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I saw a car with a flat license plate, without the raised letters punched into it. Was it valid?

Jim Ware

The N.C. Department of Motor Vehicles is on the verge of discontinuing an experiment with flat license plates for vehicles, a spokeswoman said.

The experiment has been going on for a little more than a year, said Marge Howell of the DMV.

Standard license plates have embossed, or raised lettering.

The experimental flat plates were made of thinner aluminum and were cheaper to make, Howell said.

Flat plates were issued to motorists requesting specialized license plates, such as personalized “vanity” plates, or plates issued to members of certain organizations, she said.

But vehicle owners didn’t like them. And the cost savings didn’t pan out, Howell said.

“Consumers were not very excited” about the plates because they “looked like souvenir stuff,” she said.

As soon as the thinner aluminum stock used to make the flat plates runs out, the DMV will go back to issuing embossed plates, Howell said. That probably will happen in the fall, she said.

In the meantime, drivers who had been issued flat plates can request to have them replaced with embossed plates at no additional cost when it’s time for their annual registration renewal, she said. Replacing the plates before then will result in additional charges, Howell said.

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