A vehicle registration sticker not received when it should be can lead to several potential issues. Depending on the state in which a motorist lives, failing to display a valid and unexpired registration sticker (or stickers) in the correct places on a vehicle can result in multiple traffic tickets. These tickets can be expensive and time consuming to address.

A DMV sticker not received on time can also be indicative of other or larger issues with a motorist’s DMV records. These need to be addressed as quickly as possible to avoid any potential issues. The longer motorists wait to address missing, lost or unreceived registration stickers, the more difficult replacing them becomes and the more tickets and consequences they are likely to face.

Common Reasons for a Registration Sticker Not Being Received

A registration or license plate sticker not received by the motorist it belongs to can result from a number of errors. Mistakes can happen during the ordering process, while the registration is being handled by the post office or during several other steps along the way.

On average, the most common reason for a DMV registration sticker to fail to make it to its intended recipient is an improperly processed change of address. Generally speaking, state laws require that a car tag sticker be mailed to the address the DMV has on file for the motorist who requested it. Contrary to many consumers’ expectations, Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) mail is not forwarded by the United States Postal Service (USPS). Stickers sent to old addresses will be returned to the DMV and will not be received by the waiting motorists.

Other routine errors that can result in a car sticker not received include mistakes made on application forms, missing or incorrect payment and human error or mishandling by the postal service or DMV.

Can I legally drive if my registration sticker was not received?

When a DMV registration sticker is not received on time, drivers may find themselves in an unwelcome predicament. Obviously, motorists who were renewing a registration may continue to operate their vehicles without issue until their pre-existing registration expires. Once it has expired, however, drivers can expect to be stopped by law enforcement any time they drive.

In some states, driving without a valid registration and driving without current registration stickers in the correct places on one’s vehicle are considered separate violations. Motorists whose license sticker was not received can potentially be ticketed in some states for driving with expired stickers even if they can prove that they have renewed their registrations. Sometimes, drivers can get these tickets rescinded in traffic court by demonstrating that they had a valid registration and were waiting for their car plate sticker renewal packet to arrive, but this is not always the case. Some states offer grace periods of varying lengths, during which drivers can take to the roads with a certain peace of mind despite their registration situations.

If a driver submitted his or her application to replace a sticker online, he or she will have had the opportunity to print a temporary registration document. Drivers should carry those documents on them until their new registrations arrive. In the event that a driver is pulled over while waiting for DMV sticker replacement, that documentation can protect them from receiving most tickets. Furthermore, in most states, online applications are processed in the centralized DMV system almost immediately. Law enforcement can typically check a driver’s registration status in the system and verify the validity of their documentation even without a sticker.

However, it is important that drivers be aware of the laws in their states of residence. Not all states require that law enforcement check the validity of a vehicle’s registration sticker online during routine traffic stops.

Steps to Take If Your DMV Sticker Was Not Received

In most cases, state authorities advise drivers to expect their DMV sticker replacements within 10 days to two weeks of their applications. Drivers who applied by mail may wish to wait a few additional days to account for weekends, holidays and other normal delays that might have affected the DMV’s initial receipt of their applications.

Drivers who have not received registration stickers after two weeks should begin the process of looking into and addressing the situation. Generally, the first step is to confirm that the request was received and processed. Most states allow drivers to check this information using an online system or by phone. Online systems may allow drivers who have not received their license plate stickers to print temporary documentation if they do not already have it.

If a driver’s application was not received or processed, he or she will need to begin the application process from scratch. If a car sticker was not received because the application was processed but the registration was sent to the wrong address, drivers must typically correct their address on file with the DMV and then request and pay for a DMV sticker replacement in their states. If the DMV’s online system shows that a registration was sent to the correct address but never arrived due to postal error, the motorist may be able to have another copy issued to them by the DMV for no cost.

Where to Get Registration Sticker Replacements

Where to get registration sticker replacements depends on a motorist’s state. Most states allow motorists to request new registrations in person, online or by mail. In almost all cases, documentation will be mailed to recipients, regardless of what method they used to apply.

Last updated on Tuesday, March 10 2020.