How Long Can You Drive a Car Without a License Plate in Florida? (2023)

When buying a new or used car, understanding the laws regarding registration and insurance is essential. If you don’t comply with the regulations put forth by the state, you could end up facing serious fines and fees. This can greatly increase the price of your vehicle purchase and create a hassle that no one wants to deal with. If you take care of your licensing and registration obligations right away, it will end up being much cheaper and easier in the long run.

If you purchase a car in Florida, you have 30 days to get new license plates and register the vehicle in your name. If you fail to do this, there are penalties that can quickly add up. Understanding the process and what you need to do when you make a vehicle purchase can help you avoid costly fines with your new car. Staying compliant with Florida law will also make the car-buying experience much more fun and stress-free.

Florida License Plate Laws

The state of Florida has relatively strict laws when it comes to license plates, registration, and insurance. One thing to keep in mind is the fact that you must have visible plates at all times. Obstructing plates for the purpose of getting more time to register the car is not recommended as law enforcement officers will be looking out for visibility issues with plates. Trying to hide an expired tag with a frame or cover will only cause more issues.

The penalty fine for an obscured license plate varies quite a bit in the state of Florida. In Orange County, for example, the fee is $114. In other areas of the state, the fine is $165. This will be on top of any fines you accrue for not having valid plates or registration on your vehicle. Because of these steep fees, it will always be better to go through the proper channels and get valid tags for your new car.

Getting a License Plate When Buying from a Private Seller

When you buy a car from a private seller in Florida, they will keep the old license plates and the responsibility of getting new ones will be yours. Fortunately, they make the process of getting new plates in your name fairly simple. You can go to one of the driver's license and motor vehicle service centers located all over the state and apply for new plates in your name. They will provide new plates since the state of Florida keeps license plates with individual owners.

You will need to bring all the paperwork that you filled out when buying the car to the service center if you want to get plates in your name. This will include a bill of sale and the vehicle title, signed by yourself and the previous owner. With this information, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, also known as the FLHSMV, will be able to change the car to your name and get you your new plates. This must be done within 30 days of making the sale and you will need proof of ownership on you at all times while you are waiting.

If you are buying the car in Florida but intend to bring it to a different state, you will still need to pay sales tax on that car. To do this, you will have to bring it to a service center where you will be issued a 30-day temporary tag for the car. You will also pay the sales tax during that same visit. From there, you can then register the vehicle in the state you intend to drive it in and get your new license plates.

Getting a License Plate When Buying from a Dealer

When you buy a new vehicle from a registered dealer, the process of getting your new license plates is a little bit easier. The dealership will take care of most of the paperwork and will have temporary plates for you that will allow you to drive the vehicle while your new plates are being processed. Depending on the dealership, they may even order new plates in your name and have them sent to you.

Whether you are buying a new or used car from a dealership, make sure you ask them about the process of getting new license plates. It is best not to assume that your new plates will show up in the mail and risk running out of time on your 30-day grace period.

Temporary License Plates

Florida allows the use of temporary license plates, but most of the time these will only be available when purchasing from a dealer. For the most part, you will have to start the process of getting your new plates right away if you are buying from a private seller. Getting them as soon as possible will reduce your chances of getting fined for an improper license plate display.

Because of this, it is recommended that you conduct the transaction of purchasing the car in the parking lot of an FLHSMV service center. This makes it much more convenient to start the process of getting your new plates. It is also a lot safer than making the sale at a seller’s home or somewhere less conspicuous.

Dealer Temporary Plates

When you purchase a car from a dealership, you will get temporary plates that you can use while you wait for your new ones. Using these plates, you will either have 30 days or 10 days to register the car in your name at the DMV. Once that happens, you will be able to get the new permanent plates for your vehicle. You will also have to show proof of insurance at the dealership before they will let you drive off with the car.

In many cases, the dealer will handle all the necessary registration and title changes for you while you use the temporary plates. However, it is best to make sure they do this part of the process so you can be sure. If they do, you will get the new title and registration in the mail and you may then get new plates using this paperwork. Your responsibility for this part of the car buying process will depend heavily on the dealership and what they offer in the way of handling the paperwork.

