Michigan becomes third state to legalize digital license plates

After California in 2018 and Arizona in 2019, Michigan is the third state to give the all-clear to digital license plates. A California company called Reviver makes what it calls its RPlate and RPlate Pro for all three states, the firm saying 10 more states are in the process of approving the units.

We'll start with what are claimed to be the benefits of a digital plate. First, there's customization; the plate can be switched between light and dark modes, and there's space for a personalized banner message at the bottom of the rectangle. Second, ease; renewing registration can be done through the Reviver app. Third, broadcasting; The plate can display public safety announcements like Amber Alerts. Fourth, tracking ability; the RPlate Pro contains GPS and telematics transponders, so it can locate a vehicle — one lost in a parking lot or one that's stolen, for instance. Because the Pro version is tailored for fleets, its telematics transponder can also do things like track mileage.

The price for all that is, well, pricey. Both plates require subscription plans that are far more expensive than getting new stickers for a dumb piece of aluminum. Subscribers can get the battery-powered RPlate for $215.40 per year for a four-year total of $861.60, or for $19.95 monthly for a four-year total of $957.60. The RPlate Pro is wired into the vehicle, so after paying $150 for professional installation, a subscriber forks over either $275.40 per year for $1,101.60 after four years, or $24.95 monthly for a total of $1,197.60 after four years. Subscribers should also know those prices can change. When Car and Driver spoke to Reviver in 2020, one plan for the RPlate and its five-year replaceable battery cost $861.60 for three years instead of four, but it could be had for as low as $719 for four years with a $499 up-front payment.

In that same conversation two years ago, co-founder Neville Boston told C/D, "You own the plate, but the message and plate number are owned by the state. Think about it as a digital display until it's actually activated and provisioned, and then it becomes a compliance tool." Speaking of which, if a Reviver plate isn't renewed in time, the plate displays the message "INVALID" until the vehicle owner gets caught up.

The plates are "now available in Woodbury, Garfield, Cascade, Ann Arbor, Benton, Laporte, Saginaw, Lockport, Novi, Belmont, & Lansing." The state receives none of the additional money that Reviver plates cost over standard registration. Certain car dealers, however, do. Reviver's Auto Dealership Partner Program promises "substantial revenue share opportunities from each plate sale," so if you wonder why a dealer salesperson is trying to get you off the lot with a set of pixelated plates, this is why.

Related: All 50 license plates, ranked from best to Michigan