April debut expected for new license plates with 7 characters

License plate combinations running out

Sent April 13, 2017

Wisconsin Department of Transportation Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) anticipates the supply of regular Wisconsin license plates with six characters (123-ABC) will run out at the central office and new vehicle license plates with seven characters will be issued beginning mid-April. Local DMVs and 3rd party vendors will continue to issue the six-character plates until their inventory is exhausted.

“There’s been a lot of interest as we near the end of the alphabet and the license plate series,” said Jeremy Krueger, supervisor, License Plate Issuance Unit. “All of the number combinations have been used, and we needed to find a large range of plate numbers to use into the future.”

He calculated that the additional character will yield 100 million combinations; the six character plates yielded about 20 million combinations since they debuted in 1986. “This should last awhile,” he added.

The combination on the current design reversed from letters to numbers (WRZ-999 to 123-ABC) in 2000. The new configuration will return three letters beginning with AAA- then followed by four numbers (AAA-1001). The plate artwork will stay the same.

At a glance:

  • Wisconsin plates have had a set format of six characters since 1986 
  • Approximately 3.5 million vehicles have standard Wisconsin plates
  • The plates will continue to be made by Badger State Industries (BSI), the enterprise wing of the Department of Corrections 
  • I, O and Q are not used because they resemble numbers

For more information, contact:

Jeremy Krueger, DMV plate room supervisor
(608) 266-1128,  Jeremy.Krueger@dot.wi.gov

Megan Bergum, Special Handling section chief
(608) 266-6706, megan.bergum@dot.wi.gov

Note to media: Photos available in WisDOT photo gallery; they include:

  • Wisconsin Department of Transportation Secretary Dave Ross joins DMV Deputy Administrator Mitchell Warren
  • Jeremy Krueger, Plate Room supervisor, holds the newest Wisconsin DMV plate next to plates from a bygone era
  • New seven-character plate
  • Car with new plate