1. Get Started With License Plate Assistance Online

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.

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.


Car registration plates must be displayed on all vehicles that are driven in Virginia. A Virginia DMV license plate provides visible proof that a vehicle has gone through all the steps required for registration.  Passenger vehicles with valid registration plates have passed all the state-mandated tests to operate safely on Virginia’s roadways.

Law enforcement officers also use license plates to quickly identify a vehicle and its driver in emergency situations. Find out more about registration plates, including how to get a license plate replacements, renewals and transfers when you study the information provided below.

Types of License Plates in Virginia

Depending on the type of VA DMV car tag that fits your individual needs, you can choose from over 200 individual car tag designs. Types of Virginia new registration plates include the following:

  • Standard issue license plates are most often seen on registered VA vehicles. The basic license plate features blue lettering on a plain white background.
  • Business logo special plates allow businesses to create new plates to increase public exposure to their brand.
  • Personalized plates bear unique alpha-numeric combinations, chosen by the car owner and approved by the state. VA drivers pay an additional fee to get license plate tags personalized in this manner.
  • Specialty license plates showcase a huge variety of interests, charities, schools and military branches and honors.
  • Disability parking plates are issued to assist disabled individuals by allowing them to park in designated handicapped parking spots.

How to Apply for a License Plate in Virginia

Initial Virginia car registration plates must be obtained in person at a VA DMV customer service center, DMV select office, or a mobile DMV office. Before applying for new registration plates in Virginia, every vehicle must pass an annual safety inspection and display a valid safety inspection sticker.

Those wondering how to get license plate tags should print and complete Form VSA 14, Application for Registration. If your vehicle is garaged in the counties of Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William or Stafford, or in the cities of Alexandria, Fairfax, Falls Church, Manassas or Manassas Park, you must also obtain an emissions inspection before you can get tags for your vehicle.

After obtaining the proper license plate inspections, bring your proof of insurance, proof of ownership, application form and payment to the VA DMV processing center nearest you.

How to Renew License Plate Tags in Virginia

There are multiple options for renewing license plate tags in VA. You will receive a registration renewal notice reminding you to renew license plate registration, but you are not required to have the notice to renew. To those wondering how to renew license plate tags in the most efficient manner, the VA DMV strongly recommends using the DMV Now online system for car tag renewal online.

However, you may also submit your renewal request in person at a DMV service center. Renewing by mail is only allowed for those who are living out of state when the registration is due. To renew records online, access your MyDMV account or if you do not have one, provide all the required information such as the title number, the last four digits of your VIN and proof of insurance.

Moreover, you will need a valid credit card to pay your fees and taxes electronically. You may also visit any DMV service center for renewal by bringing your insurance information, renewal notice, inspection reports and fee payment.

Note: When you renew your license plates you will also be renewing your registration in Virginia as these two processes often go hand in hand.

How to Replace License Plates in Virginia

If you discover that your Virginia car tags are damaged or missing, you may wonder how to replace license plate tags quickly. In the event of theft, notify your local law enforcement office and file a report that verifies your plate is missing.

Then, contact the VA DMV and submit Form VSA 14, Vehicle Registration Application. Replacing license plate tags promptly is important because you can receive a ticket for driving without proper tags in place.

On the other hand, VA drivers may not replace plates more than twice in one registration cycle, unless they can provide proof that the loss or damage resulted from no fault of their own.

How to Transfer License Plates in Virginia

You can transfer a DMV car tag to a newly purchased car in Virginia by visiting a DMV customer service center or filing an online transfer claim. Car registration plate and title transfers should also be reported to your insurance company. If you sell a car but do not wish to transfer the plates to a new vehicle, you must destroy them or return them to any DMV customer service center.

Virginia License Plate Fees

The fees for new registration plates or car tag renewals in Virginia vary according to each vehicle’s weight. In general, license plates cost between $10 and $50 in VA.

License Plate Lookups in Virginia

For a Virginia DMV license plate lookup, file a Prospective Purchaser Inquiry (PPI), available on Virginia’s DMV Now website. If approved, it will provide you with information associated with the DMV license plate, such as the odometer reading, accident history and general vehicle information. Note that it will not include personal information about the owner.

Last updated on Wednesday, January 16 2019.

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