How To Return License Plates


In the United States, each separate state has their own Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). In addition, the District of Columbia also has a DMV. Each of these agencies has unique policies that govern how license plates are returned. To locate the guidelines in your state, the best way to go about this is by visiting the DMV site in your state.

You can do this by searching for “DMV” and “your state.” Once you reach your state’s DMV website, search for “return license plates.” This should take you to a page on their website that explains how to dispose of old plates. Also, be aware that in some states, the agency that handles motor vehicles is referred to as a Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA).

Reasons For Returning A License Plate

In most cases, you will need to return your license plate to the DMV in your state when you sell a vehicle. Other reasons may include the following:

– Change in insurance carrier
– Plates have not been renewed or have expired
– The vehicle has moved to another state
– The vehicle has been destroyed
– The insurance carrier has canceled the insurance policy
– The vehicle has been put into storage

When one of these reasons comes into play, you have two methods that you can use to return your license plates. The first option is to send your plates in by mail. This may be more convenient if you reside in a nonurban area that is not close to one of the DMV agencies. Your other option is to take the plates to the closest DMV in your location. This will depend on the guidelines in your state. Some states do not require you to return your license plates. That’s the policy in Virginia. In other states like Maryland, you are required to surrender your license plates.

Surrendering Plates In Person

If you are returning plates to an MVA or DMV office, you’ll need to bring the license plates, vehicle registration card and stickers or decals. You will also be required to complete a form that is for license plate returns. There will probably be a modest processing fee to pay, and you’ll want to keep your receipt to prove that you surrendered your plates.

Returning Plates By Mail

If you are able to return your old license plates by mail, you’ll need to send the license plates, registration card and stickers or decals. Complete the form for license plate returns and include it with a check that will cover the cost of processing fees. On the outside of the package, write the address of the DMV or MVA office where the package will be sent. It’s also a good idea to use a return receipt request when mailing the package.