Permanent Apportioned and a six-character xx-0000 serial format.  Until 2009, the first serial letter was always an "L", but then plate number LZ-9999 was reached, and subsequent plates are now being issued with the first letter "M".  Prefixes MD, ME, and MF were skipped so as not to conflict with other plate types. 

This plate type was first issued in the mid-1990s or so, and through 2005 was used with a December month sticker and no year sticker.  Since 2006, expiration month and year stickers are attatched to this plate, and the month can be any time in the year.  The earliest expiration date where a year sticker is used is July 2006. 

Permanent Apportioned plates with serial format L-000000 are trailer plates. 

Special mobile equipment

2008 special mobile equipment
2008 special mobile equipment

Special mobile equipment plates look like other boring non-passenger plates, and have serial format ME-0000.  These are rarely seen; they're only issued to self-propelled equipment such as cranes.  Prior to 2006, special mobile equipment plates were issued annually and had an embossed year, but no identifying legend.  As you'd expect, the undated base plates are blue on white; the state name is at the bottom, the month and year stickers go in the upper corners, and the legend Spec Mobile is at the top center. 

North Carolina trailer plates

Please note that plates for small trailers pulled by motorcycles are addressed in the commercial motorcycle plate section, below. 

Regular trailers

older format regular trailer current format regular trailer
Previous and current format regular trailers from 1996 and 2004. 

Regular trailer plates have had staggered registrations and expiration month and year stickers since the early 1980s.  The undated red-on-white base has been in continuous use since about 1983.  The serial format was originally x-00000, and I believe it began with an "S" prefix and exhausted the format after wrapping around the alphabet and reaching the "R" prefix in about the mid-1990s.  Although rare, these single-letter prefix trailer plates could still occasionally be seen in use until recently.  I'm not sure if they're still in use or not. 

When the single-letter serial format was exhausted, the current format xx-00000 was begun.  Similar to the seven-character First in Flight passenger car plates, and for obscure reasons, the seven-character trailer plates began with serial prefix "AN".  Prefixes "AY" and "AZ" were skipped, because they were reserved for multi-year trailer plates, which are covered below.  Then, unlike passenger car plates, regular trailer plates began the seven-character "B" series with prefix "BA".  The "B" series went through prefix "BZ" and has continued into the "C" series starting with prefix "CA". 

Regular trailer plates are used on all sizes and shapes of trailers and semi-trailers, both personal and commercial. 

Regular trailer vanity and special interest plates

Trailers may be issued vanity plates.  Strange as it may seem, however, trailer vanity plates are made on the graphic First in Flight base, rather than a non-graphic regular trailer base.  Therefore, off of the vehicle, a trailer vanity cannot be distinguished from a passenger car vanity.  Almost nobody bothers to get vanity plates for their trailer, however. 

Similarly, trailers are also eligible to get special interest plates.  There's no distinction between a special interest plate issued to a trailer, versus one issued to a passenger car.  Of course, special interest vanity plates are also available for trailers as well.  Again, it's extremely rare for anyone to order a special interest plate for their trailer, but I have seen it done. 

Multi-year trailers

older style multi-year trailer current style multi-year trailer current style multi-year trailer
Rare version and two common version multi-year trailers

Multi-year plates are true permanently-registered trailer plates, which are obtained by paying a one-time registration fee.  These plates are undated and unstickered.  They're colored black on white and have the legend Multi Year [sic].  They don't actually say "trailer" on them, but they are in fact only issued to trailers.  Serial format was originally AY-00000, then AZ-00000 was introduced in late 2006, and starting in late 2009, AA-00000.  Prefix letters are now advancing alphabetically from AA, but will get no further than AM before they'll have to come up with a new first letter. 

A small number of multi-year plates have the state name between the bolt holes, but the overwhelming majority have the state name spanning the width of the plate.  The small-state-name plate pictured was in actual use in September 2006 when I snapped the photo; it had a 1997 manufacture date printed on the reflective sheeting above the lower bolt holes.  These are quite rare; I can only recall seeing a very few of these since I moved to North Carolina in 2001.  The more common wide-state-name version was also used for plates with serials lower than the narrow-state-name plate, so presumably the narrow-state-name was a very short-term issue. 

Multi-year plates are commonly seen on commercial trailers and semi-trailers of all sizes.  They're only very occasionally seen in use on personal trailers. 

