How To Get a Temporary License Plate

Temporary license plates are used to identify a vehicle until a permanent license plate is issued. 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.

Temporary Plate Standards and Durability

In October 2020, the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA) updated its 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.
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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 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. You could face fines, imprisonment, or both.

How To Get a Temporary Tag

To get a temporary license plate, you'll need to contact your state's DMV with paperwork that demonstrates you’re the new owner of the car.

You'll need to fill out an application for a temporary tag. 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 tag is…temporary, so be sure to get your passenger license plate before the temp expires.

What Paperwork Do I Need to Get a Temporary Tag?

In most states, required documentation will include the following:

Your vehicle's Certificate of Title, signed over to you by the car’s previous owner
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, multiple forms of identification, or a bill of sale.

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 over to you by the seller
A bill of sale (or photocopy of same) that includes 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 Third Party Apply for a Temp Tag?

If someone other than the car owner tries to get a temp tag and registration, they’ll need to show a notarized letter from the owner authorizing the third party. The third party must also provide proof of identity.

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 car's weight, value, or year. 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 local 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.
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License Plate FAQ

Do temporary license plates have a grace period?

There is no grace period for expired temporary license plates. Make sure to register the vehicle before the temporary plates expire.

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