Sunday, August 28, 2011

Arizona / New Plate Watch: New FFA, Sun Devil, Masonic, Lumberjack Designs

Arizona, always among the leaders in specialty plate designs, has redesigned two popular issues and introduced two entirely new options since last year. All the following issues are produced as flat screened plates with the state's own distinctive font style, Arizona having switched almost fully to this technology in the past few years. As with all Arizona specialty plates, each new registration will donate $17 to the charity or non-profit group in question.

Arizona State University -- The new Sun Devil plate continues to boost ASU's scholarship fund and goes for a bolder gold background with red letters, though the classic mascot artwork remains intact. Serials are now expandable to a possible six digits according to this sample, although five-digit combos seem to remain the norm for now (current high as of this post: F2989, which means about 2200 examples of the new type). Old Sun Devil bases (stretching as far back as the late 1980s) remain valid if kept current, or owners can switch to the new design for a five-dollar replacement fee. Perfect for celebrating the school's alignment in the new Pac-12 conference, of course.

FFA / Agriculture -- This is a brand-new offering, benefiting the Arizona chapter of Future Farmers of America. I like the design in general, and it's a good cause. However, having seen it on the road recently, it's very hard to tell from a distance (unless you know your flat-plate fonts) that this is an Arizona issue because the "metal" name tag at the top is tough to make out. Arizona is generally very good at resolving any visibility problems with their plates, however, so that issue might yet be fixed. This has not proven an especially popular plate yet, having only stretched to 342 examples out there as of June.

Freemason -- Another new design, benefiting charities supported by the Grand Lodge of Arizona Masons. (Based on their charity website, this appears to include funding for domestic violence safe houses and aid to troops stationed overseas.) This is a clean, simple layout with good legibility -- and yet, not quite a popular one either, with only 162 examples known so far. (Side note: Colorado's own Masonic Temple Masonic Family plate was retired a few years ago due to low acceptance, so we'll see how this one fares.)

Northern Arizona University -- Like the ASU issue, this is a redesign of the old NAU Lumberjacks plate. Ironically, the Lumberjack mascot present on the old design has been removed in favor of just spelling out the nickname on the bottom. Perhaps NAU is trying to scale up its image or something? In any case, it's a well-designed plate, just not a very exciting one. This plate also appears capable of supporting six-digit serials, but five digits remains the norm and about 700 of the new plates have been issued so far.

Note: All sample plate images were obtained at Arizona MVD's website.

Georgia / New Plate Watch: Picking the New Peaches

Georgia's license plate design contest has wrapped up, with Governor Nathan Deal having chosen his state's next plate from the top three finalists selected by an online vote.

After over 400,000 votes and the governor's final pick, the winner is...well, this one!

I'll be honest - this was my least favorite of the governor's three choices, but I suppose it's not bad. I expect some of the details to change before actual production, and I'd be surprised if the graphic ends up being quite this detailed in practice. For instance, if they'd prefer that it be visible from a distance, the "Peach State" motto at the top probably needs to be rendered in a bolder color than blossom pink.

I've heard claims from some that the peaches look a bit like pumpkins...not sure if I totally agree with that assessment, but I can see where the resemblance might be possible.

I can also (pretty much) guarantee that Georgia is not moving to an eight-digit serial format - the state's growing all the time, but their current seven-digit serials aren't being used up quite that quickly. It remains to be seen if the state will eventually switch to flat plates, however. The "LABEL" space is reserved for Georgia's traditional use of county name stickers, or for an optional "IN GOD WE TRUST" label available at no cost for those wishing to profess their faith on a license plate.

The new plate is set to enter production by 2012, but the state has not defined an exact date - I would expect to see the new plates appear once stocks of the current boredom-inducing white plate have begun to run out.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

2011 Garage: Let's go to Wisconsin!

This is the inaugural installment of The Garage, in which I pretend that I must outfit my "virtual garage" full of vehicles with new license plates in a particular jurisdiction. We'll begin with Wisconsin.

