License Plates & Placards in Maryland

SUMMARY: Maryland License Plates

You’ll apply for license plates in Maryland when you register your car in person, and you’ll renew your MD plates when you renew your registration. You can usually transfer tags to another vehicle, but you’ll have to surrender your license plates if you aren’t using them.

Keep reading for details about license plates and tags from the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA).

NOTE: Looking for disabled parking permits? Get more information from our guide to Disability Placards and Plates.

Types of Maryland License Plates

All MD vehicles are required to display license plates from the Maryland MVA.

Most vehicles must display tags on both the front and back, while others only need a rear plate. The MVA will issue the correct number of tags for your vehicle when you apply.

Your license plate must also have month and year stickers that show the expiration date.

The Maryland MVA issues a wide range of license plates, including:

  • Standard plates.
  • Personalized plates.
  • Organizational plates.
  • Disabled plates.

Temporary Tags

When you buy a vehicle from a dealership, they can issue a temporary tag so that you can drive while waiting for your permanent license plates.

You can also get a temporary registration from the MD MVA if you need to take your vehicle for a safety inspection prior to registration.

To apply for a temporary registration, you’ll need to go in person to a Maryland MVA office with:

You’ll have 30 days to get the inspection and register your vehicle. You CANNOT extend the temporary registration period.

Apply for License Plates

To apply for Maryland license plates when you move to the state or buy a vehicle, you must register your vehicle with the MD MVA.

NOTE: New residents have 60 days to register out-of-state vehicles.

A newly purchased vehicle is usually registered through the dealership where you bought it. You can register your vehicle directly with the MVA if you bought it privately.

See our Vehicle Registration page for complete details, including required paperwork and fees.

Renew Your MD License Plates

You’ll renew your license plate every 2 years by renewing your vehicle registration.

The MD MVA offers renewals:

  • Online.
  • In person.
  • By phone.
  • By mail.

Our Registration Renewal page has complete instructions and relevant fees.

Replace Damaged or Missing Tags

If your MD vehicle tags are lost, stolen, or damaged, you should replace them right away.

To order substitute plates, you’ll need:

Submit your application and materials:

NOTE: You may also choose to report lost or stolen tags to the police to help prevent fraud or illegal use of your tags.

Transfer or Surrender Plates in MD

When you sell, trade, donate, or otherwise no longer operate your vehicle, you are responsible for removing the license plates.

In many cases, you may be able to transfer your plates to another vehicle.

If you won’t be using your plates, you’ll need to surrender them to the Maryland MVA.

Transfer License Plates

Maryland license plates can be transferred:

  • From one vehicle to another IF the vehicles are:
    • Both in your name.
    • In the same class. For example, both are passenger cars.
  • To an immediate family member, such as a child, parent, or a spouse, if the vehicle is a gift.

You will transfer the plates when you register a vehicle. You’ll pay:

  • The $10 transfer fee.
  • Any difference in registration fees.

Surrender License Plates

You must surrender your license plates AND registration card when you:

  • Cancel your car insurance.
    • Surrender the tags BEFORE canceling your insurance.
  • Move to a different state.
  • No longer need your license plates for any other reason.

You can surrender your license plates:

  • In person at an MVA office or tag office. The following offices have drop boxes available 24 hours a day:
    • Baltimore City.
    • Columbia.
    • Gaithersburg.
    • Glen Burnie.
    • Salisbury.
  • By mail. The MVA recommends using certified mail with a return receipt. Mail your plates and registration to:
  • MVA
    6601 Ritchie Highway, NE
    Glen Burnie, MD 21062

Fees for Maryland License Plates

The fees below DO NOT include taxes, title fees, or service fees that may also be due, especially when registering a vehicle for the first time.

  • Standard license plates (fees paid every 2 years):
    • Passenger car weighing 3,700 lbs. or less: $135.
    • Passenger car weighing more than 3,700 lbs.: $187.
    • Motorcycle: $104.
  • Replacements:
    • License plates: $20.
    • Stickers: $5.
    • Month sticker only: free.
  • Transfer: $10 PLUS difference in registration fee.

Specialty and Personalized Plates

Background Plates

Maryland is giving props to its agricultural heritage and the fact that is home to the famous Chesapeake Bay with these two license plates. Both can be ordered online and cost a $20 initial fee and $5 each at registration renewal.

County Pride Stickers

If you are looking to spice up your standard-issue plate, you can opt for county sticker. With these, which are also available online for $5.00, you can let the entire state know where you live. There is nothing like a bit of friendly rivalry among counties, and this is a great way to participate. The stickers are also available for the city of Baltimore. You only can get one if you are already holding a standard plate.

Personalized Plates

To get yours, simply fill out the Application for Special Registration Plates (Form VR-164) and mail it to:

Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration
6601 Ritchie Highway, NE
Attn. Vehicle Registration
Glen Burnie, MD 21062

Of course, there are a few rules:

  • Space is allotted to only up to 7 characters.
  • Only letters and numbers are acceptable―no special characters.

The fee is $50, which is payable each registration period.

Military Plates

The state has an entire brigade of license plates allowing you to denote and honor your military service. In order to get the plates you will need to provide evidence of your stint of duty and complete an Application for Military Related License Plates (Form VR-120).

The proof can come in the form of your discharge papers, a letter from the Veteran's Administration, a medal certification, or a note from National Personnel Records Center. With your record established for the plate you are vying for, the rest of the process is easy and can be completed via mail or in person at MVA headquarters.

Organizational Plates

If you belong to a nonprofit organization, whether a Masonic club, alumni association, or union, you can apply to have the group's name or logo on your plate. You will have to check with your organization to see if it has an application, because that is where you will have to pick one up. The MVA does not have the applications onsite; they only process them.

You can check to see if your group is already established with the MVA. If so, then you should easily be able to track down and application.

Antique Plates

The MVA offers two types of unique plates for older vehicles:

Historic plates are for vehicles that are at least 20 years old that haven't undergone major alterations from their original design. Additionally, the vehicle must only be used for activities such as antique exhibitions and parades, and not for daily driving. These plates cost $51

Should a vehicle be 60 years old or older, it is eligible for a permanent, non-transferable registration for a one-time fee.

Street rod plates are for vehicles that are at least 25 years old that have been significantly altered from the vehicle's original specifications. Also, the vehicle must only be used for activities such as antique exhibitions and parades, and not for routine driving. These plates cost $51

To apply for the plates, complete an Application for Historic or Street Rod Registration (Form VR-096) and send it along with your payment to:

Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration
6601 Ritchie Highway, NE
Glen Burnie, MD 21062
Attn. Vehicle Registration

Or, simply apply at any full-service MVA branch.

Surrendering License Plates in Maryland

The Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) requires you to return your MD license plates after moving to another state, before canceling your car insurance policy, or after selling your vehicle without transferring the plates.

You can surrender your license plates with your previous registration receipt:

  • In person at any MD MVA office, authorized tag service, or plate return drop box.
  • By mail to:
  • MVA
    6601 Ritchie Highway, NE 
    Glen Burnie, MD 21062

Under certain circumstances, you may be eligible for a refund of your Maryland vehicle registration when you surrender your plates. To claim your refund, you'll need to submit an Application for Registration Plate Refund (Form VR-021).

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