To legally drive a vehicle anywhere in the state of Florida, it must have a license plate. An owner who purchases a new car and trades in or sells their old one can transfer their plates, also called tags, from the old car to the new one, if the vehicle is of the same classification. Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DMV) requires a registered owner to fill out an application of transfer to move their tags. However, it does not allow a vehicle owner to transfer plates from their vehicle to another vehicle they do not own.
Transferring Tags in Florida
According to Florida Statutes Section 320.0609(1)(a), an owner can transfer their license plates or tags between their cars if the cars' classification is the same, but they cannot pass tags between two different owners. The law states that a vehicle's certificate of registration and tags should remain in the name of the person who owns the vehicle. There is, however, an exception in the case of personalized Florida license plates – an owner may transfer these to a vehicle owned or co-owned by the plate owner.
The transfer of license plates from one vehicle to another doesn't require a new registration. The state will accept the transfer application without needing proof of liability insurance or personal injury protection, but the owner must fill out an application of transfer and pay a transfer fee to move the tags. If their new vehicle is of a different classification, the owner surrenders the tags to the state in exchange for tags with the appropriate classification. When they sell, trade, transfer or otherwise dispose of their car, owners should remove the tags and return them to the state.
Returning Tags to the State
When a vehicle owner no longer needs their tags, they should appropriately dispose of them in the following ways:
- In-person, at a state motor vehicle service center.
- By mail to a motor vehicle service center, along with a request to cancel and recycle the license plate.
If a license plate is lost, destroyed or stolen, the owner must complete a surrender affidavit and mail it to a motor vehicle service center.
After turning in a plate, the owner gets a receipt showing the surrender, which they can use for credit toward a future vehicle registration. If the license plate is still actively registered and associated with an owner's vehicle, but they no longer use it, they may incur the loss of insurance and face financial responsibility sanctions. After the cancellation of their insurance occurs, they may also face a suspension of their driver's license.
Temporary Tags in Florida
Florida provides temporary tags to vehicle owners and dealers for various legal uses. The state issues tags for different lengths of time depending on what the driver or dealership needs them for.
The most common use of temporary license plates is by motor vehicle dealers. Temporary plates allow new vehicle owners without permanent plates the time to get new plates or to transfer those they already have to the new vehicle.
Uses of Temporary Tags
Thirty-day tags give ample time for dealers to title and register a car for their customers. Issuance of temporary plates can occur in varying circumstances:
- In a private or casual sale.
- When financial institutions, including banks and credit unions, do not have a license requirement under state law but need tags to show repossessed vehicles for sale.
- With the sale of a motor vehicle, RV or motorcycle in Florida to an out-of-state resident, to give them time to register the vehicle in their home state.
- When a person living out of state, but subject to registration in Florida, must gather ownership documentation from their state of residence. For example, when they plan a move to Florida and need time to collect documentation for their former state and register their vehicle in their new home state.
- For dealers of vessel trailers to issue upon a vessel trailer sale.
- For commercial vehicle (heavy truck) use, even when carrying a load, if the commercial vehicle stays in Florida.
The state issues 10-day tags for owners who must weigh their motor vehicle for registration purposes and verify its vehicle identification number (VIN). The state also issues 10-day tags so that the vehicle or motorcycle can undergo an inspection process to apply for a title or registration. Ninety-day tags are given to customers who apply for personalized or specialized plates during the time of their manufacture, and for people temporarily employed in the state.
Criminal Penalties for Misuse of Temporary Tags
Florida law states that anyone who knowingly and willfully misuses temporary tags to avoid registering their vehicle may face a first-degree misdemeanor charge. If convicted, the charge carries penalties of up to a year in jail, a $1,000 fine, and possibly 12 months of probation.
The law also states that anyone who knowingly and willfully issues a temporary tag to a false person or entity, or causes someone else to do so, may face third-degree felony charges. This charge carries up to five years in prison and a maximum $5,000 fine.
Registration Requirements in Florida
Florida requires the registration of vehicles within 10 days of their owner's employment, residency establishment or placing their children in public school in the state. Registration will require the vehicle owner to submit proof of Florida insurance and the original title to a license plate agency or local county tax collector in their area.
The tax collector's office or agency issues a yellow tag or decal for placement on the vehicle's license plate, proving payment of the registration fees. The registration is good for 12 months, beginning on the first day of the owner's birth month. A person who lets their tags or registration expire for more than six months may face a second-degree misdemeanor charge, punishable by a maximum 60 days in jail.
- Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles: Locations
- Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles: RS-43 Subject: Surrender of a License Plate by Owner
- Florida State Legislature: Chapter 320 Motor Vehicle Licenses
- Criminal Defense Lawyer/NOLO: Florida Misdemeanor Crimes by Class and Sentences
- Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles: License Plates and Registration
- If you did not trade or sell your vehicle to a dealership you do not have to fill out this form, instead you will go to your local DMV and request a transfer in person.
Michelle Nati is an associate editor and writer who has reported on legal, criminal and government news for PasadenaNow.com and Complex Media. She holds a B.A. in Communications and English from Niagara University.