License Plates & Placards in North Carolina

SUMMARY: North Carolina License Plates

To apply for a license plate, you'll register your vehicle with the DMV in person. Renew your tags by renewing your registration. When you buy a new car, truck, or other vehicle, you can often transfer your license plate. If your license plate or sticker is damaged or missing, you can order replacement tags in person or by mail (if out of state).

Keep reading for information about license plates and tags in North Carolina.

Need personalized or special plates? You'll find detailed information on our Specialty NC Plate Types and Specialty Plate Applications pages.

Looking for disability parking tags? Visit our Disability Placards and Plates page for more application, fees, and other details.

Types of NC License Plates

Most vehicles in NC must have a license plate issued by the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

Standard North Carolina car tags are white and feature a silhouette of the Wright Brothers' airplane and the phrase “First in Flight."

New License Plate Option

Beginning July 1, 2015, the NC DMV will offer a "First in Freedom" as an alternative to the "First in Flight" plate. Keep checking here for more information about "First in Freedom" plates as it becomes available.

Your North Carolina license plate must have a validation sticker to show that your registration is up to date.

Specialty License Plates

The NC DMV offers several types specialty license plates, including personalized tags and organizational plates. Learn more about your NC license plate choices on our Types of Special Plates page, and get detailed application information on our Special Plates Application page.

Disability parking tags are also available from the NC DMV. For more information, including how to apply, see our Disability Placards and Plates page.

Temporary Tags

Temporary tags for newly purchased vehicles are available from your vehicle dealer.

Each temporary license plate is valid for up to 30 days and can be extended if necessary.

Apply for License Plates in NC

To apply for North Carolina license plates, you have to register your vehicle with the North Carolina DMV.

You must register:

  • Within 30 days of becoming a NC resident.
  • When you buy a vehicle.

Our Vehicle Registration page has complete details, including required documentation and fees.

Renew Vehicle Tags

You are required to renew your license plate by renewing your registration. You should receive a reminder by mail.

Before you renew, your vehicle must pass an inspection. You can have it inspected no more than 90 days before your tag expires.

The NC DMV offers registration renewal:

  • Online.
  • In person.

After you renew, you'll receive a new expiration sticker to put on your plate.

Visit our Registration Renewal page for fees, instructions, and other renewal information.

Replace License Plates or Stickers

You can replace a license plate or expiration decal that has been stolen, lost, or damaged:

  • In person.
  • By mail (only if you are outside of North Carolina).

NOTE: You DO NOT have to report lost or stolen license plates to the police. However, filing a report can help in cases of fraud, identity theft, or misuse of your tags.

You will need the following for a replacement license plate or sticker:

  • The Application for Replacement Plate and/or Sticker (Form MVR-18).
  • Proof of your car insurance, such as your insurance card.
  • Payment for the relevant fee:
    • $20 for a license plate.
    • Notary fees:
      • $2 for 1 signature at a NC DMV office.
      • $5 for 1 signature at a contracted agent's office.
        NOTE: Fees are higher for multiple signatures.
    • Sticker fees: Contact the NC DMV online or by calling (919) 715-7000.

Submit your application:

  • In person at your local North Carolina DMV office.
  • By mail (if you are out of state) to:
  • NC Division of Motor Vehicles
    3148 Mail Service Center
    Raleigh, NC 27699

Transfer or Surrender NC Tags

Transferring Plates

You can transfer license plates from your previous vehicle to your new vehicle as long as they are both registered in your name.

You will transfer your plates when you register the new vehicle you've bought.

Surrendering Plates

You must surrender your license plate BEFORE canceling your NC liability insurance for any reason, such as when you:

  • Move to a new state.
  • Sell, trade, or donate your vehicle without transferring the license plate.

Return your license plates to:

NC Division of Motor Vehicles
3148 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699

To request a receipt, contact the NC Vehicle Registration office at (919) 715-7000. You MUST receive a proof of surrender if you wish to apply for a refund of your property tax paid on the vehicle (see below).

Property Tax Refunds

If you sell your vehicle or move out of state, you may be eligible for the property tax portion of your registration fees that you paid on the vehicle. You must FIRST surrender your plates to the NC DMV and receive a proof of plate surrender (Form FS20).

Within 1 year of surrendering your license plates to the DMV, send in the following:

  • Your proof of plate surrender (Form FS20).
  • A copy of EITHER:
    • The bill of sale, if the vehicle was sold.
    • Your new registration card, if you moved out of state.

Fax the above to (336) 727-2369.

Fees for North Carolina Tags

The license plate fees below DO NOT cover additional services that may be required when you register a vehicle, such as title fees, inspection fees, or other charges.

  • Standard license plates (new issue and renewal):
    • Passenger vehicles: $36.
    • Trucks:
      • Less than 4,000 lbs.: $36.
      • Under 5,000 lbs.: $56.50.
      • Under 6,000 lbs.: $67.
    • Motorcycles: $24.
    • House or camping trailers: $14.
    • Electric Vehicles: $130 PLUS applicable vehicle registration fee.
  • Replacements:
    • License plate: $20.
    • Decals: Contact the NC DMV for information:
      • Online.
      • By calling (919) 715-7000.
  • Transfer of plate: $20.

Related Content

Provide Feedback

Looking for License Plates & Placards in Another State?