Do I Have to Turn in my License Plates When I Cancel Insurance?

All drivers must turn in license plates when they cancel their insurance. Turning in your license plate is usually required when you cancel your auto insurance policy or sell your car. While it depends on the state, driving without insurance can result in fines up to $5,000 and as much as six months of jail time.

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Rachel Bodine graduated from college with a BA in English. She has since worked as a Feature Writer in the insurance industry and gained a deep knowledge of state and countrywide insurance laws and rates. Her research and writing focus on helping readers understand their insurance coverage and how to find savings. Her expert advice on insurance has been featured on sites like PhotoEnforced, All...

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Written by Rachel Bodine
Insurance Feature Writer Rachel Bodine

Leslie Kasperowicz holds a BA in Social Sciences from the University of Winnipeg. She spent several years as a Farmers Insurance CSR, gaining a solid understanding of insurance products including home, life, auto, and commercial and working directly with insurance customers to understand their needs. She has since used that knowledge in her more than ten years as a writer, largely in the insurance...

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Reviewed by Leslie Kasperowicz
Farmers CSR for 4 Years Leslie Kasperowicz

UPDATED: Jun 6, 2022

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What You Should Know
  • In most states, you must return a license plate if you sell a vehicle
  • You must also cancel the license plate if you no longer insure your vehicle
  • How to return tags to the DMV and if you have to return old license plates varies by state

You’ve canceled your auto insurance coverage. Your vehicle is no longer insured, so can you cancel the insurance without having to turn in license plates? Can you keep them without issue? Do I have to turn in my license plates when I cancel insurance?

Today, we’re explaining everything you need to know about turning in your license plate when you cancel auto insurance to help you with understanding auto insurance laws. Since most states require some form of auto insurance, you must keep insurance if you plan to drive at all.

Read on for a more in-depth answer to the question: Do I have to turn in my license plates when I cancel insurance? Also, it is a great time to compare auto insurance quotes to get the cheapest rates out there, even if you are canceling insurance and turning in your license plates. Enter your ZIP code to start comparing auto insurance quotes today.

When Do I Need to Turn in License Plates and Cancel my Registration?

Do I need to return my license plates? How long do I have to return my license plates? Specific rules can vary between states. However, you must cancel your registration and surrender your license plates if:

  • You have dropped vehicle liability insurance for any reason. It’s recommended that you surrender your plates before you cancel the insurance.
  • You have sold or got rid of a vehicle and do not plan to use the plates on another vehicle.
  • Your vehicle will be stored or be undergoing repairs for a lengthy period of time and you do not want to maintain liability insurance or registration during this time.

What states require you to return license plates? Certain states require you to keep your plates and use them or turn them into the DMV.

For example, turning in license plates in SC is required if you are not transferring them to a new vehicle. The same is true if you cancel plates in MA. However, if you cancel a Louisiana license plate, you can either destroy it, turn it in, or keep it if it is a specialty plate.

So how long do I have to turn in my plates? Some states have different rules for different types of plates. For example, 30 – 60 days to turn in NY license plates, depending on the type of license plate you have.

Generally, you have 30 days or 60 days to use the plates on another vehicle (30 days for a specialty plate and 60 days for an ordinary plate). If you have gone beyond this 30 day or 60 day period without registering a new vehicle, then you are required to surrender your plates.

What happens if you don’t return license plates? Rules vary between states. Check with your state’s DMV to verify if turning in a license plate is necessary. 

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How Do I Turn in License Plates?

You may be required to surrender your license plate if you cancel the insurance without planning to renew it.

Where can I turn my license plate in? Do I have to go to the DMV to turn in plates or can I cancel my plates elsewhere?

Typically, you can turn in a license plate at a number of different state agencies – including your DMV or a local tax collector’s office. Your state’s Department of Revenue should have a list of tax collector’s offices in your area. You should receive a receipt showing the date your license plate was surrendered.

