Can You Throw Away Old License Plates? – A Practical Guide on Disposing License Plates

Last updated on April 8, 2024

No, you should not throw away old license plates as they need to be properly recycled or returned to the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Key takeaways:

  • De-identify plates before disposal to prevent misuse.
  • Check state guidelines for returning or recycling plates.
  • Get a receipt when returning plates to the DMV.
  • If allowed, securely dispose of plates in the trash.
  • Consider selling old plates online to collectors.
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Disposal of Vehicle Plates

When the time comes to dispose of vehicle plates, it’s crucial to handle them properly to prevent identity theft or illegal use. Here are some essential points to consider:

1. De-Identification: Prior to disposal, deface or cut the plates to render any identifying numbers or letters unreadable. This helps to prevent any potential misuse.

2. Follow State Guidelines: Check with your local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) for specific instructions, as some states require plates to be returned or may have special recycling programs.

3. Documentation: If you’re returning plates to the DMV, make sure to get a receipt. This could be important for cancelling insurance or proving the plates are no longer in your possession if there are future disputes.

4. Safe Disposal: If your state allows you to discard plates, ensure they are placed in a secure, opaque bag to protect your personal information before putting them in the trash.

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Destroy Old License Plates Yourself

Before you take a set of tin snips or a drill to your old metal tags, ensure you’re aware of your state’s regulations. Personalized or not, these identifiers carry personal information that should be rendered unreadable to protect against potential misuse.

Start by scratching or defacing the numbers and letters. This makes it more difficult for someone to attempt to use them illegally. Take it a step further by cutting the plates into pieces, but be careful as the edges can be sharp. If you opt for drilling, focus on the plate’s corners and any characters to disrupt its usability. Dispose of the pieces in separate recycling bins or trash bags, so they’re not likely to be found and pieced together. Always wear protective gloves to safeguard against injury during the process.

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Send Old Plates Back To The DMV

Many states require that you return your old license plates to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) when your registration is canceled or your vehicle is sold. The reasons for this are twofold: accountability and recycling. It ensures that the plates are accounted for and not used for illicit purposes, and the DMV can recycle or dispose of them properly.

Before sending plates back, check with your local DMV for the correct procedure. They may provide envelopes or require you to drop them off in person. Additionally, consider:

  • Ensuring any stickers or decals are removed to protect your personal information.
  • Checking if you need to complete any forms or notifications to accompany your plates.
  • Verifying whether you may be eligible for a registration refund upon submitting your plates.

Remember, proper return of license plates helps prevent identity theft and keeps unregistered plates out of circulation.

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Sell Your Plates Online

If your license plates are in good condition, or better yet, collectible, consider selling them online. Collectors and craft enthusiasts often seek out vintage or unique plates. Platforms like eBay or Etsy are frequented by such collectors.

When listing plates for sale:

  • Clean them up, but maintain their original patina if they’re vintage.
  • Take clear, high-resolution photos from multiple angles.
  • Include details about the plate’s history, if known.
  • Set a reasonable price based on completed listings for similar plates.
  • Be transparent about any wear and tear.

Remember, always check with your local DMV about regulations regarding the sale of license plates, as some states may have restrictions or require deactivation before sale.

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Refunds And Transfer Credits For Surrendered Plates

Before tossing out those old license plates, it’s worth investigating if your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) offers refunds or transfer credits for surrendered plates. Although policies vary by state, some DMVs allow you to recoup a portion of unused registration fees when you return your plates.

Here’s what you need to keep in mind:

  • Check Eligibility: Visit your state’s DMV website or give them a call to confirm if they offer such a program and determine your eligibility for a refund or credit.
  • Timing Matters: Often, there’s a window period for claiming refunds after the registration expiration date, so act promptly.
  • Proper Documentation: Have your registration documents ready. You’ll likely need to fill out specific forms to apply for a refund or credit.
  • Consider Transferring: Instead of a refund, you might be able to transfer the remaining credit to a new vehicle if you’re switching cars.
  • Keep Receipts: After surrendering your plates, ensure you receive a receipt. This serves as proof for your refund or credit application.
  • Follow Up: Stay proactive post-submission. If you don’t hear back within the expected timeframe, reach out to your DMV for a status update.
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What Are License Plates Made Of?

License plates are typically crafted from aluminum, which boasts the dual advantage of being lightweight and resistant to corrosion. The reflective nature of plates is due to a special coating that enhances visibility, especially crucial for nighttime identification. Some regions may also integrate a thin layer of plastic or a protective laminate to guard against weathering and wear.

