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Wisconsin license plates to have 7 characters; all 6-character combos have been used

April 13, 2017 GMT

It soon will be the end of the 30-year run for the six-character standard license plate in Wisconsin.

The Department of Transportation’s Division of Motor Vehicles announced on Thursday that the 20 million combinations of six characters, three numbers and three letters, have been exhausted, so the state will start issuing standard plates with seven characters.

The six-character combination began in 1986. It started out with three letters followed by three numbers, then switched to three numbers followed by three letters in 2000.

Seven-character plates will begin with three letters followed by four numbers. The extra digit gives the state 100 million combinations.

“This should last awhile,” said DMV plate room supervisor Jeremy Krueger.

The plate’s artwork, with “WISCONSIN” in red and a bucolic farm graphic at the top and “America’s Dairyland” in red at the bottom, will not change.


The new plates will start to be issued shortly at the DMV central office in Madison, since the six-character supply is soon to run out.

Local DMV offices and third-party vendors will continue to issue six-character plates until their supplies are exhausted as well.

Personalized plates in Wisconsin allow up to seven characters.

About 3.5 million vehicles in Wisconsin use the standard plates. Those plates and the other plate designs are made by Badger State Industries, the state prison system’s work enterprise, with plates made at Waupun Correctional Institution.

Of the 26 letters in the alphabet, only 23 are used on the standard plates. I, O and Q are not used because they resemble numbers.