Heavy-duty trailers

There are two types of trailer plates used exclusively for semi-trailers and possibly other heavy-duty trailers.  Both types are still in use, and as far as I know, both are still available to be issued.  However, they both seem to be effectively obsolete. 

2007 permanent apportioned trailer
2007 apportioned heavy-duty trailer

Regular heavy-duty trailers

These plates are issued to commercial trailers and semi-trailers pulled by a truck whose gross combined weight exceeds 26,000 pounds.  The serial format is PT-00000, and the legends on the plate read Permanent Trailer.  This is another of the so-called "permanent" plate types that prior to 2006, always had a December month sticker affixed but no year sticker.  The registrations weren't permanent – they had to be renewed annually – but the plates themselves were considered permanent because they did not need to be replaced annually or issued year stickers annually.  Now, since 2006, they get various month stickers and a year sticker to indicate the registration expiration date. 

Since heavy trailers and semi-trailers can get the regular, red-on-white trailer plates, and this plate type now also requires stickers showing the expiration date, it seems to be a redundant plate type.  Indeed, since 2006, I've seen these in use less and less frequently. 

Apportioned heavy-duty trailers

Plates with the legend Permanent Apportioned and serial format L-000000 don't say they're trailer plates, but trust me on this.  They just ran out of room for the word "Trailer".  These are also for commercial trailers and semi-trailers pulled by trucks whose gross combined weight exceeds 26,000 pounds.  Being apportioned plates, they are intended for trailers that travel out of state, but from what I know about the apportioned vehicle program, apportionment of trailer mileage has not been required by any jurisdiction for a good number of years, and so there's no real reason for this plate type any longer. 

These also displayed a December month sticker and no year sticker through 2005.  They got staggered registrations and varying expiration month stickers and expiration year stickers starting in 2006.  For some unknown reason, these plates have only been issued in the L-800000 series.  "Permanent Apportioned" plates with serial formats Lx-0000 and Mx-0000 are truck plates. 

North Carolina dealer and other automotive business plates

The various dealer and other automotive business plate types are interchangeable – that is, they're not assigned to a specific vehicle, and therefore can be moved from one vehicle to another as needed.  These plates would ordinarily be used on untitled or unregistered vehicles, which would not otherwise have their own plates. 

Please note that motorcycle dealer plates are addressed in the commercial motorcycle plate section, below. 

Motor vehicle dealers

2007 franchised dealer 2007 independent dealer 2007 dealer transporter
2007 franchised (new) dealer demo vehicle, independent (used) dealer demo vehicle, and dealer transporter plates. 

Dealer demonstration vehicles

There are two types of non-motorcycle motor vehicle dealer plates in wide use; both are supposed to be used only on vehicles that are actually being test-driven.  Franchised (new vehicle) dealers get plates with a stacked F/D prefix and five variable digits, while independent (used vehicle) dealers get plates with serial a stacked I/D prefix and six variable digits.  In both cases, the plates are blue on white, and have the legend Dealer at the top center and the full state name along the bottom. 

Previously, dealer plates were issued annual plates that always bore embossed June expirations; the last of these were stamped with June 2006 expiraiton dates.  Upon expiration of these June 2006 plates, dealer plate registrations were converted to staggered expiration months, with the initial staggered registration period ending between January 2007 and December 2007.  Dealers were then issued these undated base plates which used stickers to indicate the registration expiration date. 

Other untitled or unregistered vehicles driven for dealer business purposes

There's another dealer plate type that is seldom seen in use.  These are "dealer transporter" plates.  They're supposed to be used for any situation, other than for a test-drive, where a dealer needs to drive an untitled or unregistered vehicle.  These are colored black on white, have the word Dealer at the top center, Transporter at the bottom center, and the letters NC in both of the bottom corners.  Serial format is TP100000, with all serial characters full-sized, and without any spaces or separators. 

Until 2006, these were issued annually and had embossed June expirations like the regular Dealer plates, and shared the serial format TP-00000 with regular, non-dealer Transporter plates, presumably with separate numerical ranges.  In June 2006, these were converted to staggered registrations in a manner similar to the regular Dealer plates described above. 

