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What to Do With License Plates After You Sell Your Car

What to Do With License Plates After You Sell Your Car
Table of Contents

Selling your car is an exciting time. Whether you’re simply making space in the driveway or you’re planning to buy a new vehicle, finding the right buyer fills you with a sense of accomplishment for a job well done. However, there are specific steps you need to take to ensure you’re no longer responsible for the car when the new buyer takes it away. For example, it’s important to know exactly what to do with your license plates after you get rid of your vehicle.

Your license plate is connected with your car’s registration and declares you the owner of the vehicle. To protect yourself from liability, it’s vital to remove the license plate before your car is out of your possession.

License Plates and Selling Your Vehicle

Today’s technology offers up a variety of ways for vehicle owners to sell a car directly to another buyer. When the right driver comes along and falls in love with your used car, you’ll need to take steps to legally transfer ownership. You’ll likely need to visit the RMV to conduct a title transfer. It’s also a good idea to provide a bill of sale to the buyer that includes the following information:

  • Year and make of the vehicle
  • Vehicle Identification Number (VIN)
  • Date of sale
  • Purchase price
  • Legal full names and signatures of the buyer and seller

After the title transfer, remove the license plates before you part ways with the buyer. Once the sale is complete, cancel your registration online or at a Massachusetts RMV office as soon as possible. After turning in your plate, contact your insurance agent to discontinue auto insurance on your old vehicle and add a new car to the policy if applicable.

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Junking Your Vehicle

If you’ve been in an accident, your vehicle might be totaled and not worth selling. Sometimes, old cars simply have little value or have major mechanical problems like a blown motor or damaged transmission. In such a case, you might choose to have your car towed to a junkyard, where it will most likely be crushed. While this seems like a different situation, your license plate still has the same function. It identifies you as the owner of the car.

As soon as your car is out of your possession, you have no control over what happens with the license plate. To be safe, it’s a good idea to consider license removal as a part of preparing your vehicle for the junkyard. Take a few minutes to remove the license plate when you take your personal possessions out of the car.

Returning a Leased Vehicle

When you return a leased vehicle to the dealership, you’re still responsible for the items that belong to you. This includes the license plate. Before you return your leased car, make sure you have everything that came with the vehicle, including the second set of keys, cargo covers, spare tires, the original floor mats, and third-row seats. Remove all your possessions from the car, and take off the license plate.

Transferring License Plates to a New Vehicle

If selling your car corresponds with the purchase of a new or used vehicle, you may choose to keep your license plate and transfer it to the new vehicle. Massachusetts allows a grace period of 7 days from the date you dispose of a vehicle to register your new vehicle.

To transfer the plates from your old vehicle to the new one, you must meet certain conditions.

  • You must be at least 18 years old.
  • The new vehicle must be the same type and have the same number of wheels.
  • You must carry the transfer documents to prove the registration transfer.
  • The registration plates must be attached to the new vehicle.

It’s important to remember that the 7-day grace period begins when you transfer the title of your old car to a new buyer, not when you purchase a new car.

Auto Insurance

In Massachusetts, all drivers are required to register vehicles with the state and purchase compulsory auto insurance coverage. To ensure that drivers comply with state insurance laws, drivers must turn in their license plates before canceling their auto insurance policy. When transferring a vehicle’s ownership, it is the buyer’s responsibility to properly register and insure the car before driving on state roads.

Leaving your license plate on the car could make you liable for the actions of another driver. Auto insurance is designed to keep all drivers safe. Unfortunately, some drivers try to avoid the cost of this vital part of car ownership. As a result, the process of registering and insuring your vehicle can seem unnecessarily complex.

If you’re planning to transfer ownership of a vehicle, it’s a good idea to contact a local independent insurance agent like LoPriore Insurance Agency. Get in touch with our friendly team today to learn about the details of auto insurance in Massachusetts.

Top FAQs 

car with license plates driving down the highway
Honda cruising on the highway

Do I Have to Visit the DMV to Return My License Plate?

Visiting your local DMV office is only one way to dispose of your old license plate. You can return it by mail, recycle it, or chop it up and discard it on your own.

Where Can I Recycle My License Plate in Massachusetts?

Most metal recycling centers will accept aluminum license plates. You can recycle your old plates at these Massachusetts recycling centers: Cambridge Recycling Center, Watertown Recycling Center, and Devens Recycling Center. Chop up license plates and remove tags and screws before licensing.

Do I Have to Do Anything Before Recycling My License Plate?

If you don’t plan to return your plates to the DMV, you can cancel them online before recycling. You can cancel your plates at the RMV Plate Return. You’ll need to provide an email address, your plate type and number, your license number, and the last four digits of your SSN.

What if I Sell My Car to Someone Living in Another State?

No matter where the buyer is located, it’s your responsibility to take care of your license plate by following local laws. Remove the license plate when the sale is complete, and cancel your registration.

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