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The following is for informational purposes only

Paper License Plates or Temporary Plates Explained

Paper license plates or temporary licenses are available when a person first buys a vehicle and is not transferring plates from the vehicle they previously owned. These are issued by the local department of motor vehicles or specified outlets. Unfortunately, temporary plates are controversial, considering there is a rising trend of criminals using them for their activities, as it is challenging to identify the vehicles thereafter.

Currently, most states are in the process of issuing controlled paper licenses. There are also several fraudulent platforms offering temporary plates. These plates use small fonts, which makes it hard for law enforcement to conduct investigations appropriately. For that reason, the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators released a new license plate standard, including best practices for materials and what needs to be printed. It also entails security attributes controlling access to stock and printing the plates on demand.

Reasons To Get a Temporary License Plate

Valid temporary licenses prove that a person owns a vehicle they have applied the full registration for that has yet to be provided. These paper licenses can suffice if the vehicle does not have standard license plates. One needs to purchase a temporary permit if one has to drive it for inspection or after purchasing a vehicle. Suppose the vehicle has been inactive and is being rebuilt. Once it is ready for use and registration, some states mandate it should be inspected. That would require a temporary license to do so.

Similarly, when one purchases a vehicle, regardless of where it was bought, there is a likelihood that a temporary license is needed to move around. The duration for operating these license plates varies from state to state. Costs also significantly vary from $1 to $60, as illustrated. Some states use a flat rate for the plates, while others value them according to the list price or weight.

Temporary License Plate Costs By State

StateVehicle registration feesTemporary License plate fees
Alabama$50 annual fee plus $15–$23$25 per 30 days
Arizona$40$15 for 30 days
Arkansas$17 to $30$17
ColoradoDepends on the weight of the car$7.03 for 60 days
Connecticut$120$21 for 10 days
District of Columbia$72 to $155$13.00 for 45 days
Georgia$20Free for 45 days
Hawaii$12 minimum$5
Idaho$45 to $69$60
Illinois$151$10 for 7 days
Indiana$21.35$3 for 96 hours
Iowa1 percent of listed price and $0.40 per 100 pounds0.75% of list price for cars 8-9 years old
Kansas$39 to $49$13
Louisiana$20 to $82$5.50
Maryland$135 to $187$20
Massachusetts$60 per two years$10
MichiganDepends on vehicle value$10
Minnesota$35 and above$1 for 31 days
Mississippi$14 for first time registration$5
Montana$30.57 to $225.24$24
New Hampshire$31.20$10
New Jersey$35.50 to $84$5
New Mexico$27 to $62$15
New York$26 to $140$12.50
North Carolina$38.75$10
North Dakota$49 to $274$5
Ohio$31$15 to $20
Oregon$122 to $152$33
Rhode Island$30$12
South Carolina$40$5
South Dakota$36 to $144$15 for 15 days
Texas$51.75$25 to $50
Washington$68.25 to $115.25$33
West Virginia$51.50$5
Wyoming$30$50 for 30 days

Do Dealerships Issue Paper Licenses?

Some states allow residents to get temporary plates from particular dealerships, while others prefer sourcing from the Department of Motor Vehicles. It is because the law requires that the dealership initiates the registration process on one's behalf. One may not have to do anything else but wait for the regular license plate. Even in the event the applicant gets a temporary license plate, though, it would be advisable to double-check with the state laws. Some states require that the registrant finalizes it in person at the dealership.

The temporary plates should keep the vehicle on the road while vehicle registration is processed. It should arrive via mail prior to the temporary license's expiration date. Some dealers may also process paperwork for out-of-state vehicle purchases. They give the option to register it, so the person pays taxes on their own. Depending on the distance of the home state, though, dealers may charge a fee for completing their work.

Is It Possible to Drive On An Expired Temporary License Plate?

It is not advisable to drive a car with an expired temporary tag. Doing so is illegal, and a traffic stop will earn the driver a ticket. The vehicle may also be impounded in the process. Most law enforcement has a no-tolerance policy, treating it as driving without a license. If the vehicle owner does not get their permanent license plate by the specified duration, they can contact the local DMV or the dealership to follow up.

Temporary License Plates Have Limited Uses

Temporary plates are available for drivers that want to use the vehicle as they wait to be issued their permanent plates. Residents that have recently moved to another state or have purchased a vehicle may require a temporary plate to move about as the registration is processed.

It also applies to individuals restoring inactive vehicles in some states. They must drive the vehicle for inspection before it is cleared for re-registration, so a paper license plate is required. These license plates are available from the local department of Motor vehicles, though it is possible to get them from certain dealerships in some states. Temporary plates are only valid for a specific duration though it varies depending on the state of residence.

Plate fees range from $1 to $60 for periods of 10 to 60 days. It is not advisable, though, to drive without a temporary license plate or if it is expired. Law enforcement may impound the vehicle and issue an expensive traffic ticket.

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