Car fanatics in Michigan may soon have more license plate options to customize their rides.
Senate Bill 464, sponsored by Democratic state Sen. Mallory McMorrow, would bring back three of Michigan’s retro license plate designs.
The first is a black plate with gray lettering that was issued from 1979-1983, and the second a blue plate with white lettering that was issued from 1983-2007. The third would be a remake of an American flag license plate from 1976 that was released in celebration of the nation’s 200th anniversary. That option will only be available in the year 2026, when the United States celebrates its 250th anniversary.
McMorrow’s chief of staff, Emily Collins, represented the senator in front of the House Transportation, Mobility and Infrastructure Committee on Oct. 31. Because McMorrow represents the district of the annual Woodward Dream Cruise, America’s largest celebration of automotive culture, Collins said they’ve had numerous conversations with car enthusiasts looking to snag one of these plates for themselves.
“They’re just waiting for us to make it happen,” Collins said.
McMorrow introduced the bill last term, but it died in committee. The current SB 464 passed out of the Senate in a 30-7 floor vote on Oct. 12 and was sent out of committee to the House floor on Tuesday.
Currently, Michigan law only allows the owner of a historical vehicle to use a historical license plate if the car is over 26 years old and the plate is from the same year the vehicle was manufactured, making these throwback plates unavailable to drivers with newer vehicles.
Mike Austin, an automotive industry analyst and automotive journalist, testified in a Senate committee hearing in September that a large portion of car collectors are reaching their “peak earning years” and looking to buy nostalgic items from the late 1970s to the 1990s.
“I think that the plate revival is perfectly in concert with that trend,” Austin said.
Whereas many specialty license plates are used to fundraise for a specific university or charity, revenue generated from these license plates would go straight to the state.
In addition to the regular registration process, to obtain a legacy plate a driver would have to pay a $5 service fee to the state’s Transportation Administration Collection Fund and a $50 fee to the Michigan Transportation Fund. Registration renewal would cost $10, which would be deposited into the Michigan Transportation Fund as well.
The Transportation Administration Collection Fund is used by the Department of State in administering vehicle registration and licensing services. The Michigan Transportation Fund is primarily used by the state and local agencies for road maintenance.
The proposed legislation builds on the popularity of the Water Winter Wonderland plates, which were originally in use from 1965-1967 and brought back in December 2021. The Water Winter Wonderland plates have sold over 1.1 million units since their return, according to bill analysis by the Senate Fiscal Agency.
There is only a $5 fee for the Water Winter Wonderland plates, without the additional $50 proposed under the Senate bill. However, even if the retro plates sold only a 10th of what the Water Winter Wonderland plates have, Collins estimated that the new law could generate over $5 million in revenue for road maintenance.