Non-Dealer Temporary Plates

While it is not common for non-dealer temporary plates to be issued in the state of Florida, there are times when a private seller will be able to issue them. Sometimes, temporary plates can be issued if the car or motorcycle needs to be weighed in order for it to be transferred to the new owner. They can also be issued if state law requires the vehicle to be inspected using the vehicle identification number, or VIN. 30-day temporary plates may also be issued if the private seller is a bank or credit union that is selling a repossessed car.

The other type of non-dealer temporary license plate is a 90-day plate that is issued when the owner of the car is temporarily employed by the state government but lives in a different state for the rest of the year. You may also receive this extended temporary plate if you are waiting for a personalized plate to be manufactured and the waiting period extends beyond 30 days.

Insurance Requirements for Getting License Plates in Florida

Florida has stringent requirements for car insurance when it comes to vehicle registration and valid license plates. Before you can purchase a car either from a car dealer or in a private sale, you need to have an insurance policy that is in compliance with the state’s laws. Florida insurance laws require you to have both property damage liability insurance and personal injury protection coverage. Property damage liability, or PDL, covers you in the event that you damage someone else’s vehicle or property in an accident. Personal injury protection, or PIP, covers you if someone is injured in a car accident involving your vehicle.

If your auto insurance is going to be considered valid, it needs to be for a minimum of $10,000 for both types. It also needs to be from an authorized Florida-based insurance company. Florida residents need to maintain this coverage whether their vehicle is in operating condition or not. You will have to surrender your license plate if you want to cancel your insurance coverage in the state.

When to Get Plates for an Out-of-State Car

For the most part, if you are simply visiting Florida and driving around, you do not need to do anything with the local DMV or change your plates. However, if you do anything that could potentially establish residency in the state, you may have to get new plates. This includes things like buying a house, putting your kids in school, getting a job, or registering to vote. If you do any of these things, you may count as a Florida resident and will have to pay registration fees to get Florida plates as well as make sure your insurance is up to Florida standards.

How to Transfer an Out-of-State Title

If you want to transfer your certificate of title from out of state, you will need to fill out some paperwork and have it notarized by a DMV employee or a Florida notary. The DMV will also have to record the VIN and the odometer reading. To get this inspection done, you will have to get a temporary 10-day tag using your current title and your valid Florida insurance.

If you don’t have the title yet because it is being held by the bank you financed the car with, you can transfer the title using the bill of sale and a valid photo ID or Florida driver's license. You may need to pay the difference in sales tax for the state of Florida depending on the price of the car and whether the tax collector finds that you owe it.

Applying for a New Title When Buying from a Private Party

When you buy your car from a private party, you need to transfer the certificate of title right away. This is why it is highly recommended that you conduct the transaction at an FLHSMV service center. If the title is in paper form, the seller will fill out a section on it called Transfer of Title by Seller. You will then fill out an Application for a Certificate of Title from the FLHSMV. Both of these documents need to be turned in to the service center right away.

As the buyer, you will pay the sales tax and registration fees at the service center. If there is a lien on the vehicle, this will also need to be paid off before the car title can be transferred. Once this happens, the lienholder will send a Satisfaction of Lien to the service center and you will be able to register the car in your name.

Penalties for License Plate Violations

If you are caught by a police officer without proper license plates, Florida has very strict penalties that you may be subject to. For example, driving without license plates holds a potential charge of a second-degree misdemeanor, even if you are a first-time offender. The law also states that "any person who knowingly and willfully abuses or misuses temporary tag issuance to avoid registering a vehicle requiring registration” could be charged with a first-degree misdemeanor.

In the state of Florida, it is also a third-degree felony to issue temporary tags to someone that does not exist. This means that if you are trying to conceal your ownership of a vehicle, you could end up in serious trouble. Florida keeps a sharp eye on the vehicles registered in the state, so it is in your best interest to always go through the proper channels.

Final Thoughts

When purchasing a new or used car in Florida, it is a good idea to fully understand the requirements of registration and licensing. Since the state has such hefty penalties for violations, it is not worth the risk of misunderstanding or purposefully violating the laws. As long as you have the proper insurance and make sure to set the process of getting your new plates in motion as soon as possible, you shouldn’t have any issues.

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