So, let's pretend I'm moving to Milwaukee. I'll need new plates, right? And I've "got" a lot of vehicles...one stylish sedan, a luxury SUV, a heavy-duty pickup, a motorcycle, a motorhome, even a trailer and a low-speed vehicle. Plus all the classics I've got stashed away...

Let's see what's required!

300C and Grand Cherokee - Both these vehicles will need copies of Wisconsin's current passenger plate, the "America's Dairyland" issue with black letters. These are a flat $75 each for the full year, with personalization available up to seven characters for an extra $15 each.

Ram - Wisconsin is one of the several states that still see fit to delineate trucks by weight class. My Ram 3500 supports a GVWR of 10,100 pounds, which qualifies it for the distinctive "X" weight sticker on an otherwise standard light truck plate. Fees for truck plates are also dependent on weight - the 2011 truck fee scale indicates that the full year runs $155. Personalization up to seven digits, should you feel the need to throw more money at the state, is an extra $15 on top, but you'll lose the cool "X" sticker in the process.

Ranger EV - The new trend toward LSV plates has hit Wisconsin as well, with the Dairyland choosing a distinctive baby blue shade for their version. Wisconsin uses a biennial registration for LSVs and mopeds, which (if I were registering this month) would require me to pay a prorated fee of $8.63 for the remainder of the current term (through April 2012), plus the full $23 fee for the next two years, for a total of $31.63.

(Full disclosure: Wisconsin and most other states require that the low-speed vehicle in question be specifically denoted by NHTSA as meeting their set of LSV standards to qualify for a plate; I don't believe the Ranger EV actually does meet those standards, but I like the looks of it better than most of the "real" LSV designs out there. So sue me...or just don't register my vehicle, I guess. Polaris also owns the rights to the GEM and Breeze, each of which "counts" as a true LSV...but they're also boring, to be brutally honest.)

Hammer - Unless you qualify for Veteran plates, Wisconsin offers one of the most boring moto plates out there. Straight-up black-on-white, no frills. Blah. So there you go. Like the LSV plate above, moto plates are charged biennially and prorated, making this another $31.63. However, moto plates can also be personalized up to five characters for an extra $30 (same rate as other plates, but covering two years' worth).

Trip - This big-boy motorhome (though nowhere near the biggest available by any means) is also charged by its rated GVWR, which in this case is a thumping 29,000 pounds - that qualifies it for an "H" (32k max) weight class sticker. It also exceeds the 28k max on Wisconsin's RV fee scale, which means you're looking at a full $119.50 for the year....however, the state also offers a quarterly rate that can save you some money. So if you only need to have the motorhome legally ready during the summer months, that's two quarters at $29.88 each, for a total of $59.76. After which you can store the beast again in September and not worry about any new fees until the following April. As usual, personalization up to seven characters (with removal of the weight class sticker) is optional for $15 annually, regardless of which registration plan you choose.

Featherlite - Wisconsin also runs a weight-based fee scale for trailers, which means it comes down to the rated GVWR again. Let's say my Feather is the full 26-footer, rated at 14,000 pounds GVWR (weight class "D", up to 16k). That boils down to $104.50 for the year. As with motorhomes, quarterly registration is also an option - however, it's an extra $5 per quarter for that convenience. Still, if you only need the trailer for six months, that's a much cheaper $62.26. (Light trailers, those under 3,000 pounds gross, do not even require registration - the state offers an "optional" plate for $37.50 per year.)

Daytona, Dart - Wisconsin has interesting rules regarding classic vehicles. Firstly, you can't register a vehicle for any collector-type plate without first having some other vehicle registered under a standard plate. (The idea here is to avoid people using "collector" vehicles as daily transportation, and to make sure they're paying some form of annual fee for road use.) Second, you are only issued one "collector number" for all of your vehicles that qualify - every collector vehicle after the first gets the same number, but with an alpha suffix. Third, the vehicle in question must be entirely stock, to the point of having to send photos of the entire car to the DOT for approval - any extreme modifications would mean the car gets a "Hobbyist" plate instead. Besides all this, there's even a choice in plate design - if you don't like the old-school red-on-blue variety, a modern graphic version is also offered. Cost for the first collector car is a one-time charge of twice the applicable yearly plate fee, plus $50. The second and subsequent vehicles cost the same double-regular fee, but the $50 fee is waived. For the Daytona and the Dart, that's $200 plus $150 - $350 total, which is not bad at all for lifetime registration. But that's still pricey compared to...

