Temporary license plates are used to identify a vehicle until a permanent license plate is issued and can be mounted on a vehicle. They are a stop-gap while your car registration application is being processed.
In most states, when you buy a used car from a private seller, the seller is required to remove the license plates before letting you take possession of the car. See our state-by-state guide to license plates in a private vehicle transaction.
You’ll need to register the car in your name with your state’s DMV, and apply for new license plates. In the meantime, you’ll probably want to drive your newly-purchased vehicle. To do so legally, you’ll need to get a temporary license plate, also known as a temporary tag, in order to legally drive.
What Are Temporary License Plates?
Temporary license plates, also known as temp tags or paper license plates, are a type of license plate that is used for a short period of time. They allow people to drive a car while awaiting issuance of permanent license plates.
Temporary license plates are for those who have just purchased a vehicle, or who are in the process of transferring an out-of-state registration. These plates are usually valid for 30 to 90 days, and they provide the driver with a way to operate the vehicle legally while the permanent registration is being processed.
It’s important to note that all vehicles are still subject to parking, driving, and toll regulations regardless of the type of license plate–temporary or permanent–displayed.
Temporary Plate Standards and Durability
In October 2020, the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA) updated their License Plate Standard to recommend the use of durable material for temporary plates.
The AAMVA standards also state that temporary plates should be mounted on the outside of a vehicle in the same position as permanent plates, and that they should be printed when a car is purchased or leased from a private party seller or a car dealer.
While temporary plates are intended for short-term use, they often end up getting used for months, and so it is important that they are made from durable materials that can withstand extended use.
Don’t Forge Paper Tags
Temporary license plates are only issued by departments of motor vehicles or their authorized representatives (such as vehicle dealers). However, it is not uncommon for people to try and make their own paper license plates. While this may seem like a harmless act, it can actually lead to some pretty serious consequences. If you are caught driving with an illegal paper plate, your vehicle may be seized by the Department of Transportation’s Office or the Sheriff.
How To Get a Temporary License Plate
To get a temporary license plate, you'll need to contact your state's DMV. In most states, you can do this online, by mail, or in person.
Once you've contacted the DMV, you'll need to fill out an application for a temporary tag. Be sure to include your name and address, vehicle make and model, and the reason you're requesting a temporary tag. You may also need to include a photo of your vehicle.
Once you've submitted your application, the DMV will review it and issue you a temporary tag. This process can take a few days or weeks, so be sure to apply for your temporary license plate as soon as possible.
Remember, a temporary license plate is only valid for a limited time, so be sure to get your permanent license plate before it expires.
What Paperwork Do I Need to Get a Temporary Tag?
Applying for a temporary tag is a process that differs from state to state.
You can get temporary plates by making an appointment at your local DMV. In most states, you will need to submit the following:
- Your vehicle's Certificate of Title
- Proof of ownership of the vehicle
- A temporary tag application
- Proof of car insurance
- A valid driver's license.
Some states may require additional paperwork, such as results of inspections or emissions testing, loan documentation or release, or multiple forms of identification.
Using a Drop Box Service
Some states allow you to use a drop box service when applying for temporary tags. If you are utilizing drop box services, you need to provide the below information in an envelope and place it in one of your local DMV drop box locations:
- A photocopy of the front and back of the vehicle title signed by the seller and buyer; or a photocopy of the bill of sale. The bill of sale must include the vehicle identification number (VIN), the date of the sale, the description of the vehicle (year, make, model, color), buyer and seller signatures, and buyer and seller addresses.
- Photocopy of driver's license or non-driver ID cards.
- If you have recently been in an accident and your license plate was damaged, you also need to bring the highway patrol or crash reports.
Can a 3rd Party Apply for a Temp Tag?
If someone other than the car owner tries to obtain the temporary plate and registration, they’ll need to show a notarized letter from the owner authorizing the third party to obtain the plate on the owner’s behalf. The third party must also provide proof of identity by showing an identification card.
How Do I Get a Temp Tag After a Private Purchase?
When buying a car from a dealership, the dealer typically handles the registration for you and provides you with temporary license plates on behalf of the state.
Many people prefer buying directly from private sellers to get a better deal on their vehicle purchase. When buying from a private owner, you’ll need to get your own temp tag.
It’s a good idea to run a vehicle history report. This report can reveal hidden liens, active theft cases, or other issues that may prevent the state from issuing your temporary tag. PrivateAuto includes a vehicle history report when sellers opt for our premium listing service.
How Much Does a Temporary Tag Cost?
Temporary registration costs vary by state and by vehicle type. Some states charge a flat rate, while others base the price on the weight, value or year of the car. You can find a complete breakdown of temporary tag prices at the National Conference of State Legislatures.
The cost of a temporary tag is typically between $5 and $30. The length of time that a temporary tag is valid also varies by state, but is typically between 30 and 60 days.
For more information on how much license plates cost in your state, you should contact your state’s DMV office.
Why Do I Need Temporary License Plates?
