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Here's what fees for California specialty license plates are used for

California vanity license plate fees help these programs
California vanity license plate fees help these programs 02:32

SACRAMENTO — California car owners have quite a few options when it comes to paying extra for vanity license plates, but where does that money actually end up going?

From preventing overcrowding at animal shelters to keeping the ocean and beaches clean, the state's specialty license plates raise millions each year for good causes.

"It's not just a pretty plate that looks good on your car," said Annie Frankel of the California Coastal Commission. "It really means something."

Frankel said money from the Whale Tail license plates goes toward funding beach cleanup days along with rafting trips for 5th graders on the Yuba River, and a three-day science trip to Catalina Island for students at Monterey Trail High School in Elk Grove.

"Over the last 25 years, about 275,000 Whale Tail plates have been sold and that's raised almost $35 million for coastal education and stewardship," Frankel said.

The Sacramento SPCA is getting $50,000 this year from the state's Pet Lovers plates. The money goes toward funding the shelter's popular low-cost spay and neuter clinic.

"We release appointments for those programs every single month," said Dawn Foster with the SPCA. "They literally fill up within minutes."

More than 30% of the shelter is filled with Chihuahuas and pit bulls. They are using the extra funding specifically to spay and neuter those two types of breeds.

Under the program, pet alterations that normally cost up to $450 are offered as low as $25.

"Last year, we performed 825 surgeries," Foster said.

The California DMV has more than a dozen specialty license plate options helping kids, veterans, firefighters, museums, environmental groups and other causes.

Most typically cost $50 extra to sign up and $40 more a year to renew.

The DMV said the black and yellow Legacy license plates are the most popular. Fees from those go toward improving air quality, creating parks, and preserving endangered plants and animals.

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