Do You Have To Return License Plates In VA?

In Virginia, the process of returning license plates is an essential aspect of vehicle registration and de-registration. Whether you’re moving out of state, selling your vehicle, or simply canceling your registration, understanding the requirements regarding license plate return is crucial to avoid potential fines or penalties. 

This article will delve into the regulations governing license plate returns in Virginia and provide a comprehensive guide on what you need to know.

Requirements for License Plate Return

When it comes to returning license plates in Virginia, the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) outlines specific requirements that vehicle owners must adhere to. Understanding these requirements is essential to ensure compliance with state laws and regulations. Here are the key points you need to know:

Cancellation of Vehicle Registration

   If you are canceling your vehicle’s registration in Virginia, you are generally required to return your license plates to the DMV. This applies in various situations, including when you sell your vehicle, move out of state, or no longer need the plates for any reason.

  • License plates must be returned to the DMV within a specified timeframe after the registration is canceled.
  • Failure to return license plates within the designated period may result in penalties or fines.

Moving Out of State

Moving Out of State

When relocating to another state, Virginia residents are typically required to surrender their license plates to the DMV. This ensures that the plates are not used fraudulently or unlawfully after the owner has moved out of state.

  • Upon moving out of state, license plates should be returned to the DMV either in person or by mail.
  • Some states may require proof of plate surrender from Virginia before issuing new plates.

Selling Your Vehicle

If you sell your vehicle in Virginia, you must remove the license plates before transferring ownership to the buyer. The plates should then be returned to the DMV, even if you plan to transfer them to another vehicle you own.

  • When selling a vehicle, it’s essential to complete the necessary paperwork to notify the DMV of the sale and cancel the registration.
  • Returning the license plates promptly helps prevent any misuse of the plates after the sale.

How to Return License Plates

Returning license plates to the DMV in Virginia is a relatively straightforward process. Depending on your circumstances, you can choose the method that is most convenient for you. Here are the options available:

In-Person Return

  •  You can return your license plates to any DMV customer service center or DMV Select office in person.
  • Simply bring the license plates along with any required documentation, such as a registration cancellation notice or a bill of sale if applicable.

Return by Mail

  • If you are unable to visit a DMV office in person, you can mail your license plates to the DMV.
  • Enclose the license plates in a sturdy envelope or package and include any necessary documentation.
  • Mail the package to the address provided by the DMV for plate returns. ‘Can You Tint Your License Plate?’

Online Return (If Applicable)

  • Some states offer online services for license plate returns, allowing vehicle owners to complete the process remotely.
  • Check the Virginia DMV website to see if online plate return services are available and follow the instructions provided.

Penalties for Non-Compliance

Penalties for Non-Compliance
Penalty TypeDescription
Late FeesAdditional charges imposed for failure to return license plates on time.
Registration HoldsHolds placed on vehicle registration due to non-compliance.
Legal ConsequencesPotential fines, citations, or legal action for misuse of plates.
Vehicle ImpoundmentExtreme consequence where vehicle may be impounded for non-compliance.
License SuspensionSuspension of driving privileges for failure to comply with plate return.

Failure to comply with license plate return regulations in Virginia can result in various penalties, including late fees, registration holds, and even legal consequences such as fines or license suspension. It’s crucial to adhere to the state’s requirements to avoid such penalties and maintain legal compliance.


What happens if I don’t return my license plates in Virginia?

If you don’t return your license plates in Virginia, you may face late fees, registration holds, or legal consequences.

Can I return my license plates online?

In Virginia, online services for license plate return may be available, so check the DMV website for options.

How long do I have to return my license plates after canceling registration?

You typically have a specified timeframe to return your license plates after canceling your registration in Virginia.


Returning license plates in Virginia is a necessary step when canceling vehicle registration, moving out of state, or selling a vehicle. By understanding the state’s requirements and following the appropriate procedures, vehicle owners can ensure compliance with the law and avoid potential penalties. 

Whether returning plates in person, by mail, or through online services where available, it’s essential to complete the process in a timely manner to prevent any issues with the DMV. 

Adhering to license plate return regulations not only helps maintain legal compliance but also contributes to road safety and accountability in vehicle ownership.

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