Trailer dealers

(no picture available)

I believe that North Carolina still issues a distinct trailer dealer plate, but I've never seen one since dealer plates went to undated bases in June 2006.  I have no information about what they may look like.  On the other hand, in 2011 I saw a trailer in use bearing an I/D-prefixed independent dealer plate, so maybe trailer dealers now use the same kinds of dealer plates as do motor vehicle dealers. 

Vehicle manufacturers

2007 manufacturer

Vehicle manufacturer plates say Manufacturer at the top, and have serial format MF-0000, with all of the characters full-sized.  These also were issued annually with an embossed June expiration through June 2006, then converted to staggered registrations. 

I believe manufacturer plates are primarily used by Thomas Built Buses, Inc., which manufactures school bus bodies at a factory in High Point, North Carolina.  However, I've seen several manufacturer plates in use in the Raleigh area, where I live; in each case these were attached to a new GM full-sized SUV – a Chevy Suburban or Tahoe, or a GMC Yukon.  Apparently General Motors must maintain an office in Raleigh, but there's no assembly plant here, so I'm mystified why I've only seen one type of GM vehicle using these plates. 

Other automotive businesses

2006 transporter
2006 transporter plate, used by automotive businesses other than dealers or manufacturers

Automotive-related businesses other than dealers and manufacturers who have a need to drive untitled or unregistered vehicles are issued these blue-on-white, non-dealer Transporter plates.  The state name is shown in full along the bottom edge, and the serial format is TP-00000

These non-dealer transporter plates, according to the DMV, are:  "Issued to a person engaged in a business requiring the limited operation of motor vehicles to facilitate the manufacture, construction or rebuilding or delivery of new and used truck cabs or bodies between manufacturer & dealer, or the foreclosure or repossession of motor vehicles."  I believe that this description was not intended to be an all-inclusive list of the types of businesses that can obtain transporter plates.  It's my understanding that other automotive-related businesses, such as repair shops and vehicle recycling yards, are also issued these same plates. 

The registration year of previous annual non-dealer transporter plates coincided with the calendar year, like most all other non-dealer plate types. These converted to an undated base with staggered expiration stickers beginning in January 2006, with initial expiration months ranging from July 2006 to June 2007. 

Drive Away plates

(no picture available)

This is a very obscure plate type issued in very small numbers.  The plates are blue on white, have the legend Drive Away across the top of the plate, and the serial format is ZA-0000.  I've seen one of these in use on only on occasion, on I-40 in western North Carolina.  I really don't understand what they're used for, but I get the impression they're sort of a cross between a temporary plate and a transporter plate.  If you can shed any additional light on this plate type, I'd love to hear from you. 

North Carolina government-owned and nonprofit-owned vehicle plates

generic state-owned vehicle 2007 Highway Patrol vehicle obsolete local govt. or nonprofit-owned vehicle current local govt. vehicle
Generic state-owned vehicle, Highway Patrol vehicle (O'Dell plate), obsolete silver local government or nonprofit-owned vehicle plate retired in 2012; current orange local goverment vehicle plate introduced in 2012. 

Most, but not all, state-owned vehicles get loud black-on-yellow plates with the legends Permanent and State Owned, and serial format Px-0000.  The major exception would be Highway Patrol vehicles, which get passenger-style First in Flight graphic plates with an embossed registration year and serial prefix "SHP".  Highway Patrol plates are replaced annually, and plate numbers are issued to patrol cars in order of seniority of the trooper to which the car is assigned.  Even during the years 2009 through 2011, when probably all other annual plate types had flat serial numbers and year characters, Highway Patrol plates remained embossed. 

For many decades, local government-owned vehicles, and vehicles owned by charitable and possibly certain other nonprofit organizations, both receive undated, unstickered black-on-silver plates with the legend Permanent.  This plate type was used for vehicles such as city police cars, fire trucks, public school buses, etc.  I'd also seen them on vehicles owned by the American Red Cross, hospitals, and churches, and also on van pool commuter vans.  Serial format was 00000-x, with the variable letter suffix either P, R, S, or T.  These plates were issued sequentially starting with the P series, skipping letter Q, of course.  The P series plates were rarely seen in recent years.  Desipte the word "permanent" stamped on them, these black-on-silver plates were no longer valid for use after December 31, 2012. 

