What To Do With Your Old License Plates

As if the stress and pressure of moving states wasn’t bad enough, you have to enroll the kids in a new school, make new friends, adjust to the climate and navigate the commute. There are upsides like new opportunities, perhaps a higher salary or even nicer weather. But, there are lots of niggly things to take care of like setting up your new utility bills and transferring your old license plates.

In some states, it's mandatory to surrender the plates

Some states require you to surrender your plates (see list below) if you are no longer registering them when moving out. Others allow you to sell your plate, and you can make a nice earner on them if you have a vintage or low-digit plate. If yours happens to be a unique or rare collector’s item series, you can make thousands of dollars. There are lots of plate brokers online and you can even list them on eBay, Craigslist and on the Facebook marketplace. 

Here are a few dedicated websites where you can sell your old license plates. Going by the listing, a vintage license plate can sell for as high as $700.

If you don’t want to go down the broker route, listing them here is a good indicator of what they are worth.

License plates can be returned in some states and you can be financially remunerated for doing so. Check with your local DMV department to see if this is possible. Make sure you return them to a vehicle licensing official if you are returning them in person, and get a receipt. If you don’t do the proper paperwork or a criminal gets hold of your plate, you can be fined for any penalty that incurs. Your receipt is proof that you have already surrendered the plates, so you are not liable for any criminal activity or fraud that happens after that date.

You can also return your plates by mail, but personally, I prefer handing them in face-to-face. Your local DMV will either dispose of or recycle your old plates for you.

The Old Becomes Anew

license plate planters
Source: Pinterest

You can also recycle your old plates if you live near a metal recycling plant. Or how about upcycling an old plate to create a one-of-a-kind metalwork design? Many states, including Idaho, Indiana (which also offers a tax refund) and Hawaii, allow you to keep your license plates when you leave the state. You might retain them as souvenirs and place them on the wall, but why not change or upscale them into something new?

Pinterest has plenty of info; you could transform yours into a flowerpot or a lamp stand. Create your own one-of-a-kind design. Why not make a simple toy box or food storage box? Aluminum is pretty pliable so all you need is a small wood block to fold and shape the plate around, some metal cutters, or tin snips, pliers and a mallet. Here’s a demo from The Cavender Diary.

snack box made out of old license plate
Image credit: thecavenderdiary


If you’re not recycling or returning your plates, you may be required to destroy them. The plate is not allowed to be used on another vehicle if it is not registered, so you will have to remove it from the auto and fold in the edges or deface the plate number, so it is unidentifiable. The stickers must also be unrecognizable.

Use a permanent marker, screwdriver, or power tool to deface your plates if you are disposing of them yourself. Don’t let your number be at the mercy of criminals. We’ve all seen the movies when the bad guys are stopped by a cop who runs their license plate and discovers it’s registered to their false matching id. Lo and behold, all looks well to the cops, but later on that night, your vehicle or plate rather is seen rushing away from the scene of a crime. Then you have some explaining to do….

If you’re getting rid of your car as part of your move, consider donating it all to the Make-A-Wish foundation for children. They will handle the license plate disposal for you, and you will be assisting underprivileged youngsters.

Turning In Your Plates

In the states that require you to return your plates when you depart, don’t ignore this regulation. If the license plate and decal are not returned, the owner/registrant is responsible for any unauthorized use of the license plate. There 18 states that require you do surrender your old license plates.

Here’s what you have to do with your license plate in the following states.

In Alabama, you can return your plate just before canceling your insurance policy.

Alaska [Surrender]
You must surrender your plates if you move from Alaska to another state. You also have the option to return or recycle them.

You can keep your plate if you move from Arizona.

If you are moving out of Arkansas, you can keep your plates. 

California allows you to hold onto your plates when relocating.

Connecticut [Surrender]
You must return your license plates in.

Delaware [Surrender]
In Delaware, you must return your plates if you are moving out of state.

Florida [Surrender]
If you move out of Florida, you must hand your license plates in to the DMV.

