What Size Trailer Requires A License Plate In NC?

In North Carolina (NC), trailers are subject to specific regulations regarding license plates based on their size and purpose. Understanding these regulations is crucial for trailer owners to ensure compliance with state laws. Let’s delve into the details of what size trailer requires a license plate in NC.

Trailer License Plate Requirements in NC

In North Carolina, trailers must be registered and display a license plate if they meet certain criteria. The North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles (NCDMV) oversees the registration and titling of trailers in the state. The key factors determining whether a trailer requires a license plate include its weight, size, and purpose.

Weight Thresholds

In NC, trailers are generally categorized based on their weight. The weight thresholds set by the NCDMV determine whether a trailer needs to be registered and display a license plate. Here’s an overview of the weight thresholds:

Under 4,000 Pounds: Trailers weighing less than 4,000 pounds are exempt from license plate requirements but may still need to be registered.

4,000 Pounds or More: Trailers with a gross weight of 4,000 pounds or more are required to be registered and display a license plate.

Size Considerations

Size Considerations

Apart from weight, the size of the trailer also plays a role in determining whether it needs a license plate in NC. Size alone may not be the sole factor. Trailers falling within certain size parameters but exceeding weight thresholds may still require registration and license plates.

Types of Trailers Requiring License Plates

Certain types of trailers are typically required to display license plates regardless of their weight or size. These include:

Utility Trailers: Trailers used for hauling equipment, ATVs, lawn mowers, or other similar purposes usually require registration and license plates.

Boat Trailers: Trailers designed for transporting boats are typically subject to registration and license plate requirements. Owners often encounter confusion over what constitutes a dead license plate.

Travel Trailers and Campers: Larger recreational trailers used for camping or travel purposes are generally required to be registered and display license plates.

Exceptions and Special Cases

Exceptions and Special Cases

There are some exceptions and special cases to consider when it comes to trailer license plate requirements in NC. These may include:

Farm Trailers: Trailers exclusively used for agricultural purposes on private property may be exempt from registration and license plate requirements.

Temporary Permits: In certain situations, such as transporting a newly purchased trailer, owners may obtain temporary permits allowing them to transport the trailer without a permanent license plate.

Out-of-State Trailers: Trailers registered in another state but temporarily operated in North Carolina may be subject to different regulations. It’s essential to check the specific requirements for out-of-state trailers.

Registration Process

DocumentationGather proof of ownership and required paperwork.
ApplicationComplete registration application form.
InspectionSome trailers may require inspection.
Fees PaymentPay registration fees.
Plate IssuanceReceive license plate upon approval.

Once you complete all steps, you will officially register the trailer and it will be ready for use on North Carolina roads.

Penalties for Non-Compliance

  • Failure to register a trailer or display a required license plate can result in fines.
  • Penalties may include citations and potential legal consequences.
  • Owners may face additional fees for late registration or non-compliance.
  • Law enforcement may impound trailers found to be in violation of registration laws.
  • Repeat offenders could face increased penalties and suspension of driving privileges.


Is registration required for all trailers in North Carolina?

In general, trailers weighing 4,000 pounds or more, or used for specific purposes like hauling or recreation, generally require registration.

Are there exceptions to the trailer registration requirement?

Certain trailers used exclusively for agricultural purposes on private property may be exempt from registration.

What happens if I fail to register my trailer or display a license plate?

Failure to comply with registration requirements may result in penalties, fines, and potential legal consequences.


In North Carolina, the requirement for a trailer to display a license plate depends on factors such as weight, size, and purpose. Smaller trailers may exempt license plate requirements, but typically, larger trailers and those used for specific purposes such as hauling or recreation need registration and must display license plates.

Understanding these regulations is vital for trailer owners to ensure compliance with state laws and avoid potential penalties.

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