It’s crucial to note that the materials used often make license plates entirely recyclable. The beauty of aluminum is that it doesn’t lose its properties during recycling, thus it can be reused in numerous products, effectively reducing waste and the demand for raw materials.

The durable construction of license plates means they can endure for many years, but it also requires responsible disposal to ensure the materials are properly reclaimed and repurposed when their road duty ends.

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Recycle License Plates

Recycling license plates is a smart and eco-friendly way to handle these metal tags once they’ve served their purpose. Typically made from aluminum, a highly recyclable material, plates can often be taken to a local recycling center.

Before doing so, remove any stickers and bend the plates to prevent them from being reused illegally. Some centers may request that you cut the plates into smaller pieces for safety reasons. Always check with your recycling facility beforehand, as they might have specific guidelines or not accept them.

By recycling, you’re contributing to the circular economy, ensuring the metal is melted down and repurposed, reducing waste and conserving resources.

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Craft Something New Out Of Your Old License Plates

Repurposing retired license plates into crafts offers a fusion of creativity and sustainability. Their sturdy material allows for reimagining in several crafty ways:

  • Wall Art: Slice and dice plates to create eye-catching mosaic pieces or keep them whole for a vintage wall display.
  • Birdhouses: Construct quirky shelters for feathered friends that are as durable as they are decorative.
  • Storage Bins Labels: Cut into small tags for an industrial touch on bins or baskets, perfect for the organized DIY enthusiast.
  • Jewelry: Fashion pieces like bracelets or belt buckles for an eclectic accessory twist.
  • Furniture Accents: Embed plates into tables or chairs for an unexpected pop of personality.

Embrace the scratches and weathering, as these imperfections add character to your creations. This is a clever way to reduce waste while infusing your space with a slice of history and your own artistic spirit.

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State Specific Rules for Plate Disposal

Each state has unique regulations governing the surrender and disposal of old license plates. For instance:

  • In California, license plates remain with the vehicle upon transfer of ownership, whereas in Texas, plates are transferred with the seller, not the vehicle.
  • New York requires individuals to surrender their plates to the DMV before canceling insurance on a vehicle, or they risk a suspension of their registration and driver’s license.
  • Florida permits the recycling of old plates after they’ve been defaced or rendered unusable.

Due to these variations, it’s essential to consult your local DMV for specific guidelines. Some states may fine you for improper disposal, while others encourage responsible recycling practices. Before taking any action, check:

  • State DMV websites for disposal instructions.
  • If plates must be returned to the DMV in person or can be mailed.
  • Whether there are drop-off locations for old plates.
  • If defacing plates is recommended or required for security reasons.

Adhering to your state’s rules ensures you’re in compliance with local laws and helps prevent identity theft or fraudulent use of your old plates.

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Where to Drop Off Old License Plates?

Once you’ve decided to dispose of your old license plates, finding the appropriate drop-off location is key for ensuring they’re handled correctly.

Generally, Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) offices are the primary facilities that accept surrendered plates, offering a secure way to decommission them.

In some states, local recycling centers are also equipped to process old plates, provided they meet recycling standards.

Additionally, certain auto-related businesses, such as vehicle registration services or auto clubs, might offer this service as a convenience to customers.

Check with your local DMV online or your city’s waste management resources to find the nearest suitable site for relinquishing old license plates.

Remember, always look for official guidance to stay compliant with state regulations regarding license plate disposal.

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Do you have to return license plates in Ohio?

In Ohio, one is required to return old license plates by mailing them to a local DMV licensing office or visiting the DMV in person.

What can I do with my old license plates in Illinois?

In Illinois, old license plates can be rendered unusable by bending, removing and destroying stickers, and recycled by returning them in-person to the local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) offices, where recycling bins are provided.

How do I dispose of old license plates in Texas?

To properly dispose of old license plates in Texas, you can surrender them at your local county tax office or at the nearest Texas Department of Motor Vehicles Regional Service Center where they will be recycled correctly.

What is the correct method of recycling old license plates in New York?

In New York, old license plates can be recycled by bringing them to the local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), where they will be properly disposed of or recycled.

How can obsolete license plates be repurposed creatively in California?

Obsolete license plates in California can be repurposed creatively through projects like wall art, room dividers, and key-chain holders.

What are the consequences of improper disposal of license plates in Florida?

Improper disposal of license plates in Florida can potentially lead to identity theft, illegal activities, littering, and adverse environmental impacts.

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