How to Easily Return Old License Plates: A Step-by-Step Guide

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To return old license plates, ensure they are no longer valid and visit your local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) office. At the DMV, inform them of your intention to return the plates and follow their instructions for the return process.

Introducing the process of returning old license plates is a simple and straightforward task that can be completed by visiting your local DMV office. If you have license plates that are no longer valid, taking the necessary steps to return them is important for various reasons.

Whether it is due to the expiration of your vehicle’s registration, transferring license plates to a new vehicle, or any other reason that renders the plates no longer needed, the DMV is the designated authority to handle their return. By visiting their office and following their instructions, you can easily return your old license plates and ensure they are properly taken care of.

Why Should You Return Old License Plates?

Returning old license plates is essential for several reasons. Firstly, it helps you avoid fines and penalties. Keeping expired or unused plates can lead to legal consequences and additional costs. Returning them promptly ensures compliance with regulations and saves you from any potential trouble.

Returning old license plates also prevents their illegal use. Once plates are no longer in your possession, they cannot be used by unauthorized individuals for fraudulent activities or criminal purposes. By returning them, you contribute to the overall security and integrity of the licensing system.

Moreover, returning old license plates is an environmentally responsible action. When plates are returned, they can be recycled and reused in the manufacturing of new plates. This not only helps conserve resources but also reduces the environmental impact of producing new plates from scratch. Recycling old license plates contributes to a more sustainable and eco-friendly society.

Step 1: Remove License Plates From Your Vehicle

Returning old license plates is a simple process that requires a few basic steps. The first step is to remove the license plates from your vehicle. To do this, gather the necessary tools such as a screwdriver or wrench, depending on how the plates are attached. Make sure to follow local regulations and guidelines while performing this task.

Once you have the tools ready, safely detach the license plates from your vehicle. This may involve removing screws or unscrewing bolts, depending on the attachment method. Take your time and be careful to avoid any damage to the plates or your vehicle.

Once the license plates are removed, you can then proceed with returning them as per the instructions provided by your local motor vehicle department. It’s important to follow these instructions closely to ensure a smooth and successful return process.

Step 2: Inspect License Plates For Damage

In the process of returning old license plates, it is crucial to inspect them for any damage. Assessing any cracks or bends is the first step in determining if the plates are still usable. Look out for any visible signs of damage that may affect their functionality or legality. If the plates are cracked or bent, it is likely that they need to be replaced. Consider your replacement options, such as getting new plates from the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) or ordering personalized plates. Make sure to follow the specific guidelines provided by the DMV and determine the necessary fees for replacement. It is important to ensure that your license plates are in good condition to comply with legal requirements and avoid any potential issues.

Step 3: Cancel Your Vehicle’S Registration

Canceling your vehicle’s registration is an important step when returning old license plates. To do so, you’ll need to contact your local DMV office. They will provide you with all the necessary information required for the cancellation process. It’s crucial to verify the registration cancellation to ensure that it has been successfully completed.

Step 4: Choose The Return Method

Mail-in Option

If you prefer the convenience of returning your old license plates through mail, this is a suitable option. Begin by securely packaging the license plates and include a note stating your request for plate return. Once properly packaged, you can **mail** them to your local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) office. Be sure to check your state’s DMV website for specific instructions and the correct mailing address. Remember to send them through a **reliable postal service that offers tracking**, so you can keep tabs on your package during transit.

Drop-off Locations

Some states provide designated **drop-off locations** where you can return your old license plates. Check your state’s DMV website or contact them to find out if this option is available. If it is, locate the nearest drop-off point and bring your old plates there. Ensure that the plates are **cleaned, free of debris** and not damaged before dropping them off. Following these steps will ensure a smooth and hassle-free license plate return process.

In-Person Return

For those who prefer face-to-face interaction, **an in-person return** is another viable option. Visit your local DMV office during their specified working hours. Bring your old license plates with you and inform the DMV staff that you wish to return them. They will guide you through the necessary steps to complete the return process. This option allows you to have any questions answered directly and receive immediate confirmation of the return.