In 2012, the law was changed regarding nonprofit groups' eligiblity to use permanent plates.  Nearly all such groups were required to obtain standard car or truck plates for their vehicles.  To ensure that these vehicles no longer continued to use permanent plates, vehicles owned by local government agencies and the few remaining eligible nonprofit organizations were replated with new black-on-orange permanent plates beginning October 15, 2012.  Other than the background color, these plates are identical to the previous silver version.  The serial format was the same, and serial numbers on the orange plates picked up where the numbers on the silver plates left off, in the middle of the T series, and continued into the V series. 

Nonprofit groups still eligibile to use permanent plates are pretty much limited to volunteer firefighting organizations and rescue squads, the Civil Air Patrol, and the American Red Cross, but only for vehicles used for emergency or disaster work. 

(Government-owned and nonprofit-owned motorcycle plates are addressed in the motorcycle plate section immediately below.) 

North Carolina commercial and government motorcycle plates

You might collectively call these plate types "non-passenger" motorcycle plates.  Motorcycle plate dimensions are 7 inches wide by 4 inches high. 

Motorcycle trailers

2010 motorcycle trailer
2010 motorcycle trailer (Sowers plate) 

Yes, I realize that probably nearly all motorcycle trailers are for personal, non-commercial use.  Despite that, I felt that this plate type belonged on this page, so that all "non-passenger" motorcycle plates were together, and all trailer plates were at least on the same page. 

Motorcycle trailer plates are issued on the same blue-on-white motorcycle base as current regular motorcycles and motorcycle dealers, but have a serial number in format MT-000.  Vanity serials up to 7 characters are available; these are indistinguishable in appearance from actual motorcycle vanity plates. 

Motorcycle dealers

2007 motorcycle dealer
2007 motorcycle dealer

Motorcycle dealer plates' serial format is MD-0000.  There's no distinction between franchised or independent motorcycle dealers, nor between demo vehicles and other dealer vehicles.  The undated blue-on-white base was introduced in June 2006 as dealer plates converted to staggered registration periods.  It looks like a regular motorcycle plate except for the serial format.  The initial staggered expiration date on these ranged between January 2007 to December 2007. 

Previously, motorcycle delaer plates were issued annually and bore an embossed June expiration date; colors varied each year. 

Government-owned and nonprofit-owned motorcycles

obsolete local govt. or nonprofit-owned motorcycle current local govt. motorcycle
Obsolete silver local government or nonprofit-owned motorcycle retired in 2012 (Fox photo of plate in use); current orange local goverment motorcycle introduced in 2012 (Weeks photo of plate in use)

State Highway Patrol motorcycles are issued plates on the standard blue-on-white motorcycle base, similar to the motocycle dealer plate shown above.  Serial formats HPMU-0 and HPMU-00 are used.  "HPMU" is reported to stand for "Highway Patrol Motorcycle Unit".  These plates get regular month and year expiration stickers; I believe the expiration month is always December. 

Other government-owned and nonprofit-owned motorcycle plates resemble full-sized government and nonprofit plates.  State government motorcycle plates other than for Highway Patrol use are black-on-yellow, have the screened legends State Owned at top and N.C. Permanent at bottom, and have serial format 00-Px.  Local government and nonprofit motorcycles were black on silver through December 31, 2012 (despite the plate shown above appearing to be pink due to the lighting), and just had the legend N.C. Permanent screened at the top, with serial format P-0000.  Like their full-sized counterparts, these plates were replaced with black-on-orange plates in late 2012, with most nonprofit groups no longer eligible for the new plates.  Probably these are mostly issued to local police or sheriff's department motorcycles anyway.  The legend N.C. Permanent is embossed on the orange plates, and serial numbers continued from where they left off on the silver plates.  None of these plates use(d) month or year stickers. 

General information about stickers, expiration dates, etc.

Stickers

All plate types that use stickers to indicate the expiration date use the same type and color of stickers.  These are addressed on the personal vehicle plate page

Expiration dates

Serial format reference guide

Key to serial format symbols –   [ ] = graphic image   handicap symbol = handicapped wheelchair symbol   / = letter preceding slash is stacked above the letter following the slash   x = variable serial letter   0 = variable serial number  