Will I receive a refund when I surrender my plates? You may receive a refund on your vehicle registration fees. If you paid $150 to register your vehicle for the year, for example, and canceled your registration after 6 months, then you might receive a refund of $75.

Can I Surrender my Plates Temporarily?

Yes, in most states you can temporarily surrender your license plates. For example, you may have chosen to stop driving for a while. You can turn in your plates and cancel your insurance until you decide to take up driving again.

You may also be forced to surrender your plates if your driving privilege was revoked for reckless driving or a DUI. In cases like these, you are legally required to surrender your plates for the specified amount of days or months.

Do I Need to Return a License Plate to Cancel Insurance?

Can you cancel insurance before turning in plates? What happens if you don’t turn in your old license plates? In most states, you can’t cancel insurance before returning plates.

Some insurance companies and some states require surrendering license plates before canceling auto insurance.

You first need to submit proof of surrendering your license plate in order to cancel your auto insurance policy.

What do you need to turn in license plates? Go to your local DMV or tax collector’s office and surrender your plate to receive a receipt. Then, submit the receipt to your insurance company to complete the cancellation process.

According to the Insurance Information Institute, about 13 percent of drivers in the US are uninsured, and some states require this process to reduce the number of uninsured drivers. They don’t want you to cancel your auto insurance and then drive to the DMV in an uninsured vehicle to surrender your plates.

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What if my License Plate is Lost, Stolen, or Destroyed?

What do you do if your license plate was lost, stolen, or destroyed before you could turn it in? The best thing to do is to file a police report. Once you have a police report record, submit it to the DMV as proof.

If you need to get a new license plate issued at a later date, you will usually have to pay a small fee. You will also need the following to get a new plate issued:

  • Old license plate or police report
  • Vehicle registration
  • Proof of insurance
  • Driver’s license

Of course, if you don’t need a new plate, you can simply report your plate missing and call it a day.

How is Auto Insurance is Different than Car Registration?

Is auto insurance tied to the registration? First, let’s clarify something. You get a license plate for your vehicle when you register your vehicle with the DMV. Your license plate is linked to your vehicle registration. It is not directly linked to your auto insurance.

When you buy auto insurance, you will receive proof of insurance documentation. You can show this documentation when a police officer asks for proof of insurance.

However, there is some connection between your car registration and auto insurance. Your insurance company is required to communicate with the DMV regarding your insurance status. In most states, you must have auto insurance if you have a registered vehicle.

Driving without auto insurance has different penalties by state. Search for your state in the box below to see fines and other penalties for driving without insurance.

