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In most states, you cannot apply for or replace a license plate online. Instead, most states require you to request a new or duplicate license plate in person at a DMV office. However, certain states or counties may allow you to complete these transactions online. In any case, you must apply for a new license plate within a few days of your vehicle’s date of purchase. To do so, you must provide a certificate of title, odometer disclosure, smog certification (if applicable) and bill of sale (if needed). Then, you must pay any applicable DMV service fees. To prepare for this procedure and save time, download our informative online guide. Our guide contains everything you need to know about standard and custom license plates. In it, you will also learn about requesting, renewing and replacing a car registration.

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2. By Mail

In most states, you cannot apply for a license plate by mail. However, many states allow you to replace or surrender a license plate by sending the required materials through the mail. When replacing a plate, you will be required to send a completed application form containing personal details and vehicle specifications to the appropriate DMV mailing address. If you wish to surrender an existing license plate after selling your vehicle, you may do so by mailing the plate to the correct DMV branch in your state. Due to mailing and processing times, be mindful that the mail-in method may subject you to certain delays.

3. In Person at a DMV Office

You will most likely need to visit a DMV office in person to apply for a license plate in your state. During your visit, you will be asked to provide proof of identity, documents that verify your car ownership and a completed application form. In addition, you will be required to pay the applicable DMV fees, which vary depending on whether you apply for a standard or personalized license plate. When visiting a DMV, you may also replace or transfer an existing license plate, as long as those procedures are offered in your state. To avoid mistakes or taking additional trips to the DMV, make sure that you are fully prepared for license plate transactions prior to filing your application.


When drivers are caught in a situation where their car registration plates are lost, stolen or destroyed, they are required to begin a plate replacement procedure if they want to continue operating their motor vehicles. DMV license plates must be replaced at the state department of motor vehicles if they are mutilated, lost or stolen. In addition, prior to replacing license plates at a local DMV office, drivers are encouraged to file a report with their law enforcement agency. Filing a report about the loss or theft of DMV license plates will warn the police about the possible crime. Once you file a police report, you will have to satisfy certain license plate replacement requirements as part of the procedure. Visit the state-specific page below to learn more about license plates in your state:

Methods for Replacing License Plates

Each state department of motor vehicles determines its regulations and methods for the replacement procedure. Drivers may replace license plates in person or by mail in most of the states, while some of them require a mandatory personal appearance at a local DMV branch. For instance, the New York DMV requires drivers to replace license plates only in person at a DMV location. Therefore, make sure you contact your state DMV prior to replacing license plates which were lost, stolen or damaged.

File a Police Report

The DMV license plate replacement procedure consists of several steps which must be completed in order to get new tags. Prior to heading to the nearest state DMV office, drivers may be required to file a report at the law enforcement agency first, if their plates were lost or stolen. After that, drivers can replace license plates at a local DMV by providing the police report along with the required documentation. However, some states may not require filing a police report in situations when drivers have lost only one license plate. Such is the case in New York where drivers, who have lost only one DMV license plate, are not requested to submit a police report, as long as they submit the plate that is left in their possession.

License Plates Replacement Requirements

When wondering how to replace license plates in your state, you first need to find out the mandatory replacement requirements set by your state department of motor vehicles. Although each state DMV determines its own requirements, some are common on a national level. For instance, drivers who are replacing license plates are generally expected to do the following:

  • Complete a DMV license plate replacement application form.
  • Submit a copy of the police report, if required by the state DMV.
  • Surrender the mutilated or damaged DMV license plate.
  • Provide proof of identity, if necessary.
  • Provide proof of residential address, if different from the one on file with DMV.
  • Submit payment for the applicable fees.

Note that there requirements for replacing license plates may vary from one state to another and may depend on the replacement method you plan to use. Therefore make sure to find out how to replace license plates by contacting your local DMV branch.

Fees for Duplicate License Plates

The final step in the procedure for replacing license plates is to submit payment for the duplicate license plates. The cost of the duplicate car registration plates may be the same or even lower than the one you paid when you applied for tags the first time. Moreover, some states may offer you free duplicate plates or tags. In addition, the DMV license plate fees may differ from one state to another, depending on the initial cost of car registration and plates. Therefore, prior to replacing license plates through your state department of motor vehicles, make sure to contact the DMV and learn all the necessary information about the replacement procedure.

Last updated on Wednesday, February 6 2019.

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