Do I Need to Return License Plates in New York?

Posted on 
May 13, 2024
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When you buy a new car and decide to trade in the one you have for credit towards the purchase price, you can keep your existing New York license plates or get new ones. Though most tend to just get new ones, you can transfer both the registration and vehicle plates to another vehicle you own.  

However, if you choose not to transfer your plates, or if you are moving out of state, you must return your plates to the New York DMV

This guide will explain how to do this, and why it is important so you can avoid getting a license plate ticket

Do You Have to Return Your License Plates?

If you decide not to transfer your New York license plates, you must return them. If you are moving out of state, you also must surrender them. In fact, if you don’t, you won't be able to insure your vehicle in another state. That’s because once you replace your New York State insurance coverage with out-of-state insurance, New York will suspend your registration – and may suspend your driver's license as well. 

New York will also cancel your state liability insurance. Even if you live in New York and plan on moving nearby to New Jersey, the plates must be returned to a New York DMV and not a New Jersey DMV, because the New Jersey agency does not accept out-of-state plates. This is the case for other states too.

Penalties for Not Returning License Plates 

In the state of New York, if you do not return your license plates before the end of the vehicle's liability insurance coverage, the state can suspend your registration and your driver's license. This could hamper your ability to obtain a license in another state. To prevent this from happening, make sure your plates are returned as soon as possible. 

While there are no fines and financial penalties for not turning in license plates in New York, you could face other penalties. In particular, if you do not return your license plates but let your auto insurance lapse, civil penalties for not having liability insurance could be assessed. These charges are $8 per day for the first 30 days of lapse in insurance, $10 per day for days 31-60, and $12 per day thereafter. This can really add up, so it is important to notify the DMV you are no longer driving the vehicle by returning or transferring the plates to a new insured vehicle.

How to Return License Plates in New York

In the State of New York, you may return license plates by mail or in person at a state DMV office. Return by mail is a 4-step process:

  1. Make sure your address is current because the state will be mailing you a plate surrender receipt.
  2. Remove the plates and stickers from your vehicle.
  3. Complete the plate surrender application (PD-7).
  4. Mail the application with your plates in an envelope.

When returning plates by mail, use a sturdy envelope like a standard letter cardboard mailer from the post office, as you don’t want the envelope to rip and any part of the package to be lost in transit.  

If you opt to return your New York license plates in person, you must do the following:

  1. Remove the plates and stickers from your vehicle.
  2. Complete the PD-7 application.
  3. Bring the plates and PD-7 application to a DMV office.

There is no appointment required to surrender plates to the DMV, but you should be prepared to wait. Once you reach the front of the line, the process to surrender your plates will be simple and quick if you have already completed the PD-7 application. The best time to go to the DMV is first thing in the morning when they open. 

How to Transfer Plates to a New Vehicle

If you are staying in the state of New York and getting a new vehicle, you can transfer them to the new vehicle instead of returning them. This is a simple process.

  1. Complete the Application for Registration/Title form MV-82. 
  2. Check the box in the application to transfer plates.
  3. Take the application, proof of ownership, proof of identity, and current insurance ID card to the DMV. 
  4. Pay the licensing fees.
  5. Transfer the plates to the new vehicle.

When you go to the DMV, tell them you are transferring the plates from an old vehicle to a new one. The DMV associate will transfer the registration in the system. 

If Plates are Lost, Stolen, or Destroyed

If plates are lost, stolen, or destroyed and cannot be returned to the DMV, there is another process that must be followed. 

  1. Call or visit your local police department. They will complete a Certification of Lost License, Permit or Plates form MV-78B. This form is only available from law enforcement.
  2. Take the police report, the form MV-78B, and the registration to the DMV to surrender them. 
  3. Alternatively, one can mail the form and registration to the DMV.

If the police department will not provide the form, you must complete the Certification of Lost License, Permit or Plates form MV-1441.3 and disclose the date you requested the police report and the police department that refused to provide the MV-78B form. This form and the registration must be surrendered to the DMV.


Why would you need to return your license plates?

Some reasons you might need to return your license plates are if you are moving out of the state, or if you are purchasing a new vehicle. 

In what ways can you return your license plates?

You can return your plates by mailing them to the New York DMV or taking them to one of their offices and giving them to a representative there.

What is a PD-7 form?

A PD-7 form is an application that must be completed in order to surrender license plates in the state of New York, whether by mail or in person.

What happens if I don’t turn in my license plates after moving out of state?

The New York DMV will suspend your vehicle registration and driver’s license if you do not return your plates. Even if you are moving out of state, you must return your plates. If your driver’s license or registration is suspended in New York, it will pose problems when you try to get a license and registration in another state. 

Can I keep my New York license plates if I move to New Jersey and commute to New York?

No. You must return your license plates to the New York DMV and register your vehicle in New Jersey where you now live. You will also need to get a new driver’s license from the New Jersey DMV.

Can I turn in New York license plates to AAA in New York?

No. You must surrender your license plates to a New York DMV office in person or by mail as described above.

Do I need to surrender motorcycle plates?

It is not necessary to surrender motorcycle plates. However, the motorcycle must be registered and insured if you are riding it.

Do I need to surrender trailer plates?

It is necessary to surrender trailer plates even if your trailer is not required to be insured. If the trailer does not have an active registration in New York, the plates must be surrendered.

Author Bio

Adam H. Rosenblum

Founding Attorney Of Rosenblum Law

Adam H. Rosenblum is an experienced and skilled traffic violations and criminal defense attorney. Mr. Rosenblum provides expert and aggressive representation to those facing points on their drivers’ licenses and the associated fines and surcharges.

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