How to Return RMV Plates in Massachusetts

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When selling a car in Massachusetts, owners can either return their license plates to a branch of the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) or destroy them. They can dispose of the plates themselves by handing them over to a local recycling center or surrender them in person to an RMV service center. In any event, the agency will need personal information from the vehicle's owner to complete the cancellation process.

Canceling Standard License Plates

When canceling plates online, the RMV requires the owner's vehicle registration number, email address and at least one of the following to be input on the agency's website:

  • Massachusetts driver's license, permit or ID number.
  • Social Security number.
  • Federal Employer ID number (FID), applicable only if a business registered the vehicle.

If there are two vehicle owners, they cannot cancel their plates or registration online. Instead, they must print, complete and sign the Affidavit for Cancellation of Registration form available on the RMVs website and bring it to an RMV branch. The department will give both single and multiple owners a cancellation receipt for their records.

What to Do After Cancellation

After canceling their auto registration and plates, owners cannot legally drive the vehicle on public roadways in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts without valid plates. They must give a copy of their cancellation receipt to their car insurance company and dispose of their plates by either throwing them away or recycling them. No matter how they decide to get rid of the plates, they should cut them in half so no one else can use them.

Owners can receive eligibility for abatement of their local motor vehicle excise taxes if they canceled because they moved out of state, they no longer own the vehicle or they reported it as stolen. They will not receive a tax reduction just for canceling their registration – at least one of these reasons must apply. A local assessor's office can successfully process an abatement application if the owner provides documentation of their actions. Those who have questions regarding this process should contact an assessor in their area.

Canceling Section 5 License Plates

Section 5 license plates take their name from Massachussetts General Law, Chapter 90, Section 5. Occupations with these specialized plates include:

  • Dealers of boats and boat trailers.
  • Owner-contractors.
  • Persons who harvest forest products.
  • Dealers of recreational vehicles and recreational vehicle trailers.
  • Repairmen.
  • Transporters.
  • Farmers and manufacturers may be entitled to a Section 5 exemption. Vehicle owners can fill out a Manufacturers-Farmer Exemption Application online or get one from their local assessor's office.

When canceling Section 5 plates, owners must show ID at the time of cancellation. They can do this online or submit their request by mail. If requesting by mail, they should photocopy their official state license or photo ID and send it with their application to the Registry of Motor Vehicles, Attention Section 5 Division, P.O. Box 55897, Boston, MA 02205-5897. Unlike a standard Massachusetts license plate and registration cancellation, there can be a fee to cancel Section 5 plates or master registration. For vehicle owners not canceling the full master registration, the state charges $25 to amend it.

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