web analytics

What To Do About License Plates When Buying A Used Car – The Complete Guide

When buying a used car, one of the most important things to consider is the license plates. License plates are essential for identification and registration of your vehicle. But what do you do when buying a used car? Do you keep the old plates or do you need new ones? In this article, we will explore everything you need to know about license plates when buying a used car.

What are License Plates?

License plates are metal or plastic plates attached to a vehicle that display the registration number assigned to the vehicle by the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). The purpose of license plates is to help identify and register vehicles for taxation and law enforcement purposes.

What Happens to the License Plates When You Sell a Car?

When you sell a car, you are required to remove the license plates from the vehicle. This is because the plates are registered to the owner of the vehicle and not the vehicle itself. You can transfer the plates to another vehicle you own or return them to the DMV. If you return your license plates to the DMV, you may be eligible for a refund of your registration fees.

What Happens When You Buy a Used Car?

When you buy a used car, the license plates that were previously registered to the vehicle will not be transferred to you. The seller must remove the plates from the vehicle before you take ownership. You will need to register the vehicle in your name and obtain new license plates.

How Do You Register a Used Car?

To register a used car, you will need to visit your local DMV office. You will need to provide proof of ownership of the vehicle, such as a title or bill of sale. You will also need to provide proof of insurance and payment for registration fees. Once you have completed the registration process, the DMV will issue you new license plates for your vehicle.

Can You Use the Old License Plates on Your New Car?

No, you cannot use the old license plates from a different vehicle on your new car. Each license plate is assigned to a specific vehicle and owner. If you want to transfer your old plates to a new vehicle, you will need to follow the proper transfer procedures at the DMV.

Can You Drive a Car Without License Plates?

No, you cannot drive a car without license plates. It is illegal to operate a vehicle on public roads without proper registration and license plates. If you are caught driving without license plates, you may receive a citation or fine.

How Long Does it Take to Get New License Plates?

The time it takes to get new license plates varies depending on the state and DMV. In some states, you may be able to receive your new plates immediately after registering your vehicle. In other states, it may take several weeks to receive your plates in the mail.

What If You Are Moving to a Different State?

If you are moving to a different state, you will need to register your vehicle in the new state and obtain new license plates. You will need to surrender your old license plates to the DMV and obtain new ones in your new state.

Can You Customize Your License Plates?

In many states, you can customize your license plates with personalized messages or designs. However, there may be additional fees for personalized plates, and the customization options may vary by state.


When buying a used car, it is important to consider the license plates. You cannot use the old plates from a different vehicle on your new car, and you must register your new vehicle and obtain new license plates. Remember to remove the old plates from the vehicle when selling, and always follow proper registration procedures at the DMV.


  1. Can I transfer my old plates to a new vehicle I’m buying?

Yes, you may be able to transfer your old plates to a new vehicle you own. Check with your DMV for proper transfer procedures.

  1. What do I do if I lost my license plates?

If you lost your license plates, you will need to obtain new ones from the DMV. You may be required to pay additional fees.

  1. What happens if I don’t register my vehicle?

If you don’t register your vehicle, you may receive a citation or fine from law enforcement. Your vehicle may also be impounded.

  1. Can I drive a car with dealer plates?

Yes, you can drive a car with dealer plates if you are a car dealer or if you have purchased a car from a dealer and are waiting for your permanent plates.

  1. How often do I need to renew my license plates?

License plates typically need to be renewed every one to two years, depending on the state. Check with your DMV for specific renewal requirements.

Scroll to Top