Can I Throw Away Old License Plates?

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When you get a new vehicle or move to a different state, you might find yourself with a set of old license plates. The proper disposal of these plates is not only a matter of organization but also a legal concern. This article outlines the do’s and don’ts of discarding old license plates in the United States.

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The regulations governing the disposal of license plates vary by state. However, there are general practices that most states recommend or require by law.

“Upon termination of registration, plates must be surrendered to the DMV, destroyed, or made unusable.”

State-Specific Guidelines

  • Surrender to DMV: Some states require you to return your old plates to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) when you register a new vehicle or no longer need the plates.
  • Recycling Programs: Certain states have recycling programs for old license plates and provide specific instructions on how to recycle them.
  • Defacement: If a state allows disposal in the trash, they often require the plates to be defaced or destroyed so they cannot be used illegally.

Best Practices for Disposing of License Plates

Even in states that don’t have strict laws about license plate disposal, it’s important to prevent misuse:

  • Bend or cut the plates so they cannot be placed on another vehicle.
  • Remove or deface any stickers that show registration validity.
  • Consider recycling as a more environmentally friendly option.

Why Proper Disposal Matters

Improper disposal of license plates can lead to:

  • Unauthorized use of your old plates for illegal activities.
  • Potential identity theft if registration stickers are not removed properly.


Always check with your state’s DMV for the most accurate and legal method of disposing of your old license plates. Being cautious and following state guidelines can help prevent fraud and keep your identity safe.

For specific instructions related to your state, please refer to your local DMV website or contact them directly.


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