Serial Format Legend Usage
00000 First in Flight / Antique Auto Stock motor vehicle over 35 years old
000000 none (small plate) Motorcycle (serial format 1 of 2; may be obsolete)
00000000 30-Day Tag (cardboard) Temporary plate issued by a dealer
[ ] K000 First in Flight Knights of Columbus organizational
P-0000 Permanent (small plate) Motorcycle owned by a local government entity or nonprofit organization
[ ]x0000 various Special interest or organizational; prefix letter identifies type
[ ]0000x various Special interest or organizational; suffix letter identifies type
x-00000 Trailer Trailers of all types; annual registration (serial format 1 of 4; may be obsolete)
0x0000 none (small plate) Motorcycle (serial format 2 of 2)
00000-x Permanent Vehicle owned by a local government entity or nonprofit organization (suffix letters P, R, and S obsolete after Dec. 2012; T and V are still in use)
L-800000 Permanent Apportioned Heavy-duty trailer used in interstate commerce; annual registration despite "permanent" legend
handicap symbolHx00 none (small plate) Handicapped motorcyclist
00-Px State Owned Permanent (small plate) State government-owned motorcycle
MT-000 none (small plate) Small trailer intended to be pulled by a motorcycle
[ ]x000x various Special interest or organizational overflow series; prefix identifies type and suffix is variable, or vice-versa
Ax-0000 Weighted (since 2004); Commercial (thru 2003) Medium-duty truck not for hire (serial format 1 of 5)
Bx-0000 Weighted (since 2004); Commercial (thru 2003) Medium-duty truck not for hire (serial format 2 of 5)
Cx-0000 Weighted (since 2004); Commercial (thru 2003) Medium-duty truck not for hire (serial format 3 of 5)
handicap symbolD/V0000 First in Flight / Disabled Veteran Military veteran with a service-related 100% disability (serial format 1 of 3)
Dx-0000 Weighted (since 2004); Commercial (thru 2003) Medium-duty truck not for hire (serial format 4 of 5)
Ex-0000 Weighted Medium-duty truck not for hire (serial format 5 of 5)
Fx-0000 Commercial Farm Truck Truck used for farming purposes (serial format 1 of 5; may be obsolete)
handicap symbolHD0000 First in Flight Handicapped person (serial format 1 of 4)
Lx-0000 Permanent Apportioned Meavy-duty truck or truck tractor used in interstate commerce; annual registration despite "permanent" legend (serial format 1 of 2)
Lx-0000 Commercial Apportioned Light- or medium-duty truck, or fixed-route bus, used in interstate commerce (thru 2005 only)
MD-0000 none (small plate) Motorcycle dealer
ME-0000 Spec Mobile (since 2006); no legend (thru 2005) Self-propelled mobile equipment such as cranes
MF-0000 Manufacturer (since 2006); no legend (thru 2005) Vehicle manufacturer
Mx-0000 Permanent Apportioned Heavy-duty truck or truck tractor used in interstate commerce; annual registration despite "permanent" legend (serial format 2 of 2)
P/D 0000 First in Flight / Partially Disabled Veteran Military veteran with a service-related disability of less than 100%
Px-0000 Permanent State Owned Most state government-owned vehicles, excluding State Highway Patrol vehicles
Rx-0000 First in Flight Rental car; probably obsolete after July 2008
SR-0000 Street Rod Modified vehicle over 35 years old (no longer issued but still in use)
Sx-0000 Commercial Farm Truck Truck used for farming purposes (serial format 2 of 5; may be obsolete)
Tx-0000 Taxi (since 2006); no legend (thru 2005) Taxi
VP-0000 Van Pool Passenger van used by a commuter cooperative
Wx-0000 Commercial Farm Truck Truck used for farming purposes (serial format 3 of 5)
Xx-0000 Commercial Farm Truck Truck used for farming purposes (serial format 4 of 5)
Yx-0000 Commercial Farm Truck Truck used for farming purposes (serial format 4 of 5)
ZA-0000 Drive Away ???
Zx-0000 For Hire (since 2006); Commercial For Hire (thru 2005) Light- and medium-duty trucks for hire (such as package delivery trucks, freight trucks, and tow trucks); also charter buses, limos for hire.  Prefix letters progress from ZB.
[ ]x/x 0000various Special interest or organizational; prefix letters identify type
[ ] 0 N/G, [ ] 00 N/G, [ ] 000 N/G First in Flight / National Guard National Guard officer or senior enlisted
handicap symbol0000HD First in Flight Handicapped person (serial format 2 of 4)
handicap symbol0000D/V First in Flight / Disabled Veteran Military veteran with a service-related 100% disability (serial format 2 of 3)