A temporary license plate proves that you own a vehicle for which you have applied for a full registration that has yet to arrive. Here are some common scenarios in which you might need temporary license plates:
- You bought a new vehicle and are waiting for the official license plates to arrive. In the meantime, you need to be able to drive the vehicle, so a temporary license plate proves that you own the car and are legally allowed to drive it.
- Your original license plates were stolen, damaged, or lost. You’ll need to apply for new plates, but in the meantime, you'll need to use a temp tag.
- You've moved to a new state and need to re-register your vehicle. In this case, you'll likely need to obtain a transit registration, which allows you to drive your car while you wait for the new registration to come through.
- You're in the process of importing a car from another country. Just as with moving to a new state, you'll need to register your imported car. In the meantime, you'll need a temporary license plate to be able to drive the car legally.
- Any member of the U.S. military, U.S. allied military forces, or U.S. Foreign Service on leave or furlough may be issued a temporary plate. The plate is valid for 30 days and can be used on any vehicle. To get temporary plates, you'll need to provide a copy of your active duty military orders papers when you apply. Additional plates can be issued if needed, up to the length of your leave. To get started, simply complete the Temporary License Plate Application and mail it in or visit your local DMV customer service center.
Special Restrictions For Temporary Plates
A temporary license plate has some restrictions.
If you're driving a commercial vehicle, you cannot be issued a temporary plate. This restriction also applies to vehicles being used for hire. Any vehicle that is part of the International Registration Plan is also not eligible for a temporary plate.
However, there are some exceptions to the above restrictions. If you're driving a truck or tractor with a semi-trailer, the semi-trailer may be issued a temporary plate as long as the truck or tractor has current registration and a metal plate. Also, if you are driving a car with out of state license plates, you may be eligible for a 30-day permit, which will allow you to operate the vehicle while your registration is being processed.
If you have any questions about whether or not your vehicle is eligible for a temporary plate, it is best to contact your local DMV office.
How Long Can I Run a Temporary License Plate?
Different states have different terms for their temp tags. You can only drive on your temporary plate until the date specified on the tag. If you need more time, see if your state allows you to file for an extension for your temp tags.
In most states, you can run a temp tag for up to 30 days. If you do not have your permanent plates with registration tag by this point, you may be subject to fines and penalties.
Can I Drive On An Expired Temp Tag?
Don’t ever attempt to drive a vehicle that has an expired temporary tag. It's illegal to drive a car without a valid license plate, so be sure to check the expiration dates of your temp tag before you drive your car..
Temporary Disabled Placard
A Temporary Disabled Placard (TDP) does not replace license plates or temporary tags. It accompanies them. The TDP is a removable windshield placard that allows the holder to park in disabled parking spaces. The disabled person parking placard must be used only when a physically disabled person is the occupant of the motor vehicle at the time of parking or when the physically disabled person is being dropped off or picked up. The placard must not be hung from the rearview mirror when driving the vehicle.
Placards are typically issued for a 3, 6, or 12-month period and are renewable. Depending on the state in which you reside, you may need to provide a physician's note or other documentation to renew your placard.
You should also be aware that many states have laws against misusing a disabled placard, which can result in fines or your placard being revoked.
How To Apply For a Temporary Disabled Placard
Applying for a temporary disabled placard is a simple process. First, you will need to obtain an application form from your local DMV office or from the DMV website.
Once you have the form, you will need to fill out your personal information and provide proof of disability. The disability can be verified with a doctor's note or by providing information about your condition on the form.
Once the form is complete, you will need to submit it to the DMV office along with payment for the placard fee. Once your application is processed, you will receive your placard in the mail.
How To Apply For a Replacement Temporary Disabled Placard?
If your Temporary Disabled Placard has been lost, stolen, mutilated, or destroyed, you may apply for a replacement Temporary Disabled Placard.
The process for applying for a replacement Temporary Disabled Placard is similar to the process for applying for an original placard. You will need to complete an application and have it signed by a licensed physician. You will also need to submit a $5 fee. The application can be submitted by mail or in person at your local DMV office.
Once your application has been processed, you will receive your new placard in the mail. If you have any questions about the replacement process, you can contact your local DMV office for assistance.
Sell Your Car With PrivateAuto
Temporary tags are an important part of the vehicle registration process. By following your state's guidelines, you can ensure a smooth and simple experience when using a temp tag. PrivateAuto offers a guided walk-through of the necessary paperwork for buyer and seller, making it easy to sell your car privately.
License Plate FAQ
Do Dealerships Issue Temporary Plates?
Vehicle dealers will usually issue you temporary plates. These plates are valid for a certain period of time, typically 30 days. In the meantime, you will need to obtain permanent plates from your local DMV office.
Even if you receive a temporary registration for a vehicle purchased through a dealership, be sure you double-check your local government requirements. Some states require that you finalize the process in person at your local DMV or another establishment.
Do temporary license plates have a grace period?
