License Plates & Placards in New Hampshire
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The very first time you register your vehicle in New Hampshire you will be given license plates. In some states you might call them tags, but in New Hampshire they are license plates. Displaying the license plates on your car, with a current decal, will prove that you have a valid NH registration.
There are four major categories of license plates in New Hampshire:
- Passenger Vehicles
- Commercial Vehicles
The applications you'll find in this section can be viewed using the free Adobe Reader.
The same plate number cannot be repeated within the same category. For example, you could end up with two plates having the same number and letter combination but one would be on a motorcycle and the other on a trailer.
Sometimes you might need temporary license plates to move a vehicle from one place to another. Usually this happens when you buy your car and you need to get it home.
New Hampshire issues temporary license plates, sometimes called paper plates, so you can get your vehicle home and complete the registration process. Stop by any DMV substation, or DMV Headquarters to apply for 20-day temporary plates.
Temporary license plates cost $10.00 and you cannot renew them. After 20-days you have to register your vehicle to get regular license plates for your vehicle.
When you register your vehicle you will be given two license plates for your car―one for the front and one for the back. Some town clerks will have the plates for you and if they don't you'll have to visit a DMV Substation.
At the DMV substation, you will need to bring your current registration and proof of identification. The registration desk will have license plates and decals on hand. Be sure the decals you are given match the month your registration expires; the expiration date is usually your birthday month.
For many years New Hampshire offered the standard white with green lettering, "Live Free or Die," license plate (the state motto was coined by General John Stark, a Revolutionary War soldier).
Vanity plates have always been available and you apply for these initial plates using the Initial Plates Application DSMV 40. There is an extra fee for vanity or initial plates. New Hampshire offers two kinds of license plates, in addition to the regular white with green lettering:
- Conservation plates―The Moose Plate
- Veteran plates
Conservation plates have an attractive drawing of a moose while the veteran plates include an American Flag. Both plates still have the state motto, "Live Free or Die."
Before you decide on a vanity plate, you may want to perform a Plate Check to see if the numbers and letters you want are available. Vanity plates can be fun with short quipped messages. They can also help your family and friends to recognize your car when it passes them on the road.
The New Hampshire Department of Cultural Resources has developed a way to raise funds to satisfy conservation, preservation, and technological needs. Reinvest in your state by participating in the Moose Plate Grant Program.
New Hampshire defines an antique vehicle as one that's more than 25 years old and used only for parades, exhibitions, car club activities, and other public events.
- Vehicle: $6 per year and $8 for an initial plate
- Motorcycle: $2.40 per year and $4 for an initial plate
The state issues special license plates for state senators and representatives. Some veterans who have been decorated with the Purple Heart are issued special recognition license plates. Commercial vehicles, special transporters also have unique license plate designations.
In addition to your regular registration fee, you'll need to pay a fee for your special license plates. Fees for plates are as follows:
- Initial plate fee: $40
- Reflectorized plate fee: $8
- Conservation plates: $30
You might want to change your plates if you bought a new car and now vanity plates appeal to you. Or, maybe you just want to get a plate number you'll remember easily for all those times you have to write down your plate number or when parking in a public garage. Perhaps you want to buy a Conservation plate because some of the revenue from the plates is given to the Department of Cultural Resources.
Whatever your reason for changing license plates, it can only be done at certain times. When you are renewing your registration you can apply for a different license plate. A Plate Check is a good idea and will save you time when you visit the Town Clerk or DMV substation.
You can also change your plates if you are adding a walking permit or placard. A special license plate is issued for qualified people so they can park close to entrances without walking too far from their parked vehicle.
If your license plates are lost, stolen, or badly damaged you can apply for new plates. Applying for initial vanity plates is possible at this time because you will be getting replacements anyway.
If your plates are lost, stolen, or badly damaged you can apply for replacements. In fact, the police department likes to know if you are missing any license plates and you will certainly be stopped for driving without plates on the front and back of your vehicle.
The sooner you get plates back on your vehicle the better off you'll be because you don't want to get stopped by the police or issued a ticket for not displaying two license plates.
Anytime you buy a vehicle you have the option of transferring your license plates. Of course, the plate categories must be the same―you can't transfer a motorcycle plate onto a passenger car.
Transferring plates is convenient because you can stick with the same plate number year after year. People learn to recognize your plate number and you might even use it for parking purposes at work.
It is important to surrender your license plates to the DMV when you sell your vehicle. You don't want a car, truck, or motorcycle cruising the NH highways with your license plates attached. Remember, the plates are tied to your registration which is the permission DMV has given you to drive your car on the roadways.
The state does not require New Hampshire residents to return their license plates after relocating to another state. Learn more on our NH License Plate Surrender page.
Other Topics in This Section
- Register Car
- Registration Renewal
- Registration & Insurance
- Replacing a Lost Registration
- RV & Motorhome Registration
- Custom Built Car Registration
- Boat Registration and Licenses
- Title Transfers
- Replacing a Lost Title
- Salvaged Vehicles
- Special Vehicles
- Drivers with Disabilities
- License Plates & Placards
- Smog & Emission Checks
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