[ ]0000 N/GFirst in Flight / National Guard (embossed year or screened year) Serial up to 3000: National Guard officer or senior enlisted
[ ]0000 N/GFirst in Flight / National Guard (embossed year through 2005; stickers since 2006) Serial 3001 and up: National Guard junior enlisted
[ ]0000 x/xvarious Special interest or organizational; suffix letters identify type
Ax-00000 Multi Year Commercial trailer; permanent registration (serial prefixes AY, AZ, and AA through AM)
Ax-00000 Trailer Trailers of all types; annual registration (serial format 2 of 4; prefixes AN through AX)
Bx-00000 Trailer Trailers of all types; annual registration (serial format 3 of 4)
Cx-00000 Trailer Trailers of all types; annual registration (serial format 4 of 4)
F/D-00000 Dealer Franchised (new vehicle) dealer demonstrator vehicles
handicap symbolH/D00000 First in Flight Handicapped person (serial format 3 of 4)
handicap symbolH/D0000x First in Flight Handicapped person (serial format 4 of 4)
I/D-00000 Dealer Independent (used vehicle) dealer demonstrator vehicles (this serial format through about 2004)
LA-00000 Apportioned Light- or medium-duty truck, or fixed-route bus, used in interstate commerce (since 2006 only)
PT-00000 Permanent Trailer Heavy-duty trailer; annual registration, despite the "permanent" legend
TP-00000 Dealer Transporter Dealers with a need to drive unregistered vehicles for other than demonstration purposes (this serial format thru 2005 only)
TP-00000 Transporter (since 2006; no legend thru 2005) Non-dealer, automotive-related business with a need to drive unregistered vehicles
YA-00000 Permanent Commercial Heavy-duty truck (such as a dump truck) or truck tractor not for hire; annual registration, despite the "permanent" legend (serial format 1 of 2)
ZB-00000 Permanent For Hire Heavy-duty truck (such as a dump truck) or truck tractor for hire; annual registration, despite the "permanent" legend
I/D-000000 Dealer Independent (used vehicle) dealer demonstrator vehicles (this serial format since about 2005)
TP100000 Dealer Transporter Dealers with a need to drive unregistered vehicles for other than demonstration purposes (this serial format since 2006 only)
YA000000 Permanent Commercial Heavy-duty truck (such as a dump truck) or truck tractor not for hire; annual registration, despite the "permanent" legend (serial format 2 of 2)
SHP-0 First in Flight State Highway Patrol vehicle (serial format 1 of 4)
SHP-00 First in Flight State Highway Patrol vehicle (serial format 2 of 4)
xxx-00 First in Flight Passenger car or van, SUV, light truck, motor home, or private bus (serial format 2 of 3; obsolete after July 2008)
SHP-000 First in Flight State Highway Patrol vehicle (serial format 3 of 4)
xxx-000 First in Flight Passenger car or van, SUV, light truck, motor home, or private bus (serial format 1 of 3; obsolete after July 2008)
[ ]x/x 000xvarious Special interest or organizational overflow series; prefix letters unique to each type
handicap symbolx000D/V First in Flight / Disabled Veteran Military veteran with a service-related 100% disability (serial format 3 of 3)
[ ]x000 x/xvarious Special interest or organizational overflow series; suffix letters unique to each type
[ ]0x00 x/xvarious Special interest or organizational overflow series; suffix letters unique to each type
OBX-0000 First in Flight Outer Banks resident (serial format 1 of 2)
SHP-0000 First in Flight State Highway Patrol vehicle (serial format 4 of 4)
xxx-0000 First in Flight Passenger car or van, SUV, light truck, motor home, or private bus (serial format 3 of 3)
GTP00000 First in Flight Global TransPark economic zone resident
OBX00000 First in Flight Outer Banks resident (serial format 2 of 2)
HPMU-0 none (small plate) State Highway Patrol motorcycle (serial format 1 of 2)
HPMU-00 none (small plate) State Highway Patrol motorcycle (serial format 2 of 2)

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Page credits

Thanks to those who have directly contributed to the information on this page:  Kenny O'Dell, Mike Fox, and John Weeks. 

O'Dell, Fox, and Weeks photographs are presumed to be copyrighted by Kenny O'Dell, Mike Fox, and John Weeks, respectively, and are used with permission.  Sowers plate is from the collection of Brandon Sowers. 


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