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Drivers in California are now able to ditch bulky front license plates in favor of a plate-sized vinyl sticker. For those living in areas where front license plates are required, going with a sticker sounds like heaven as it eliminates plastic brackets, holes in the bumper, and it just looks better. That's especially true on many modern cars with big grilles and little room for a 12-inch-wide piece of aluminum.

Right now, California is the only US state with a front-plate requirement that offers this option. You can bet other states are watching, and we know car-crazy enthusiasts are watching because we've heard as much. We also know folks are curious about how the process works, even those not living in California. We were curious as well, so we spent some time learning about these so-called license plate wraps.

Not For Everyone

For starters, not everyone will be able to get a license plate sticker. In fact, a vast majority of people won't, at least not right away. This is a pilot program, established in 2019 under Assembly Bill 1614 and open to just 0.5 percent of registered vehicles in California. However, the Golden State is home to more registered cars than any other state, 36.2 million according to the latest information from the California DMV. That means there's room for 1.8 million cars in the pilot program. Additionally, cars must have sufficient space on the front fascia to properly display the sticker.

Only Available Through One Source

One doesn't simply take a photo of their license plate and have a local vinyl shop print it up. The alternative vehicle registration must be verified with the DMV of Sacramento, and right now, License Plate Wrap is the only company that's been approved for the program.

How Does The Process Begin?

Everything goes through License Plate Wrap. An order is submitted, including the vehicle registration information and the owner's information. It's then sent to the DMV of Sacramento for review and acceptance into the pilot program. Once accepted, the vehicle owner receives a letter from the DMV, and Licence Plate Wrap gets to work. The cost for the stick-on plate is $93.89 (including tax). Provided everything goes forward without issue, a vinyl sticker version of your license plate arrives in approximately one month.

Installation And Removal

The wrap is a reflective vinyl and pretty much goes on as any other big sticker does. License Plate Wrap says the surface should be clean and recommends wiping the area with alcohol prior to installation, or for those nervous about getting it right, a professional installer can handle it. It doesn't damage the paint, it works with ceramic coating, and it can be removed using a heat gun to loosen the adhesive.

The Pilot Program

Initial tests actually began in 2015 with select fleet vehicles belonging to the state. The program was originally slated to run through January 1, 2021, but has been extended with public involvement through January 1, 2023. At that point, the program will undergo evaluation.

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