Penalties for Driving Without Auto Insurance by State
StatesPrimary Fine for First Driving Uninsured OffenseOther Penalties for First Driving Uninsured Offense
AlabamaUp to $500Registration suspension with $200 reinstatement fee
AlaskaN/ALicense suspension for 90 days
Arizona$500 (or more)License/registration/license plate suspension for three months
Arkansas$50 to $250Suspended registration/no plates until proof of car insurance coverage plus $20 reinstatement fee; court may order impoundment
California$100-$200 plus penalty assessmentsCourt may order impoundment
Colorado$500 minimum fine4 points against your license; license suspension until you can show proof to the DMV that you are insured. Courts may add up to 40 hours community service
Connecticut$100-$1000Suspended registration/license for one month (show proof of insurance) with $175 reinstatement fee
Delaware$1,500 minimum fineLicense/privilege suspension for six months
FloridaN/ASuspension of license and registration until reinstatement fee is paid and non-cancelable coverage is secured; $150 fee for first reinstatement
GeorgiaN/ASuspended registration with $25 lapse fee and $60 reinstatement fee. Pay any other registration fees and vehicle ad valorem taxes due
Hawaii$500 fine or community service granted by judgeEither license suspension for three months or a required nonrefundable car insurance policy in force for six months
Idaho$75License suspension until financial proof. No reinstatement fee.
Illinois$500 minimumLicense plate suspension until $100 reinstatement fee and insurance proof
IndianaN/ALicense/registration suspension for 90 days to one year
Iowa$500 if in accident; Otherwise, fine: $250Community service in lieu of fine. Possible citation/warning if pulled over plus removal of plates and registration possible when pulled over without insurance and reissued upon payment of fine or completed community service, proof of insurance, and $15 fee; possible impoundment when pulled over
Kansas$300 to $1,000 Fine and/or confinement in jail up to six months; license/registration suspension; reinstatement fee: $100
Kentucky$500 to $1,000Fine and/or sentenced up to 90 days in jail; license plates and registration revoked for one year or until proof of insurance is shown
Louisiana$500 to $1,000If in car accident, fine plus registration revoked and driving privileges suspended for 180 days
Maine$100 to $500Suspension of license and registration until proof of insurance
MarylandN/ALose license plates and motor vehicle registration privileges; pay uninsured motorist penalty fees for each lapse of insurance — $150 for the first 30 days, $7 for each day thereafter; Pay a restoration fee of up to $25 for a vehicle's registration
Massachusetts$500 to $5,000Fine and/or imprisonment for one year or less
Michigan$200 to $500 Fine and/or imprisonment for one year or less; license suspension for 30 days or until proof of insurance; $25 service fee to Secretary of State
Minnesota$200 to $1,000 Fine (or community service) and/or imprisonment for up to 90 days; License and registration revoked for no more than 12 months
Mississippi$1,000Driving privileges suspended for one year or until proof of insurance
MissouriN/AFour points against driving record; driver may be supervised; suspended until proof of insurance with $20 reinstatement fee
Montana$250 to $500 Fine and/or imprisonment for no more than 10 days
NebraskaN/ALicense and registration suspension; reinstatement fee of $50 for each; proof of insurance to remain on file for three years
Nevada$250 to $1,000Registration suspension — until payment of reinstatement fee and, depending on circumstances, an SR-22 (proof of financial responsibility) if lapsed more than 90 days; reinstatement fee: $250
New HampshireN/ANot a mandatory insurance state. Proof of insurance may be required as the result of a conviction, crash involvement, or administrative action. If you are required to file proof of insurance and vehicles are registered in your name, you will be required to file an Owner’s SR-22 Certificate of Insurance.
New Jersey$300 to $1,000License suspension for one year; pay surcharges for three years in the amount of $250 per year
New MexicoUp to $300 Fine and/or imprisoned for 90 days; license suspension
New YorkUp to $1,500 if involved in accident plus $750 civil penaltyLicense and registration suspension – revoked for one year; suspension of license if without
insurance for 90 days; suspension lasts as long as registration suspension; Suspension of registration: equal to time without insurance or pays $8/day up to thirty days for which financial security was not in effect, $10/day from the thirty-first to the sixtieth day $12/day from the sixtieth to the ninetieth day and proof of security is provided. Or for the same time as the motor vehicle was operated without insurance.
North Carolina$50Registration suspension until proof of financial responsibility but 30-day suspension if in car accident or knowingly driving without insurance; $50 restoration fee plus license plate fee
North DakotaUp to $1,500 Fine and/or 30 days in prison; 14 points against license plus suspension; Proof of insurance must be provided for one year; license with a
notation requiring that person keep proof of liability insurance on file with the department. The fee for this license is $50, and the fee to remove
this notation is $50.
OhioN/ALicense/plates/registration suspension until requirements are met and $100 reinstatement fee is paid; maintain special high-risk coverage on file with the BMV for three to five years; If involved in accident without insurance: all above penalties and a security suspension for two plus years and an indefinite judgment suspension (until all damages are satisfied)
Oklahoma$250Jail time up to 30 days; license suspension with $275 reinstatement fee. Police can seize license plates and assign temporary plates and liability insurance — in effect for 10 days and can also impound the vehicle. The cost of the temporary coverage is added to the administrative fee and any fines paid for plates to be returned. If the car isimpounded, the owner must also pay towing and storage fees.
Oregon$130-$1000 ($260 is the presumptive fine)If involved in accident — at least a one year license suspension; proof of financial responsibility required for three years
PennsylvaniaN/ARegistration suspended for three months (unless lapse was for less than 31 days and vehicle not operated during that time); $88 restoration fee plus proof of insurance required to get it back; $500 civil penalty fee is optional in lieu of registration suspension plus $88 restoration fee — can only use this option once within a 12-month period
Rhode Island$100 to $500License and registration suspension up to three months; reinstatement fee: $30 to $50
South Carolina$100-$200 Fine or 30-day imprisonment; failure to surrender registration and plates when insurance lapses; license/registration suspended until proof of insurance plus $200 reinstatement fee
South Dakota$100Fine and/or 30 days imprisonment; license suspension for 30 days to one year; filing proof of insurance (SR-22) with the state for three years from date of conviction. Failure to file proof will result in suspension of vehicle registration, license plates, and driver license.
TennesseeN/APay $25 coverage failure fee within 30 days of notice; if not paid, then an additional $100 coverage failure fee with suspension or revocation of registration plus reinstatement fee of no more than $25
Texas$175 to $350 Pay up to a $250 surcharge every year for three years (may be reduced with certain requirements)
Utah$400License suspension until proof of insurance (maintained for three years) and $100 reinstatement fee
VermontUp to $500License suspended until proof of insurance
VirginiaMay pay $500 Uninsured Motorists Vehicle fee to drive without insurance at your own risk. If this fee is not paid in lieu of insurance, all driving and vehicle registration privileges will be suspended until a $500 statutory fee is paid, proof of insurance is filed for three years, and a reinstatement fee (if applicable) is paid
WashingtonUp to $250 or moreN/A
West Virginia$200 to $5,000License suspended for 30 days with reinstatement fees, unless there's proof of insurance and $200 penalty fee
WisconsinUp to $500N/A
WyomingUp to $750Up to six months in jail
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You can see that even first offenses carry hefty fines and other penalties.  Driving without auto insurance can cost you big money, not only in fines but damages if you are in an accident.

