How to get temporary license plates

Updated April 17, 2017

When you purchase a car, your number plates may not immediately be available. In this instance, the state will issue you temporary number plates. These plates, often made of paper, are usually valid for 30 to 40 days, or until your actual number plates arrive. In most instances, when you purchase a new car from a dealer they take care of issuing you temporary number plates. However, if you purchase a car from a private individual, you may need to get the plates yourself from your local Department of Motor Vehicles.

Contact your insurance company and let them know you've bought a new car. In most instances, they will be able to transfer your insurance policy over for you.

Go to your local Department of Motor Vehicles. In many instances, you can schedule an appointment.

Apply for a temporary number plate when you register your car. In most instances, this will require proof of insurance, the vehicle title, and a bill of sale indicating sales tax was paid on the vehicle.

Pay any applicable fees. Most states require a nominal fee for temporary plates.

Display your temporary tag prominently on your vehicle. This could be taped facing outward of the rear window, or secured firmly in the number plate frame.


Be prepared to show proof that sales tax was paid, or be prepared to pay sales tax before you get your temporary plates.


Each state has different laws regarding temporary plate requirements. Always check with your state's Department of Motor Vehicles for specifics. Do not attempt to drive a car without number plates. In most states, this warrants a heavy fine.

Things You'll Need

  • Vehicle Title
  • Bill of Sale
  • Proof of Insurance
  • Applicable Fees
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About the Author

Todd Campitelli has been a writer for over 11 years and has been writing on all topics from health care to education for websites all across the World Wide Web. He earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts in film and television production from New York University and is currently working on a master's degree in entertainment business.