Georgia [Surrender]
Even if you move within Georgia you must return your plate and register a new one. The only upside is that it costs nothing. Naturally, if you move out of Georgia, you must return your plate.

In Hawaii, you do not have to surrender your plates when relocating states.

You can keep your license plate if you relocate from Idaho.

You are not required to return your plates in Illinois. Another one for your Pinterest recreation.

You are not required to hand in your plate once moving out of state. You can get reimbursed for any remaining registration.

Iowa [Surrender if you seek refund]
You are only required to return your plates in Iowa if you are seeking a registration refund.

Kansas is a little different. Once you move to a new state, you only have to return your plates if you apply for a property tax refund.

Kentucky [Surrender]
Kentucky also has a license plate return policy.

Louisiana [Surrender]

You have to return license plates to the DMV if leaving Louisiana.

Maine [Surrender]

In Maine, you must return your vehicle plate once you leave the state.

Maryland [Surrender]

Maryland DMV stipulates that license plates must be returned upon leaving the state.

No surrender is necessary. In Massachusetts, once you move state, you have to cancel your vehicle registration and recycle or destroy your plates.


Destroy or recycle your plate; no surrender is necessary if you are relocating state.

No surrender of plates is necessary, but you can return them to the DMV if you wish.

You can keep your plates if you move out of Mississippi to another state.

There are no requirements to surrender your plates in Missouri.


Montana residents can keep using their plates until the registration runs out. Once registration is up, you can keep the plates.

Once you leave Nebraska, you have 60 days to return your Nebraska plates. Registration cards and decals must also be returned at a local DMV office by mail or in person. You may be eligible for a partial refund if you have time left on your registration.

Nevada [Surrender]

The DMVs’ policy on license plates in Nevada is they must be returned once you move out of the state.

New Hampshire
You can keep your plates if you move out of New Hampshire.

New Jersey [Surrender]
New Jersey has a return license plate policy.

New Mexico
You are not required to hand in your plates in New Mexico, although they recommend it.

New York [Surrender]
New York also operates the surrender plate policy.

North Carolina [Surrender]
You must return your license plates if you move from North Carolina.

North Dakota
You can hold onto your license plates once you move from North Dakota.

In Ohio, you don’t have to surrender your plates once you move.

You can keep your plates, and you also can’t claim a refund for any time left on your registration.

Oregon allows you to keep your plates.

Pennsylvania [Surrender]
Penn also requires you to return your plates once you move states.

Rhode Island
You have to return your plates once you leave Rhode Island.

South Carolina [Surrender]
You must return your plate to the DMV in SC once you move out.

South Dakota
You do not need to surrender license plates in South Dakota.

Tennessee allows you to keep your plates; registration refunds are not common practice.

There are no state requirements to surrender your plates in Texas.

No surrender is required.

Vermont [Surrender]
Vermont’s DMV policy is you must return your license plate once you move out.

Returning plates is optional but recommended to avoid fraud.

If you move out of Washington, you can keep your regular plates, but specialty plates must be returned. Registration refunds are available.

West Virginia [Not clear; contact DMV]

West Virginia DMV says you must check with them to see if you need to surrender your plates if you move out of the state.


You can keep your plates if you move out. No refunds are given for the remaining registration days.


In Wyoming, you must return your plate if you plan to leave the state.

Jason L Arthur

Jason L Arthur

Jason Arthur is a data junkie, writer, veteran amateur racecar driver and motorsport photographer. He is the co-founder of LookupaPlate, a collaborative platform to report bad drivers plying on American roads. He is also building a blockchain-based vehicle data marketplace (in stealth mode) and is an adviser to several startups. Jason has been tracking the automotive industry since the 1990s and has a disturbingly deep obsession with the automotive world, and loves to explore whatever roads he can find. From high-speed racing on the circuit to off-road exploration, Jason has an insatiable appetite for adventure. Jason has written for numerous publications, including Autocar Magazine, Motorsport Magazine, and Road & Track.

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