This page refers to the steps involved in establishing a new Tennessee license plate.
There are four primary categories of plates:
- Cultural, Specialty Earmarked and New Specialty Earmarked (funds resulting from the sale of these plates are allocated or earmarked to private organizations or to special government funds where the use of the monies may be restricted to certain expenditures);
- Special Purpose (these plates have strict requirements for issuance with no minimum required);
Plates authorized by statute begin in the Tennessee General Assembly when a member of the Senate or House of Representatives proposes legislation to be discussed and voted on. For categories other than Cultural/Specialty Earmarked, the law is written one of two ways:
- The law will instruct as to the exact design, OR
- The law requires the plate be designed in consultation with the certain agencies or designees of those agencies.
Note: Design instruction should not include direction as to any aspect of configuration or stacked characters, as these elements are dictated by many factors such as other available configurations or formats currently in circulation.
Introducing a Collegiate Plate
Collegiate plates have a special reference to, or identification of a two-year or four-year college or university located within Tennessee or four-year college or university located outside of Tennessee. Colleges/Universities do not have to go through the process of introducing a plate through legislation unless the institution desires funds to be allocated to a non-profit organization, in which case the steps for introducing a new Earmarked plate should be followed.
- For colleges/universities located inside of Tennessee – Prior to initial issuance, the signatures and payment for a minimum of 100 plate pre-orders ($35 per plate) along with plate design artwork should be sent to the Department of Revenue, Vehicle Services Division at 500 Deaderick Street, 7th Floor, Nashville, TN 37242.
- For colleges/universities located outside of Tennessee – Prior to initial issuance, the signatures and payment for a minimum of 1,000 plate pre-orders ($35 per plate) along with plate design artwork should be sent to the Department of Revenue, Vehicle Services Division at 500 Deaderick Street, 7th Floor, Nashville, TN 37242.
Introducing a New Cultural or Specialty Earmarked Plate
Please see the following information for guidance on the process involved for introducing a new Cultural or Specialty Earmarked Plate. To establish a specialty license plate in support of an organization, the Department advises the following:
- Contact your state legislator to have a bill for the plate introduced.
- If the bill passes, your organization’s contact person must contact the Department, at firstname.lastname@example.org, and provide the following information:
- Plate Name;
- Organization Name;
- Contact Name;
- Contact Number;
- Mailing Address;
- E-mail Address.
Once the above information is received, the Department will send the organization the following information:
- Specifications for the artwork
- Template for license plate
- Template for names collected for the initial order
- General process information
The organization has until close of business on June 30 of the following year to complete the following:
- Collect names and addresses for the initial plate order;
- Assign plate numbers to the names collected;
- Design artwork;
- Mail all of the above with a check payable to the Department to: Department of Revenue, Vehicle Services Division, 500 Deaderick Street, 7th Floor, Nashville, TN 37242.
NOTE: If an organization cannot collect the names and money required for the initial order in this amount of time, it must request an extension through the current legislative session before the June 30 deadline. The organization is responsible for contacting the legislator who initiated the bill to request the extension, which must be approved by the legislature.
Once payment, names and artwork are submitted to the Department, it takes approximately four to six months before the plate is produced. Prior to plate production, metal samples will be produced for the organization to sign off on. The plate will also undergo system and road tests.
Upon approval and the completion of testing, plates are produced and mailed to county clerk offices. Letters are mailed to registrants who placed initial orders to let them know when their assigned plates will be in their local county clerk's office.