What To Do With Old License Plates New York?

New York State, with its vibrant cities and picturesque landscapes, sees countless vehicles plying its roads every day. With the number of vehicles registered, it’s no surprise that a significant number of license plates are retired annually. 

Whether you’re a resident who recently updated your plates, a collector of vintage designs, or someone who found a stack of old plates in the garage, you might wonder what to do with these old license plates. Here’s a comprehensive guide on handling old license plates in New York.

Return to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV)

Returning old license plates to the DMV is one of the easiest ways to get rid of them in New York. If you are giving up driving your car or canceling your insurance, the DMV demands that you turn in your license plates. In order to prevent any possible liability concerns, this step is essential.

Locate Your Nearest DMV Office: Visit the New York State DMV website to find the closest office.

Prepare Your Plates: Remove any stickers and ensure the plates are clean.

 Visit the DMV: Bring your plates and any necessary paperwork, like your vehicle registration and a form of identification.

Receive Confirmation: The DMV will provide a receipt confirming that the plates were surrendered. Keep this receipt for your records.

Recycle the Plates

Recycle the Plates

The most common material used to make license plates is aluminum, which is recyclable. Reusing old plates is a waste-reducing and environmentally beneficial choice.

Remove Registration Stickers: Before recycling, peel off any stickers on the plates.

Check Local Recycling Guidelines: Some areas have specific guidelines for recycling metal items. Verify if there are any particular instructions for recycling license plates in your area.

Drop Off at a Recycling Center: Take the plates to a local recycling center that accepts aluminum. Many municipal recycling programs include aluminum recycling.

Create Art and Craft Projects

Those with an artistic bent can turn outdated license plates into one-of-a-kind crafts or artwork. They can make unique gifts or give your home decor a retro or industrial feel.

Wall Art: License plates can be mounted on wood or directly on the wall to create a visually appealing display.

Furniture Accents: Incorporate plates into furniture designs, like tabletops or cabinet fronts.

Garden Decor: Use plates to make garden signs, birdhouses, or plant markers.

Donate to Charities or Educational Institutions

Old number plates are appreciated by a number of charities and educational institutions for a variety of purposes, such as fundraising and instructional initiatives.

When considering their reuse, questions like ‘What Size Are License Plate Bolts?’ often arise, especially for practical applications.

Contact Local Schools: Art teachers might use old plates for student projects or metalworking classes.

Non-Profit Organizations: Some nonprofits collect and sell old plates to raise funds.

Community Workshops: Makerspaces and community workshops can use the plates in their crafting and upcycling projects.

Sell to Collectors

Sell to Collectors
Research ValueCheck online marketplaces and collector forums to understand the value of your plates.
List OnlineUse platforms like eBay, Etsy, or specialized collector websites to list your plates.
High-Quality PhotosTake clear, high-resolution photos to attract potential buyers.
Accurate DescriptionsProvide detailed and honest descriptions of the plates’ condition and history.
Attend ShowsParticipate in local or national collector shows to meet buyers face-to-face.

Selling old license plates to collectors can be a rewarding way to give them a new life. With proper research and presentation, you can connect with enthusiasts who value these pieces.

Repurpose for Household Use

Old license plates can be functional around the house. They are durable and can be repurposed for various practical uses.

Tool Organizers: Mount plates on the wall in your garage or workshop to hang tools.

Shelving: Use plates as shelves or shelf brackets.

Custom Signs: Create custom signs for different areas of your home or property, like ‘No Parking’ or ‘Beware of Dogs.’

Upcycle into Jewelry or Accessories

License plates may be customized to create one-of-a-kind jewelry or accessories that make wonderful conversation starters or individualized presents.

Cut and Shape: Carefully cut the plates into desired shapes for earrings, necklaces, or bracelets.

Add Findings: Attach jewelry findings like hooks and clasps to complete your pieces.

Combine Materials: Mix license plate pieces with other materials like leather or beads for a distinctive look.

Use in DIY Projects

Use in DIY Projects

Do-it-yourself enthusiasts can incorporate old license plates into their projects in a variety of ways, giving their creations a distinctive touch.

Picture Frames: Trim plates to frame photos or artwork.

Key Holders: Mount plates with hooks to create key holders.

Mail Holders: Bend and shape plates to form holders for mail or documents.

Preserve as Historical Memorabilia

Preserving ancient license plates as mementos is a terrific alternative for history aficionados or people who have a sentimental relationship to them. However, what to do with license plates when a car is totaled is a more pressing concern for many.

Display Cases: Place plates in shadow boxes or display cases to protect and showcase them.

Document History: Attach a note or label providing information about the plate’s history, such as the year and vehicle it was used on.

Rotate Displays: Change up your displays periodically to keep your collection fresh and interesting.

Comply with Legal Requirements

Making sure you adhere to all legal rules is crucial when it comes to getting rid of or recycling old license plates. If you don’t, you risk fines and other consequences.

Deface the Plate: To prevent misuse, ensure you deface the plates (e.g., by bending or cutting) if you’re not returning them to the DMV.

Notify Insurance: If applicable, inform your insurance company that you have surrendered the plates.

Check Local Laws: Some areas have specific laws regarding the disposal or repurposing of license plates. Verify with local authorities.


Can I throw away old license plates in New York?

Yes, but it’s advisable to return them to the DMV to avoid potential liability issues.

How can I repurpose old license plates?

You can transform them into art pieces, furniture accents, or even jewelry.

Are old license plates recyclable?

Yes, manufacturers primarily make license plates out of recyclable aluminum.

Can I sell my old license plates in New York?

Collectors or online marketplaces can buy vintage or unique plates.

What should I do with historical or sentimental license plates?

Preserve them as memorabilia by displaying them in shadow boxes or display cases.


Although old license plates may not seem like much, there are many uses for them than just throwing them away. There are a lot of options to think about, like converting them into art or donating them to a worthy organization, or sending them back to the DMV for appropriate disposal. 

Whether you decide to recycle, repurpose, or conserve your old plates, each approach has advantages of its own and can support historical preservation, creativity, sustainability, and more. Examine these choices carefully to choose which best fits your requirements and preferences.

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