In the state of North Carolina, license plate fees will vary depending on the type of plates you choose. The fee for a standard license plate in North Carolina is $10.

Quick links:

What is the process for getting license plates in NC?

How much do NC license plates cost?

How do I transfer a title in NC?

How to register your vehicle with the NC DMV?

How to order a license plate?

How to register a car from out-of-state?

North Carolina DMV registration renewal fee

How much are NC license plate replacement fees?

How much are NC temporary license plates?

How to check if a car has NC back fees?

If you want a North Carolina specialty plate, you will have to pay the initial fee for the specific plate (costs vary), along with an initial fee of $30. Additional taxes and fees apply to both new and renewal registrations.

What Is The Process For Getting License Plates In North Carolina?

In North Carolina, vehicles are only required to have a license plate on the rear of the vehicle.

(Every US state requires a rear license plate. Some states require a front plate, while other states don’t.)

Here are the steps for getting a new license plate from the North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles (North Carolina DMV).

  1. Get a valid North Carolina driver's license. To register your car and get license plates, you must have a valid North Carolina driver's license.
  2. Register your vehicle. You will need to register your vehicle with the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
  3. Provide required documentation. When registering your vehicle, you will need to provide the following documentation: a completed registration application, proof of ownership, proof of insurance, and payment for any applicable fees.
  4. Choose your license plate design. North Carolina offers a variety of license plate designs, including standard designs and specialty plates.
  5. Receive your license plates. Once your vehicle is registered and all required documentation and fees have been submitted, you will receive your license plates in the mail.
  6. Install your license plates. Once you receive your license plates, you must install them on your vehicle in accordance with North Carolina law. The plates must be visible and securely attached to the rear of your vehicle.

North Carolina License Plate Costs

There are many different types of license plates: passenger license plates, commercial vehicle plates, special license plates, trailer plates, and motorcycle plates.

License plates measure 6 by 12 inches and are rectangular (motorcycle license plates are smaller, measuring 4 by 7 inches). They are made of aluminum, which is durable and resistant to rust.

The North Carolina license plate has 7 characters (across the 50 states, license plates have anywhere from six to eight characters).

How Much Is a Standard License Plate In North Carolina?

A standard North Carolina license plate costs $10.

Standard North Carolina license plate

Passenger vehicles, commercial motor vehicles, motorcycles, permanent trailers, trailer coaches, and park trailers are eligible for a standard North Carolina license plate.

A standard license plate is issued in any of the following scenarios:

  • Purchase of a new vehicle
  • Replacing lost, damaged, or stolen plate
  • Surrendering a special interest license plate and replacing it with standard license plate

Personalized Plate Fee

Both standard and specialty plates can be personalized. The cost of a personalized license plate is $30.

Personalized NC plates can be ordered online, by mail or at a NC Division of Motor Vehicles license plate agency.

To find out if your desired license plate personalization is permissible and available, you can use the North Carolina plates and placards selection page.

Specialty Plate Fee

You can choose from a variety of specialty license plates in NC. The fee for a specialty NC plate varies from $10 to $50 per year.

To acquire a specialty plate in NC, you will need to summit the following:

  • A completed application
  • Proof of eligibility (such as membership in a specific organization)
  • Proof of auto insurance
  • Payment of any applicable fees or donations

Some of the available options include:

  • State Parks: $30
  • Rocky Mountain Elk: $40
  • NASCAR: $30
  • Appalachian Trail: $30

Additionally, there is a "Partially Disabled Veteran" plate available for veterans with service-related disabilities.

Disability Placards and License Plate Fees

Handicap symbols are also available with the disability symbol added to qualified applicants' plate. The disability symbol can be added to any of the NC plate designs. The fee for a disability license plate is $36 while the placard costs $5.

When applying for a handicap plate, you will need to provide the following paperwork:

  • Completed application (MVR-37)
  • Proof of insurance
  • Proof of ownership or lease of the vehicle
  • Documentation proving that you have a qualifying disability

Military Plate Fee

The cost of military plates varies depending on the plate design. The fee for military plates can range from $10 to $50 and is paid annually.

When applying for a military plate in North Carolina, you will need to provide the following paperwork:

  • Completed application (Form MVR-33A)
  • Proof of eligibility (Form DD-214 or proof of current military service)
  • Proof of insurance
  • Payment of any applicable fees or donations

Some of the available options include:

  • Purple Heart
  • Disabled Veteran
  • Silver Star
  • Bronze Star
  • Word War II
  • Coast Guard

Additionally, there is a "Partially Disabled Veteran" plate available for veterans with service-related disabilities.

Transferring a Car Title

To complete the North Carolina car title transfer form, you will need to provide the following info:

  • All documents provided by the car's seller
  • A title application (form MVR-1)
  • Proof of passed emissions testing
  • Proof of a valid NC vehicle insurance policy
  • A form of identification for all vehicle owners
  • Vehicle title transfer fee: $56
  • Payment for Highway use tax (HUT): 3% (form MVR-613)
  • Registration fee: $38.75
  • Payment for sales tax (North Carolina car sales tax is 7.5%)

See our guide to transferring a North Carolina car title for more detailed info on the title transfer process.

Register Your Vehicle with the North Carolina DMV

Before applying for a NC license plate, a vehicle owner will need a valid vehicle registration card from North Carolina DMV. In North Carolina, you can register your vehicle in person or by mail. To make things more efficient, title transfer and car registration are done simultaneously.

Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV)

An initial registration must take place in person at a local DMV office at the time of titling by submitting the following:

  • Valid photo ID or NC driver’s license
  • Notarized vehicle title
  • Proof of passed emissions testing
  • Proof of a valid car insurance
  • Completed title application (Form MVR-1)
  • Completed damage disclosure statement (Form MVR-181)
  • Payment for sales tax and other applicable fees

Registering an NC Vehicle by Mail

You can also register your vehicle by mail. You will need all the documentation you would provide in person, and a copy of your valid driver’s license mailed to:

Vehicle titles/liens, duplicate registration

3148 Mail Service Center

Raleigh, NC 27697

After you submit the required paperwork and pay the North Carolina fees, the North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles will mail you the registration documents and license plate tabs.

Along with a completed transfer of title and registration, to complete the registration process, you’ll need to provide proof that you own the car, such as a bill of sale or title certificate.

The NC Department of Transportation official website provides useful information regarding vehicle registration requirements, along with instructions for how to apply for a plate.

How to Order a License Plate

When registering a vehicle for the first time, you can only get your license plates in person at your local NC DMV agency

Once you have submitted the form, you will be asked to choose the plates.

You can pay with a credit card, a debit card, or an electronic check.

How Much Does It Cost To Register a Car In North Carolina From Out Of State?

To register an out-of-state vehicle in North Carolina, you'll need to submit the following to your closest license plate agency:

  • Vehicle title
  • Completed title application (Form MVR-1)
  • Odometer disclosure statement (Form MVR-180)
  • A North Carolina driver license or a valid out-of-state driver license with a North Carolina temporary driving certificate
  • Proof of North Carolina vehicle insurance

North Carolina DMV Registration Renewal Fee

The fee to renew a passenger vehicle is $38.75.

Each state has different requirements for how often license plates need to be renewed. North Carolina drivers are required to renew their registration annually, which includes license plate renewal.

Being late on registration renewal can lead to late additional fees, fines, and other problems when pulled over for a traffic stop. To avoid this, it is important to pay careful attention to the registration expiration date.

License Plate Replacement Fees

In some cases, the North Carolina DMV may require you to change your license plates. If your license plate is lost or stolen, contact the DMV or go to an authorized third-party office to have it replaced with new numbers and letters.

There will be a $21.50 license plate replacement fee.

To replace a damaged or unreadable plate, you need to submit the following to the NC DMV license plate agency:

  • Completed application for replacement plate (Form MVR-18)
  • Payment for the license replacement fee

If your license plate was stolen, you’ll need to report the theft to law enforcement and apply for a replacement.

North Carolina Temporary License Plates

North Carolina provides (upon request) temporary plates to people who have bought a car but don't have their permanent plates yet. They cost $15, of which $5 goes towards notary fees.

Owners of vehicles must show proof of ownership, insurance, and a valid driver's license or other form of ID. Temporary plates must be put on the back of the car and cannot be given to someone else. They can be obtained from any North Carolina DMV office or authorized third party provider. Temporary plates are only valid for 10 days.

How To Check If a Car Has North Carolina Back Fees?

Before purchasing a used car in North Carolina, identify whether it has back fees—or you could be liable for them.

The first step is to obtain the vehicle identification number from the seller. With the VIN, you can contact your local DMV office and request a title search. The North Carolina DMV will be able to tell you if there are any unpaid fees associated with the car, such as a vehicle registration fee or a parking ticket.

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Frequently Asked Questions About North Carolina License Plates

How much is the NC registration late fee?

Plates that have expired within the last month will be charged a $15 late fee.

The fee is $20 for one to two months after expiration and $25 for plates that have expired for more than two months.

Is the license plate process the same in South Carolina as North Carolina?

While North Carolina and South Carolina's license plate systems are similar, there are some significant distinctions. Both states require residents to register their automobiles and get license plates, and both provide a variety of specialty plates for a cost. Here are some differences between the two states.

  • In North Carolina, cars have to pass an emissions test before the owner can register their car and get license plates. South Carolina does not require emissions testing.
  • South Carolina requires license plates to be renewed every two years, but North Carolina requires them to be renewed every year.

How many standard license plate designs does NC have?

NC offers three standard plate designs:

  1. First in Flight. The "First in Flight" license plate design debuted in in 1982 to commemorate the Wright Brothers' historic flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina in 1903. This license plate depicts the Wright Brothers' airplane on a blue background, with the words "First in Flight" written in bold letters at the top.
  2. First in Freedom. North Carolina's "First in Freedom" license plate design was introduced in 2015 to commemorate the state's role in the American Revolution. The design includes a red, white, and blue flag with a star and the letters "N.C." in the center, as well as the phrase "First in Freedom" at the bottom.
  3. In God We Trust. North Carolina introduced the "In God We Trust" license plate design in 2014. Over a white background, this license plate features the national motto "In God We Trust," as well as a depiction of the American flag and an outline of the state of North Carolina.

What are some important facts about registering a vehicle in North Carolina?

When registering a car in North Carolina, there are several important facts to keep in mind. The state requires vehicle inspections before issuing a local license plate. Additionally, you may need to pay a property tax on your car as well as a registration fee.

You have access to a wide variety of specialized license plates, including those supporting coastal federations and honoring veterans of World War II.

To register your vehicle, you must provide proof of insurance as well as a valid driver's license. You will also be required to fill out a registration form and pay any applicable fees. Drivers will receive their license plate in the mail once they have registered.

Additional Reading

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