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Can I Use an Old License Plate on My New Car? | It Depends

For some drivers, an original license plate is a relic. It is a friendly reminder of their early years driving and places they’ve been. Also, keeping the same tag for each new car you buy is a matter of convenience. But can you use an old license plate on your new car?

Most US states allow you to transfer your license from one similar type of vehicle to another. However, both vehicles must be registered under the same name. In some states, the tag stays with the vehicle and cannot be transferred. Check with your local DMV to find exact guidelines for your state.

The rest of the article will give you all the necessary info you need to figure out how to initiate the transfer of your license tag to another vehicle, if possible.

How Do I Transfer Tags From One Car to Another?

Switching vehicle tags can be a stressful endeavor. Luckily, transferring tags from one vehicle to another can be achieved without much of a hassle if you do proper research.

Although the Department of Motor Vehicles (DOT) has ultimate authority over most states’ registration regulations, they may differ depending on your location. Go online and start there–gather what paperwork is required, fees associated, and overall information on the process.

Before undertaking this task, keep in mind that you can only transfer tags from similar-type vehicles. In other words, you may only transfer tags between a passenger vehicle to another passenger vehicle.

For example, if you currently own a motorcycle, you may transfer your tags to another bike, not a truck. This same concept applies to trucks, passenger vehicles, trailers, and quadricycles.

At a minimum, here are some basic steps you want to take before commencing your vehicle tag transfer:

  1. Ensure both vehicles are registered under the same name.
  2. Locate the current registration paperwork.
  3. Visit your local Department of Motor Vehicles with the operator’s current driver’s license and registration.
  4. Inform the clerk of your intentions–transferring tags from one vehicle to another.
  5. Complete any and all paperwork (in its entirety) required by the clerk.
  6. If hand-written, take your time, make it as legible as possible to avoid confusion during the transfer.
  7. Be thorough! Triple check your details. The more time you take in this step, the less time you’ll spend fixing any issues.
  8. Pay any fees associated with the transfer (varies depending on which state you are doing the transfer in).
  9. Some states incentivize savings based on paying in cash instead of a credit card–withdraw cash, just in case, for a possible bit of savings.
  10. Once the fees are paid, and you have possession of the new registration, install the original plate onto the other vehicle.
  11. If you are required to place the new registration sticker on your plate, ensure you are mindful of which corner the law requires you to place it at.
  12. This detail is usually included in the instructions section of your registration.

These steps are critical to ensuring a smooth transaction. Otherwise, you may breach federal guidelines and face possible penalties and fees. Not to mention the headache of starting this entire process from scratch if done incorrectly.

Save yourself the time and heartache–spend time doing your research and cover every detail.

Can You Transfer Tags From One Car to Another Online?

Although you can renew registration tags online in most states, you cannot complete the entire process online when it comes to transferring tags between vehicles. Some states do have procedures in place to begin the tag transfer. However, this solely consists of providing the operator with the paperwork needed before arriving at the local county tag office or Department of Motor Vehicles.

At a minimum, research your state’s guidelines and regulations regarding tag transfers. This may speed the process and help you avoid the lengthy lines at the DMV office.

Is It Cheaper to Transfer Plates or Buy New Ones?

Whether you own a regular or personalized license plate, keeping the original and conducting the transfer with it will be cheaper.

For example, if you have a regular plate (non-customized, standard issue), then transfer using the same plate. Otherwise, you will pay additional fees associated with creating your won personalized plate. On the other hand, if you currently own a personalized plate, it is easier and cheaper to keep the same plate.

Tip: This notion does not apply when downgrading. If you choose to give up your personalized plate for a standard issued license plate, the initial cost might be higher. But, overall, you will save money on yearly fees associated with maintaining that personalized license plate.

Do Dealerships Give You Plates?

Most dealerships are licensed and authorized to complete the entire registration process on your behalf–saving you time and stress. Although usually performed for an additional fee, dealerships may complete the tag transfer for you.

However, some will only conduct tag transfers if both of the vehicles are under the same name. Additionally, if you want a personalized plate, they might not have the ability and will not assist you in creating one–A visit to the local DMV will be required.

Regardless, you will receive a temporary tag that usually lasts from 10-90 days, depending on your state.

Tip: If you are experiencing delays in receipt of your newly registered plate, visit your local DMV, and request an extension. They will usually honor an extension of up to 30-additional days. Again, this is contingent on which state your vehicle is registered in.

How Long Does It Take to Get the Plates for a New Car?

Newly registered vehicle plates may take anywhere between a few days to 2-weeks. This is mainly due because of the manufacturing process and delivery time via standard mail.

If you have purchased a personalized license plate, the manufacturing portion might take even longer. Be patient, and remember to request an extension on your temporary tags if you reach the expiration date to avoid a possible fine from the police!


I hope this article has been helpful. Let me know if I missed anything in the comments below. Or, let me know if your state has a specific oddball law that does not jive with this article and I will be sure to add it in.

Thanks for reading!