There is no grace period for temporary license plates. There is however a one month grace period after the expiration date to register your vehicle. Usually the vehicle owner registers the vehicle before the temporary plates expire. If however, the vehicle owner registers the vehicle after the grace period, the vehicle owner must pay a $25 late fee.
How to get a temporary license plate in Illinois?
In Illinois, to obtain a new license plate or get a temporary license plate for your vehicle, you need to submit an application to the Illinois Secretary of State's office. The application must include the driver's name, address, and driver's license number. Once your application has been processed, you will be issued a license plate which will be valid for up to 90 days.
For more information about how to get temporary license plates in Illinois, visit the Illinois Department of Motor Vehicle website.
How to get a temporary license plate in Texas?
To change your license plates or get a temp tag in Texas, the buyer must visit a Texas Department of Motor Vehicle office and bring the following documents: the vehicle's registration certificate, proof of insurance, and license or ID card. The buyer will also need to pay a fee of $5. After the temporary license plates have been issued, the buyer will need to affix it to the rear of the vehicle.
In Texas, new car buyers have the option of purchasing temporary license plates, which are valid for 30 days. This allows the buyer to drive the car while the permanent license plate is being processed.
For any questions regarding license plates, go to your local DMV office for assistance.
Is the temporary license plate number the same as the permanent one?
No, the temporary license plate number is not the same as the permanent one. The temporary license plate number is typically assigned at random and will not necessarily match the permanent plate number that will be issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles.
How much does a temporary tag cost in Texas?
In the state of Texas, a temporary tag costs $5. This is a one-time fee, and it is valid for 90 days. The temporary tag allows you to drive your vehicle while you wait for your permanent registration to be processed. You can apply for a temporary tag at your local county tax office. When you apply, you will need to provide proof of insurance that you met the insurance requirements (If you don’t have car insurance, get a quick quote here), a valid driver's license, and the registration fee. If you have any questions about the process, you can contact your local county tax office for more information.
Can I get a 30-day permit online in Texas?
At this time, the State of Texas does not offer the ability to purchase 30-day temporary operating permits online. The only way to purchase a 30-day permit is through a motor vehicle office or by mail.
30-day permits are available for customers who need a 30-day temporary registration due to the purchase of a new vehicle or the change of their vehicle's registration expiration date.
A 30-Day permit is valid for a period of 30 calendar days and expires on the date reflected on the permit. A 30-Day permit may be purchased up to 60 calendar days before its effective date.
You can purchase a 30-day permit at your local county Tax Assessor-Collector office, or at your local DMV Regional Service Center. To purchase a 30-day permit you must complete the Application for Timed Temporary Permits (Form VTR-66) along with the following documentation:
- Proof of insurance
- Proof of a passing vehicle safety inspection that is current for the duration of the permit
- Current government-issued photo identification
How do I get a temporary tag in Kansas?
In Kansas, if you have recently purchased a vehicle, you can apply for a temporary tag. This will allow you to operate your vehicle on public roads for up to 30 days while you wait for your official license plates to arrive.
To get a temporary vehicle tag, you will need to visit your local county treasurer's office and bring the following items: the car title or bill of sale, proof of insurance, and the appropriate fee. Once you have all the required documents, simply fill out a short application and pay the fee, and you'll be able to drive legally while you wait for your license plates.
Where can I get 20-day plates in NH?
To obtain a 20-day plate, you must visit a New Hampshire Department of Motor Vehicle office and provide proof of identity, residency, and insurance. You will also need to pay a fee of $10. Once your application is processed, you will be issued a 20-day registration sticker that must be placed on the rear license plate of your vehicle.
New Hampshire offers a 20-day temporary registration for non-residents who wish to operate a vehicle in the state for a limited period of time. This option is ideal for those who are moving to New Hampshire or who are visiting the state for an extended period.
What do you do with old license plates?
Old plates can be recycled or reused in a number of different ways.
If you’re wondering what to do with your old plates, one option is to simply send the old plates back to the DMV. In most states, the DMV will recycle the plates or sell them to a scrap metal dealer.
If your state allows it, you can sell your old license plate online. There are a number of websites that specialize in buying and selling collectible license plates.
Finally, you can take your old license plate to a recycling center. While you won't get any money for recycling the plate, you'll be doing your part to help the environment.
Is a farm vehicle required to have a license plate?
When it comes to license plates, agricultural and farm vehicles have a few different options. A farm vehicle can either have a standard license plate, or an agricultural license plate. Special farm plates are used for transporting farm crops or livestock bedding between the field and the barn or silo. The fee for the farm vehicle plate is around $20 dollars, and proof of insurance is needed.
Do motor carriers need a US DOT number for their plates?
A motor carrier is any company that operates motor vehicles for commercial purposes. The definition includes trucking companies, buses, and other types of commercial transport. Motor carriers are required to register their vehicles with the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Any business that operates a commercial vehicle transporting people or property in interstate commerce is required to register with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and to display their US DOT number on the vehicles they use. US DOT vinyl decals are a long-term option for displaying a US DOT number while being legally compliant on the road.