After purchasing a new or used vehicle, motorists may need to apply for a DMV license plate in Massachusetts. Overall, this credential is processed and issued by the Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV), which is under the state’s Department of Transportation (MassDOT). Common car registration plates in MA include passenger plates, specialty plates or vanity plates, all of which serve different purposes and incur varying fees.

In order to get new registration plates, car owners must meet all of the state requirements for a motor vehicle registration, which include the payment of applicable license plate fees. After obtaining new credentials, drivers must renew license plate stickers or tags on a regular basis, always before these documents reach their expiration dates. Explore how to get a license plate, as well as how to renew, replace or transfer an existing car tag, by reviewing the information below.

Types of License Plates in Massachusetts

Most vehicle owners who need to obtain new registration plates in Massachusetts opt for purchasing standard passenger plates, which display a white background with red lettering or a white background with green lettering. However, the RMV also offers other types of car tags, such as passenger reserved plates, veterans’ plates, special plates or organizational plates. Additional types of car registration plates include disability tags, vanity plates, lottery plates, electric vehicle plates and low-speed vehicle plates.

Furthermore, RMV license plate fees and requirements typically vary according to each type of tag. For instance, organizational car registration tags help to support local causes, such as the Blackstone Valley, Fish and Wildlife and Cure Breast Cancer institutions. As such, these tags may incur higher costs in order to support local organizations.

Note: The Massachusetts RMV does not provide vehicle owners with temporary registration plates, unless the driver loses or damages his or her current car tag.

How to Apply for a License Plate in Massachusetts

Car owners must apply for a Massachusetts RMV license plate after purchasing a new or used vehicle from a private seller or licensed dealership in the state. However, the license plate application process differs slightly depending on where motorists acquire the vehicle. For example, if drivers purchase a vehicle from a car dealership, the dealer must complete the titling and registration application on behalf of the buyer. Then, car owners must bring the new car tag application to their insurance agent, who will stamp the paperwork.

After having your car registration tag application certified by an auto insurance agent, motorists must submit the form in person at an RMV branch, along with the vehicle’s certificate of origin, current title certificate (or the dealer’s re-assignment form) and the vehicle’s previous registration certificate.

On the other hand, if you intend to get MA car tags after purchasing a vehicle from a private seller, you must visit an insurance agent to obtain an auto insurance policy. Then, the insurance agent must complete, sign and stamp your application form before you can submit it to an RMV branch along with all of the supporting documentation.

How to Renew License Plate Tags in Massachusetts

In most cases, vehicle owners must renew license plate credentials once every two years. However, certain types of vehicle require drivers to complete the annual car tag renewal process in Massachusetts, including vehicles with personalized plates, government vehicles, emergency vehicles and certain military or commercial vehicles.

As a reminder of the vehicle’s upcoming expiration date, the RMV sends motorists a renewal notice between six and eight weeks before the vehicle’s license plate is set to expire. If you do not receive a license plate renewal notice for any reason, you must request an appropriate form from your insurance agent. Moreover, an insurance agent must complete and stamp this form before you submit it to the RMV.

Renewing license plate materials can be done online, in person, over the phone or by mail. In order to renew a car registration tag online, applicants must follow the instructions on the official RMV portal, where they will provide their driver’s license number and vehicle’s registration number. Then, motorists must submit payment in the form of a credit card, debit card or check. If car owners cannot complete the online car tag renewal process, they may apply over the telephone by using the RMV’s automated phone system and providing their vehicle’s registration number along with their driver’s license number.

To renew RMV car tags in person or by mail, vehicle owners must submit their registration renewal notice (with a valid auto insurance stamp, if applicable), along with an acceptable payment method for the applicable plate renewal fees.

How to Replace License Plates in Massachusetts

In order to replace license plate credentials, you must visit an RMV branch in person or request a replacement over the phone. This procedure is most common when your MA RMV license plate goes missing or sustains enough damages. As a general rule, you must order a replacement credential through the Registry of Motor Vehicles. Moreover, if both of your license plates are lost or were stolen from you, you will be given a new car tag number while replacing license plate credentials.

If you need to replace green Massachusetts car tags, you may exchange them for a set of red plates at no charge. During the process of how to replace license plate credentials such as these, you must complete the appropriate application form and submit it in person at an RMV branch. Additionally, you must surrender your current license plates, in the case that they are still in your possession.

How to Transfer License Plates in Massachusetts

After you purchase a new or used vehicle, you may transfer your current Massachusetts car registration tags to the newly-acquired vehicle if you wish to retain your license plates. However, you may only transfer car registration plates within seven calendar days from selling or disposing of your previous vehicle.

In order to transfer your RMV car tags from one vehicle to another, you must complete the transfer while registering the new vehicle with the Registry of Motor Vehicles. During this time, you must pay tag transfer fees and submit all of the standard documentation for registering a vehicle in the state.

Massachusetts License Plate Fees

In most cases, vehicle owners must pay RMV car tag fees in Massachusetts every other year. However, certain types of vehicles may require an annual registration fee. Furthermore, new car tag fees generally vary for commercial vehicles, motorcycles, auto homes, buses and other vehicle types.

In addition, car owners must be mindful of the additional fees related to services such as replacing car tags or transferring license plates from one vehicle to another. In the case of commercial vehicles, RMV license plate fees vary according to the weight of each vehicle. The standard registration fee, which includes the issuance of license plates, is $60.

License Plate Lookups in Massachusetts

After purchasing a vehicle, you must apply for new registration plates through the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles. However, you may choose to perform an online RMV license plate lookup before purchasing a used vehicle, which will provide you with peace of mind during the process of purchasing a car that is not brand-new.

Not only does an MA RMV car tag lookup provide you with information about the vehicle’s previous owners, collision history (if applicable) and safety recall information, but you will also learn more about the vehicle’s manufacturer, overall performance and type of engine.

Last updated on Tuesday, March 10 2020.