How To Keep Your Personalized License Plate After Selling Your Car


Here are the steps to follow.

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Selling your car to get a newer model as a replacement can be confusing and leave you with many questions; for example, what happens to your license plate? Each states' legislation differs and you must be aware of the local laws, applicable to your place of residence in the US. For example, filing a CNO-REG 102 (certificate of non-operation) may be required in California upon registering some vehicles. So, while the rest of this article explores various options on how to retain your plates, be sure to familiarize yourself with your local laws first.

Plate Number on Storage

What to Do With Your License Plates When You Sell Your Car

Remember, a license plate links a specific person to a specific car. If you sold your car with your license plates and someone else drives around in it, it can be misidentified as still being yours. When you sell your vehicle, you sign the title over to the buyer, and in most US states, returning your license plates and tags to the local DMV is part of the process. When selling your car, the license plate cannot just go with it.

How to Keep Your License Plates When You Sell Your Car

One of the few exceptions is a private license plate. You are allowed to remove and keep such a license plate when selling a car, but you still have to follow procedures. Again, check with your DMV. You still sign the title over to the new owner, but you must notify your local DMV that you're keeping the plates. This process varies by state. For example, in a number of states, you remove your personalized old license plates from the original car, take them home, and apply to have them assigned to a new vehicle.

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Keep Your License Plates

Notes: If You Keep Your License Plate When Selling Your Car

There are some things to keep in mind when transferring personalized license plates:

  • Transferring to someone else: You can put in an application to have the license plates transferred to a friend or relative.
  • Transfer fee: In many cases, transferring the plates to a new vehicle in your name attracts no charge, but transferring to someone else does.
  • Keeping the plates: You can just retain the private plate without reassigning it to another car, as long as you continue to pay the annual license plate retention fee.

Can I Apply to Retain My License Plates Online?

You might not be able to apply to retain your license plates on the internet, but other services may be available online, depending on your state's DMV. For example, on California's DMV website, you can do the following:

  • You can order a personalized or a special-interest license plate
  • You can renew both your driver's license and your vehicle's registration
  • You can calculate estimated licensing and/or vehicle registration fees
  • You can pay to have suspended registrations reinstated

Be sure to check what your local DMV can do for you.

Who to Inform When You Attach Personalized License Plates

Naturally, the DMV will need to know, since that's who you pay your licensing fees to. However, there are a few other parties that may want to be informed. For example, your insurer will be interested. Normally, all they need is a vehicle's VIN, but you really don't want to give them any excuse to not pay out a claim - such as your car's registration not matching the license plate they have on file.

Another party that may want to know is the car dealership you're leasing your car from. Normally, you can't customize the vehicle without incurring additional charges, but putting personalized plates on a leased car is not really considered as such. Still, it never hurts to check with them; the last thing you need when you're returning it is being hit with unexpected additional costs.


Generally, retaining your personalized license plate is permitted in any state, as long as you familiarize yourself with your local DMV's requirement - completing all the paperwork requested is very important to avoid any confusion or problems in the future.

License Plates


How do I apply to transfer my personalized license plates in my state?

The procedures and required forms differ from state to state. To ensure you have the correct information, check your local DMV website, or give them a call to clarify.

Do you keep the license plate when you sell a car?

No, you have to surrender them to the DMV. You may keep personalized plates without even putting them on a car, but you'll have to continue paying your annual license fee.

What do you do with old license plates?

You cannot simply sell your license plate along with your car. You can keep your personalized ones, after following certain procedures, but the DMV usually destroys plates after removal.

How are license plates assigned?

By the DMV of your state, according to specific rules, which can be read on its website.

Do EV cars have different license plates?

No, whether they are EVs, small hatchback cars, or a brand-new Ford Mustang, all license plates are issued the same way.

Are other types of personalized license plates or special plates available?

Yes, such as pet lovers' and veterans' organizations' license plates. When you apply for your car license plate, check what you qualify for with your DMV.

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