1936 Wisconsin - photo from PlateShack
'36 Dodge - Anything older than model year 1945 and in stock, unmodified condition qualifies for Antique plates. These are a flat $5 one-time fee. Yes, that's all! I think the idea here is that no one in their right mind would use a vehicle this old for daily transportation (though that hasn't stopped some people from doing just that). Besides cost, the other benefit of Antique plates is the ability to use year-of-manufacture plates - 1936 in this case. (Oddly, the state also makes the point that Antique/Collector/Hobbyist registrations are invalid during the month of January, but does not go into any detail as to why this might be the case.)

Total cost for all this fun, assuming the full yearly rate is applied and no personalization options are selected, works out to a grand total of $947.26. We'll compare this rate to other states as I "move" my Garage to other locations over the next few months.

Except where otherwise noted, all sample plate images are from the Wisconsin DOT website.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Colorado / New Plate Watch: Full approval of Taxi, WW2, Nuggets, Avalanche, Girl Scouts, JDRF, and Craig Hospital plates

It has been a long summer with few updates from me; for that I apologize. However, it means that I can do only one thing to make it up to all (okay, any) of my readers: it's a new plate extravaganza!

By the close of the 2010-2011 legislative session, Colorado lawmakers approved a number of measures that will result in new license plate choices/requirements by next January.

  • Following the successful implementation of Livery plates for limousines and luxury hire cars, the Colorado legislature has passed a similar measure to create unique plates for taxis. These are set to feature a yellow color scheme, and will probably be similar to the Livery plates in layout and (flat) construction. There's no word yet on whether personalization will be allowed for the Taxi issue.
  • Tangent alert: It is interesting to note that, for the last year or so, Colorado has been separately counting registrations for buses, motorhomes and various types of trailers. The new Livery and Taxi plates could also be viewed as a small-scale test of how the state might register unique vehicle groups. Is this all a prelude to providing such trailers and buses with unique plates of their own in the future? Watch this space.
  • A long-empty segment of Colorado's burgeoning selection of plates for military veterans will finally be filled, as a new plate to honor veterans of World War II has been approved. More specifically, anyone who can prove service in the United States Armed Services between September 16, 1940 and July 25, 1947 will be able to apply for the new plate. It's hard to guess on what the design might look like, but I'd expect to see something like the current Vietnam Veteran issue.
  • Following the pattern of the popular "Broncos Country" plate, Kroenke Sports and Entertainment have successfully lobbied for approval of new "Nuggets Nation" and "Avalanche Territory" issues to benefit Kroenke Sports Charities. (KSE owns both the Avalanche and the Nuggets, and KSC is the charity wing of the ownership group.) As a casual Avs fan and a pretty big Nuggets fan, I must say with total and complete bias that these are a good-looking set of plates and a nice complement to the existing Broncos choice. Now if only we could get those long-awaited Colorado Rockies plates (Purple Row, where are you on this?), and maybe something to commemorate the MLS Cup champion Colorado Rapids.
  • As previously reported here, Girl Scouts of Colorado was in the process of working towards getting a license plate on Colorado roads before the group's upcoming 100th anniversary celebration in 2012. That mission was successful, and the plate should appear on the roads just in time for the festivities to start.
  • Other organizations receiving new plates for fundraising purposes are the Rocky Mountain chapter of JDRF, and local non-profit Craig Hospital. JDRF's plate profits will work towards diabetes research, while proceeds from the Craig plate will be directed to a patient assistance fund.