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Instant License Plate Lookup

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The following is for informational purposes only

Requirements to Obtain a License Plate

All states require drivers to have license plates issued by the DMV (or its Department of Motor Vehicles), since driving on American roads without a license plate is illegal. After obtaining your license plate, you must renew it periodically, typically annually. However, the time it takes a license plate to expire varies from one state to another. If damaged, stolen, or lost, you can replace your license plate through your state's DMV. When you change plates, it means tags are transferred to another vehicle. But what does it take to get a new license plate? Here are the requirements you need to understand what it takes to obtain a license plate.

How To Get a License Plate

Getting a new license plate involves various steps. In most states, drivers must apply for a new license plate within a week of acquiring their car. If you are moving to a new state, you may be required to initiate this process within 30 days. When registering a new vehicle, you will get a car registration tag that is part of your initial license plate registration process.

As mentioned earlier, license plates are mandatory in all states. After buying a new car from a dealership or merchant, you must visit the local tag office and register to apply for a license plate. You must do this in person to ensure authenticity. If you purchased your vehicle through a dealership, the dealer could apply for a certificate title on your behalf. Knowing that third-party dealers cannot complete an application for new car tags is crucial.

You must meet several requirements to get a new license plate. You will present various documents that are checked and verified by the DMV. Some of the required documents include the following:

  • Driver's license: Remember to bring your driving license when applying for a license plate. You need to provide it in its original form in most states.
  • Proof of vehicle ownership: You must show documents proving you own the car, including logbooks. You must also prove ownership if you purchased your vehicle through a third party.
  • Proof of auto insurance: Your vehicle must be insured before you are issued a license plate, so remember to bring proof of auto insurance.
  • Completed application form: You must produce a completed form before being approved for a license plate. Ensure all the items on the application form are checked for your request to be considered.

The Difference Between License Tag and License Plate Registration

Most drivers need clarification on getting a new license plate and registering for a license tag. As a motorist, you need to differentiate the two. When registering a new vehicle, the owner is issued a registration certificate or card and a tag that always remains with the car. However, license plates are required for external identification of the vehicle and the state in which it was initially registered. The state's motor vehicles department issues them upon registration. The critical difference between license tags and license plate registration is the requirements. Generally, requirements differ from state to state and depend on local laws.

Tags and license plates work in different ways as authorities require both. A license tag (a sticker) is placed on the license plate where it can be identified easily. You might be charged or fined if you don't have a tag on your license plate. A tag on the license plate makes it easy to confirm a valid registration. It is also a sign that your vehicle is insured. Therefore, ensure you have the license tag and license plate in place.

How To Change Your License Plate

Are you looking to change the plates on your car? How do you go about it? The DMV has many online tools with which you can initiate the process of changing plates on your vehicle. You must know how much a license plate change costs before getting started. You can reserve a license plate, request new registration, or get a personalized license plate, depending on your preferences.

On your state's DMV site, you will find essential weight classifications and registration fee information. You will also access details about the body colors and styles acceptable in your state. If your license plate has been stolen or you have misplaced it, you should get in touch with local law enforcement right away. They will issue you a case ID number showing you don't have your license plate.

You might be wondering when and how you can change your license plate. If you want to change your license plate online, submit a complete application form and the police report. Those renewing an application for two years can request a refund of their registration fee. Remember that you can only receive a refund if your license plate registration expires in 12 months. If that is not the case, you might not get a refund.

License Age Requirement By State

StateRestricted License AgeFull License Age
District of Columbia16.518
New Hampshire1718
New Jersey15.516.5
New Mexico16.517
New York1616.5
North Carolina1616
North Dakota1618
Rhode Island15.516.5
South Carolina14.516
South Dakota1617
West Virginia1616.8

License Plate Fees

So, how much is a plate? The cost of obtaining or replacing a license plate varies between states. Car owners must pay regular registration fees when applying for a new license plate. The type of license plate influences prices for license tags. For instance, traditional disability plates and DOR car tags have a standard fee. If you want personalized license plates, it will cost you more.

Personalized license plates cost more because they require an annual registration fee, a one-time manufacturing fee, and an annual special license plate fee. All these additional costs make personalized plates more expensive. Besides the license plate application fee, car owners will incur additional charges when replacing the license plate.

Returning Damaged or Lost License Plate

You can get replacement plates from the motor licensing office if you have a damaged or lost car license plate. However, there are several steps you need to take to get replacement plates. For instance, you must provide various documents to prove authenticity. Some required documents include a detailed police report, original plate, and proof of notification. If your license plate was stolen, you must produce a police report.

You should also have a signed statement as the car owner regarding the loss. Replacing lost or damaged license plates would be best to avoid trouble with authorities. The time it takes to replace a license plate is shorter than the time it takes to apply for a new one. Therefore, you don't have to worry about the replacement process taking too long.


Driving without a license plate is illegal and could get you charged. You must meet various requirements discussed here to get a new license plate. Ensure you have all the necessary documents to get the process started.

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