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.

NOTE: 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.

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

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.

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.

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: $18.
    • 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.

Personalized & Specialty License Plates

Personalized (Vanity) Plates

In North Carolina, you can get a personalized license plate for an extra $30. Personalized plates are usually the standard North Carolina license plates with a personalized message on them. (You can also personalize specialized plates, though, so see "Specialized License Plates" below.)

Unless your personalization is offensive or is already taken by someone else, it will most likely be approved. Your plate can have up to eight letters, numbers, and/or specialized characters.

You can also check the availability of your desired personalization online.

When you order your plate, the Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will let you know if the personalization is acceptable. If so, they will place your order to have the plate made. As a general rule, the DMV places orders weekly and you will receive the plates in about 8 weeks.

Specialized License Plates

There are over 150 types of special-interest license plates available that let you promote your cause or yourself. Most of these can also be personalized. Some examples include: litter prevention, kids' advocacy, handicap, and military veterans. Each plate has its own special requirements, and some you may have to qualify for.

Ordering Online

You can order your personalized and specialized plate online if your vehicle has been registered. You will need your current plate number and registration card.

Ordering by Mail

To order by mail, simply download and complete the Application for a Personalized Plate. Each specialized plate has its own requirements and its own application. If ordering one, choose the plate you want and complete the appropriate application. The information page about each plate will include special requirements and application processes.

Next, mail your application(s) and fee to:

  • NC DMV, Special License Unit
  • 3148 Mail Service Center
  • Raleigh, NC 27699

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