What is the Year of Manufacture Program?

The California Legislature authorized the California Department of Motor Vehicles to establish a program that permits vintage vehicles to be registered using vintage California license plates, known as the "Year of Manufacture" (YOM) program. To participate in this program, the vehicle owner must acquire an original California license plate of the correct type and era for the vehicle, and it must display the same year as the model year of the vehicle. For example, a 1974 vehicle must be registered using a blue 1970-base plate with a 1974 sticker; it cannot be registered using a black 1963-base plate with a 1974 renewal sticker. Because the plate must display the year that matches the vehicle, the CA DMV provides metal sticker wells that bolt onto the plate, which can be used to display the current month and year registration stickers.

In order to be used in the YOM program, the plate number must not have a record in the CA DMV database. This means that the plate must not have been registered to another vehicle within the last 7-10 years, the previous registration must not have been placed indefinitely in Planned Non-Operation status, the plate number was not retained by a previous owner, and the number was not issued to a different type of plate in the meantime. Plates must be legible and in road-legal condition, which is determined when the CA DMV inspects the plate at the time of registration, and properly restored or repainted California plates are acceptable. However, reproduction or counterfeit plates are strictly prohibited from use in the YOM program, and displaying such plates on a vehicle that is operated on public roads is a violation of California law that is subject to a fine of up to $500. If the plate carries a sticker that matches the year of the vehicle, the year sticker must be reasonably intact, legible and the serial number must be complete, as this is recorded by the DMV. It is permissible to place an original, appropriate CA year renewal sticker on a plate that did not have one, in order to be eligible for use on a vehicle of that year.

From 1920 through 1942, the California DMV issued new license plates for all vehicles every year, which had two or four digits of the year stamped into the metal of the plate. For most years from 1943 through 1955, metal tabs stamped with two digits of the year were issued and attached to the previously issued base plate, except when new base plates were issued in 1945, 1947, 1951 and 1955. After the 1956 base plate was issued, colored vinyl stickers were used for subsequent year registrations, with the exception of 1963, when the last stickerless base plate was introduced. All plates issued since 1963 may be continually registered to the vehicle to which they were originally issued, and a small number of these exist to this day, which require the current registration stickers to be applied to the sticker wells on the plate. A vehicle that is out of the DMV’s system may only be re-registered using the original 1963 or later plate, if the owner has paperwork showing that plate was issued to the vehicle with that VIN. However, many vintage vehicles are no longer registered with their original plates, but the YOM program now allows these vehicles to be re-registered with either their original plates if no paperwork is available, or any similar period-correct plates, for an authentic vintage look.

Cal Frames license plate frames are designed intentionally for use with the CA YOM program, using the correct dimensions to fit vintage California MC plates, and with an integrated sticker well for displaying current registration stickers. In this regard, Cal License plate frames function as a more secure and aesthetically pleasing alternative device for displaying the current registration stickers, in place of the awkward and insecure sticker wells provided by the DMV. Because the DMV-provided sticker wells are only held on by a single bolt, they are at risk for being lost or stolen; Cal Frames frames can be secured with up to 6 bolts, and offer additional theft deterrence with the optional security fasteners that are available for purchase.

DISCLAIMER: The information here is provided for informational purposes only, and does not constitute legal advice. Neither Cal Frames nor its proprietor shall be held liable in any way for any damages incurred by the use or misuse of this information. Cal Frames is not endorsed by or associated with the California DMV in any way.