How to Easily Return Old License Plates: A Step-by-Step Guide


Step 5: Prepare License Plates For Return

When preparing your license plates for return, it’s important to make sure they are clean and free from any stickers or decals. **Cleaning the plates** can be done using soap and water or a mild detergent. Scrub them gently to remove any dirt or grime, and then rinse them thoroughly. **Removing stickers or decals** requires some patience and a steady hand. Start by peeling off as much of the sticker or decal as possible by hand. For any stubborn residue, you can use a **plastic scraper** or a **non-abrasive cleaning solution** to help loosen it. Remember to be careful not to scratch the plates. Once the plates are clean and sticker-free, they should be **packaged securely** to prevent any damage during transit. This can be done by placing them in a padded envelope or wrapping them in bubble wrap before placing them in a sturdy box.

Step 6: Return License Plates

Returning your old license plates is a simple process that can be done either by mail or in person. If you choose to mail them, be sure to follow the instructions provided by your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). It is important to package the plates securely and include any necessary documentation.

If you prefer to return the plates in person, you can locate the nearest drop-off location through the DMV website or by contacting them directly. This option may be more convenient for some, as it eliminates the need to wait for mail delivery. Remember to bring any required identification and paperwork.

By following these steps, you can easily return your old license plates and ensure that they are properly dealt with by the DMV. Whether you choose to mail them in or drop them off in person, it’s important to comply with your state’s guidelines for returning license plates.

Step 7: Keep Evidence Of Plate Return

If you are returning old license plates, it is important to keep evidence of the plate return. There are a few ways you can do this. Firstly, if you are mailing the plates, make sure to keep a copy of the mailing receipt as proof. This receipt will show the date that the plates were sent back. Secondly, if you are dropping off the plates in person, try to obtain confirmation of the drop-off. This confirmation can be in the form of a signature or a receipt provided by the drop-off location. Lastly, if you are returning the plates in person, you can request a receipt for the in-person return. This receipt will also serve as evidence that the plates were returned. By keeping these pieces of evidence, you can have peace of mind knowing that you have proof of the plate return.

Step 8: Confirm Plate Return And Registration Cancellation

Step 8: Confirm Plate Return and Registration Cancellation

Once you have returned your old license plates, it is crucial to confirm the plate return status and ensure registration cancellation. This step will provide peace of mind knowing that your plates are properly accounted for and that you are no longer responsible for any associated fees or penalties.

Check with your local DMV

Contact your local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to inquire about the status of your plate return. They will be able to verify if the plates have been received and processed. This step will help you avoid any potential issues or misunderstandings regarding the return.

Confirm plate return status

It is essential to double-check if the plates have been successfully returned and cleared from your name. This confirmation will ensure that you are no longer liable for any future incidents or violations associated with those plates.

Ensure registration cancellation

Lastly, make sure to confirm that the registration for the vehicle connected to the old license plates has been properly canceled. This step will prevent any confusion or complications down the line and ensure a smooth transition in registering a new vehicle or obtaining new plates.

Step 9: Additional Considerations

After returning your old license plates, there are a few additional considerations to keep in mind. Firstly, it’s important to update your insurance policies to reflect the changes. Contact your insurance provider to inform them of the plate return and ensure that your car is still adequately covered.

Secondly, it’s advisable to keep proof of the plate return for future reference. This could be a receipt or an acknowledgment from the DMV. Having documentation can help you in case any issues arise in the future.

Lastly, make sure you understand any future obligations regarding license plates. Some states may require you to surrender your plates annually or when you sell your vehicle. Being aware of these requirements will help you avoid any penalties or violations.

Frequently Asked Questions Of How To Return Old License Plates

Can I Return Old License Plates To The Dmv?

Yes, you can return old license plates to the DMV. Simply bring them to your local DMV office and they will take care of disposing of them properly.

What Should I Do With Old License Plates?

When you no longer need your old license plates, you can return them to the DMV or destroy them yourself. Make sure to follow your state’s regulations for disposing of old license plates.

Can I Recycle Old License Plates?

Yes, in most cases, you can recycle old license plates. Check with your local recycling center to see if they accept metal materials like license plates for recycling.

How Do I Return Old License Plates By Mail?

To return old license plates by mail, you will need to follow the specific instructions provided by your state’s DMV. Generally, you will need to include a letter requesting the cancellation of your registration and provide your contact information.


Returning old license plates is a simple and responsible way to contribute to environmental sustainability and comply with state regulations. By following the steps outlined in this blog post, you can ensure that your old license plates are safely disposed of and possibly even recycled.

Remember, returning your old license plates is a small action that can make a big difference in reducing waste and protecting our planet. Don’t forget to always check your state’s specific requirements for returning license plates!

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