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License Plates & Records

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The Department of Motor Vehicles in each state issues license plates that contain alphanumeric codes that are used for identification purposes. In the United States, the symbols, colors and codes on license plates varies between states. A license plate is used to indicate whether a vehicle registration is valid. This is done with a registration sticker that is attached to the plate after a registration is renewed.

See the Map Below To Find Information Specific to Your State

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Types of License Plates

Depending on the vehicle type, the DMV issues different types of license plates. For example, there are different plates for commercial vehicles, motorcycles, passenger cars, military vehicles, police cars, school buses, fire trucks, ambulances, trailers, tow trucks, and antique vehicles. Additionally, there are plates that indicate if a car's owner is a disabled person, or a war veteran.

Personalized Plates

Each state allows vehicle owners to obtain personalized plates, that show a custom code. A vehicle's owner can choose a code that contains letters, numbers, and symbols in order to form a specific word, phrase, or a slogan. You have to pay an additional fee if you want to have a personalized license plate.

Buying/Selling a Used Car

Laws that dictate what to do with your license plates if you buy or sell a used car, or move to another state, vary between states. Some states require you to surrender your current plates after you sell your car or move out of state. Other states allow you to release your plates to the new owner once you have sold your vehicle.

Replacing a Stolen or Lost License Plate

In case you lose your license plate, or it gets stolen, you have to obtain a replacement plate as soon as possible. In the USA, you are not allowed to drive your car without valid plates. To obtain new plates, you should go to your local DMV office, submit proof of identification and proof of vehicle ownership, and surrender the remaining plates. After this, you will be required to pay the replacement fee, which varies from state to state.

Depending on the state, you might have to report the loss or theft to a law enforcement agency. If this is the case, you will be required to submit a copy of the police report to the DMV before you apply for replacement plates.