Is it Okay to Keep My Plates?

What happens if you either forget to turn in your New York State license plate or if you want to keep it as a memory of a vehicle? You are not alone, but there are problems if you do not turn in your plates when you sell or trade-in a vehicle.

For every day that you hold on to your New York State license plates and do not have insurance coverage on those plates, it’s $8 per day for the first 30 days as a fine to the DMV. After that, from 31 to 60 days, the fine increases to $10; from 61 days to 90, the fine is $12 a day. Read the article from the DMV, “how to pay an insurance lapse penalty.”

It’s easy to be confused about why this fine is assessed. You are not fined because you did not return the plates; you are fined because the vehicle attached to those plates is no longer listed on an active insurance policy. New York State assumes that if you have the plates in your possession, those plates are on a vehicle.

An insurance company must report to the DMV that insurance coverage no longer applies to a vehicle. If this happens to you, paying the fine to the DMV is the fastest way to prevent further problems (more on that in a moment). However, you do have another option rather than paying the fine.

Let’s assume you held onto your plates for ten days after you no longer had insurance on a vehicle. The fine will be $80 ($8 per day for ten days). You could go to the DMV, turn in your plates, and turn in your registration for ten days. The DMV thinks that if you are willing to give up on the registration for ten days, that’s good enough for them to remove the fine.

Don’t let yourself fall victim to this. When you turn in your plates to the DMV, always receive a plate surrender receipt labeled as an FS-6T form; call your agent; turn that in, and have the car removed from your policy. The removal can always be retroactive to the date you turned in the plates.

Can I cancel the policy and keep the plates?

New York State figured this one out a long time ago. The only way you can cancel insurance on a vehicle is by submitting to the insurance company a copy of the receipt proving you turned the plates over to the DMV.

Remember what we shared earlier in the article; the DMV assumes that if you have the plate, you also have the vehicle. If you have the vehicle, there are minimums of certain types of insurance required in the car’s insurance policy. For example, you must have property damage coverage to protect someone if you hit their vehicle or property.

The DMV requires the insurance companies to prove that you turned in the plates before they can cancel coverage on a vehicle. This process prevents people from canceling the insurance and avoiding the mandatory state minimum coverage on a vehicle.

What if I do not renew the policy? Would that allow me to keep the plates?

Since you are not able to cancel a policy on a car without proof that you turned in the plates, what happens if you decide to stop paying for the policy? The insurance company cannot force you to pay the premiums, and this way, you do not have to provide a receipt proving you turned in the plates. So, this allows you to keep the plates, right?

Yet again, New York State is ahead of this idea (remember, their concern is about insurance, not the plates themselves). Earlier, you learned about the fines. For the first 90 days, the fines will total $900. On day 91, the DMV ramps up the pressure and suspends your license, even if you have other vehicles on the road with insurance.

It is important to note that the DMV is not required to remove the suspension of your license even if you pay the fine after 91 days. If you have allowed this to happen within the previous 36 months, you may not be able to pay the fine and regain your license.

Also, if the insurance has not been in effect for over 91 days, they may not simply reinstate your license. You will need to contact the DMV in your area for guidance based on your specific circumstances.

Read the article “how to get car insurance” to learn how long it takes to get a policy. You are not alone if you have experienced a fine or suspension; it happens more often than folks are aware.

What if I buy and sell without a dealer involved?

This is one of the more common situations we encounter. You sold your car in a private sale, took the plates off as you should, but have not yet purchased the next vehicle. Can you keep the plates between the two transactions?

Yes. But there are some things you should know. Most importantly, while you retain those plates, your insurance policy is still covering the car you just sold until that buyer registers the car in their own name. Or until you register another vehicle with the plates from the car you just sold.

However, if the buyer of your car can prove to you they have coverage on a car already in place, their policy will most likely cover them the moment you give them a signed title. It would be a good idea to check your policy first so you do not make assumptions.

You have some options when there is a gap between one car you sold and the one you bought. You could drop the optional types of coverage on the sold vehicle like comprehensive and collision, and you could drop roadside assistance and rental car replacement coverage. Dropping these coverages will reduce the cost you pay for insurance before buying the next vehicle.

You need to ensure that if you drop any optional coverage, it does not affect any of your other vehicles on that policy. When you do buy the other vehicle, it is crucial to add back the optional coverages you want.

Once you have spoken with your agent and made sure the coverage for the next vehicle is correct, you can then take proof of insurance to the DMV and have the plates from the previous vehicle transferred over to the one you purchased.

Wow, what else should I know about car insurance?

That’s a dangerous question and one that could keep you here for quite a while! Our article How to Get Car Insurance covers a lot of information. Another popular topic is What type of insurance agent is best for me? which you can also check out.

If you feel like you have filled up on car insurance knowledge and want to bring us into your world, we’re ready. To get started, tap the Get Quote button below. One of our insurance pros will reach out to connect. If you have more questions that you’d like answered first, use our Contact Us feature below.

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Horan Companies offers comprehensive auto insurance in New York State, including: Baldwinsville, Syracuse, Onondaga County, Liverpool, Fulton and Camillus, NY.