The idea of a digital license plate just sounds so futuristic, it’s gotta be a fantasy as faraway as flying cars. So it might come as a surprise that three states are offering these digital plates, including the most recent adoptee: Michigan. While these new plates add some Silicon Valley flair to vehicles of the Motor City—and, you know, the rest of the Mitten—they also add new costs that go beyond the typical cost to register your vehicle.
Digital license plates are an idea that has functionally been around for over 10 years. Reviver Auto owner and founder, Neville Boston, knew that by combining e-ink-like digital plates with mobile data, the traditional metal plate could be replaced. Ultimately, and slightly predictably, California and the Bay Area that includes San Francisco and the heart of Silicon Valley were the first to adopt this technology in 2018.
These digi-plates offer instant registration renewal, but also additional functionality such as displaying a “Stolen” notification, as well as small personalized messages. It can also track the vehicle that it’s attached to and can be turned off by the owner. When that data is on, Reviver claims this and all data related to the plate is safe and secure, as no data on the user isn’t contained within the plate and any data transmission along cellular 4G and 5G networks are fully encrypted. Even how it’s mounted is said to be secure using tamper-proof and “robust anti-theft features,” though for anyone who dreads drilling holes in their bumpers for traditional plates might go pale at the thought of just how robust those mountings are.
It’s also not free. Initially, the cost for the plates ranged between $499 for a battery powered version to $599 for a hard-wired version, with an additional $55 to $75 per year plus the cost of installation and, of course, your vehicle’s yearly registration costs. However, now Reviver sells the plates for a monthly or yearly subscription fee on top of your vehicle’s registration. The cost of the battery version is $19.95 per month for 48 months or you can pay $215.40 per year for four years. The hardwired version that takes power directly from your vehicle is $24.95 per month for 48 months or $275.40 per year for four years. That seems very steep, considering a metal plate is included in the price of your registration in most states. Each state also doesn’t see any of that monthly revenue, at least according to Arizona’s wording of their digital license plate rules. Also keep in mind that this is for a single plate, though Michigan is a single-plate state that doesn’t require front-mounted tags.
Installation costs are separate, too, and range from—according to Reviver—$99 for the battery version to $150 for the wired one from installation facilities that Reviver Auto, and only on “standard vehicles.” A list of non-standard vehicles that are mostly exotic and a few European luxury cars is provided, but Reviver also notes that the list can change over time. Reviver doesn’t list any facilities, but says to contact them to schedule an installation request and that they will reply in “three business days. ” Of course, you can install either version yourself, and Reviver includes detailed instructions on how to do so, though it sounds more involved than, you know, a quadrant of screws.
But, hey, now the choice is yours in three states to use a standard metal rear plate or upgrade your ride with a digital one and enter into an all digital—and all subscription that costs more in the long run—future.
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