How to Return License Plates

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In every state in the United States, there is a process for returning license plates after you sell a car or take a car off the road. While some states allow you to transfer license plates from one car to another, other states do not. Some states require that you surrender license plates when you move to another state, or return license plates on cars that you still own, but are no longer in service or insured. When it's time to return license plates to your state's motor vehicle department, knowing how to return license plates is important, to avoid unnecessary fines, charges or confusion.

Things You'll Need

  • License plates
  • Car registration
  • Determine your state's law regarding returning license plates. Some states, such as Maryland, require that you return license plates when you cancel car insurance or move out of state. Other states, such as Massachusetts, let you transfer license plates from a car you are selling to a new car you are buying. Be sure to know your state's requirements.

  • Contact your auto insurance company. Ask whether you need to maintain car insurance until after you have returned the license plates to your state's registry or department of motor vehicles, or whether you can cancel car insurance first and then return the plates. Once you have the answer, proceed to Step 3.

  • Find directions and hours for your local registry or department of motor vehicles. Every state has such a department and each department has branches throughout the state. DMV.org is a launching point for finding your state's motor vehicle offices.

  • Drive to your local motor vehicle department branch with the license plates you will surrender.

  • Ask the clerk at the motor vehicle department for the form required for surrendering license plates. Complete this form.

  • Provide your car registration, if asked, with the necessary license plate surrender form and the license plates.

  • Request a receipt proving that you returned your license plates. This receipt may be required by your car insurance company as proof that your car is no longer registered under your name so you can cancel your car insurance.

  • Call your car insurance company and cancel your car insurance.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you already paid the registration fee for the full year, you may be entitled to a prorated refund. Ask at the motor vehicle department about your state's policy. You may be entitled to a prorated refund of car insurance if you paid ahead on your policy. Be sure to ask your insurance company about any refund owed.
  • In some states, you must maintain auto insurance until the moment the license plates are returned to the motor vehicle department. Check your state's guidelines before canceling car insurance.

References

  • Photo Credit City of Golden Valley
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