How To Return Virginia License Plates?

Returning Virginia license plates is an essential step when you no longer require them, whether due to a vehicle sale, disposal, or any other reason. Properly returning license plates ensures compliance with state regulations and helps prevent potential misuse or identity theft. 

Here’s a comprehensive guide on how to return Virginia license plates, outlining the necessary steps and important considerations.

Understanding the Importance of Returning License Plates

Returning license plates in Virginia is more than just a formality; it’s a legal requirement with several significant implications:

Preventing Misuse: Surrendering license plates prevents unauthorized use of them, reducing the risk of identity theft or fraudulent activities associated with the plates.

Avoiding Penalties: Failure to return license plates promptly may result in penalties or fines imposed by the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

Maintaining Compliance: Returning license plates ensures compliance with state laws and regulations regarding vehicle registration and ownership changes.

Implications of Not Returning License Plates

Implications of Not Returning License Plates

Failure to return license plates in Virginia can lead to various consequences, including:

Fines and Penalties: The DMV may impose fines or penalties for non-compliance.

Liability Concerns: Unused license plates might be misused, potentially leading to legal liabilities for the previous owner.

Registration Renewal Issues: Unresolved license plate matters can hinder future vehicle registration or renewal processes.

How to Return Virginia License Plates

Returning license plates in Virginia is a straightforward process, typically involving the following steps:

Remove License Plates

Carefully remove the license plates from the vehicle. Use a screwdriver or appropriate tools to detach them securely.

Clean Plates (Optional)

While not mandatory, cleaning the license plates before returning them can help ensure clarity and legibility.

Complete Surrender Form

Obtain a license plate surrender form from the Virginia DMV website or your local DMV office. Fill out the form accurately, providing essential details such as your name, address, vehicle information, and reason for surrender.

Destroy or Deface Plates

Following the guidelines provided by the DMV, destroy or deface the license plates to render them unusable. This might involve bending, cutting, or perforating the plates to prevent misuse.

Submit Plates and Form

Mail the completed surrender form along with the destroyed or defaced license plates to the Virginia DMV office address specified on the form. Ensure proper postage and consider using certified mail for tracking purposes.

Confirmation of Receipt

Upon receiving your surrendered license plates, the Virginia DMV will send a confirmation acknowledging the return. Keep this confirmation for your records as proof of compliance. If you’re wondering, ‘Does Wisconsin Require Front License Plate?‘ the answer is yes, Wisconsin does require a front license plate on vehicles.

Tips for Returning License Plates

Tips for Returning License Plates
Double-Check InformationReview surrender form for accuracy before submission.
Use Secure PackagingEnsure license plates are securely packaged for mailing.
Retain Proof of ReturnKeep copies of all correspondence as proof of plate return.
Check Mailing AddressVerify the correct mailing address for the Virginia DMV office.
Follow GuidelinesAdhere to DMV guidelines for destroying or defacing license plates.

Following these tips can streamline the license plate return process and ensure compliance with Virginia DMV regulations.


How can I ensure the surrender form is filled out correctly?

Ensure accuracy by double-checking all information before submission.

Do I need to clean the license plates before returning them?

While not mandatory, it’s advisable to clean them for clarity.

What should I do if I’m unsure about the mailing address for the DMV office?

Verify the correct address with the Virginia DMV to avoid misdelivery.

Can I return license plates in person instead of mailing them?

Yes, some DMV locations accept in-person plate returns.

Is there a deadline for returning license plates after selling my vehicle?

Return plates promptly to avoid penalties, there’s no specific deadline mentioned.


Returning Virginia license plates is a simple yet crucial process that helps maintain compliance with state regulations and safeguards against potential misuse or identity theft. 

By following the outlined steps and tips, vehicle owners can ensure a smooth and hassle-free plate surrender process. Remember to promptly return license plates when no longer needed to avoid penalties and maintain a clear record of vehicle ownership.

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