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Why Do Insurance Companies Submit Information to the DMV?

Your car registration and auto insurance are connected in some ways. Most importantly, your auto insurance company is required to electronically transmit insurance coverage details to your state’s DMV. Your auto insurance company will notify the DMV if you cancel insurance coverage.

Generally, insurance companies have 30 days from the date coverage begins and ends to transmit insurance information. The DMV enters this insurance information into a database. That database includes your vehicle’s license plate number, insurance status, and other details.

Most states require you to carry some form of liability insurance. Your registration will also be canceled if you cancel your auto insurance and do not immediately obtain coverage.

Even a one-day lapse in coverage can lead to a registration suspension in certain states. Laws vary between states but there are criminal penalties for driving without insurance in every state.

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Does the DMV Charge Lapse Fees for Insurance?

States have different laws regarding lapsed coverage. Many states, however, charge a lapse fee. You may be charged a fee of $25 to $50, just one of the dangers of letting your auto insurance lapse.

In some states, for example, you are required to pay a lapse fee if you do not obtain new auto insurance within 10 days of canceling your old auto insurance. The DMV can then suspend your vehicle’s registration If you do not pay this fee within 30 days.

Some states even charge a daily lapse fee for every day your vehicle goes without coverage.

Generally, you are required to turn in your license plate and cancel your registration before canceling your auto insurance in most states. Driving without insurance can hurt your wallet and could cause you jail time or loss of your license.

Now that we’ve clarified what happens with your plates when you cancel your insurance, take a minute to compare rates. Enter your ZIP now to compare auto insurance quotes to find the cheapest auto insurance for you, even if you intend on turning in your license plate.

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