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North Carolina License Plate Search

In North Carolina, residents must register their vehicles with the Division of Motor Vehicles.

Any new or out-of-state vehicle must obtain plates for North Carolina within 30 days.

Various plate types are issued, such as disability, specialty, standard, and personalized license plates.

Sample North Carolina License Plate

Sample North Carolina License Plate

Types of License Plates in North Carolina

Residents in North Carolina must register their vehicles with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

There are various license plates that can be issued, such as:

  • The state’s standard license plates
  • Specialty license plates
  • Disability license plates and placards

People registering their vehicle with the DMV will be issued a standard set of plates for cars, vans, or trucks, or a single plate for motorcycles and trailers.

It is possible to obtain specialty plates with the unique design of a charity, organization, occupation, or cause. There are certain requirements and additional fees for these license plates.

For people with disabilities, it is required to submit medical documentation to receive disability plates or placards. Disability license plates in North Carolina are issued to:

  • People with permanent disabilities
  • People with temporary disabilities
  • Military veterans with disabilities

Most license plates available in North Carolina can be personalized with a unique plate number.

Applying for License Plates in North Carolina

All residents must apply for license plates in the state of North Carolina if:

  • A new vehicle is purchased
  • A new resident owns an out-of-state vehicle

New residents have 30 days to register their out-of-state vehicle.

If you are purchasing a vehicle from a dealership, the dealership may be able to help with the registration of the vehicle. They will provide temporary plates that allow you to drive legally while your registration is being processed.

When buying a vehicle from a private seller, you must obtain temporary plates from the DMV or local dealership. Temporary plates are valid for 30 days and cannot be renewed.

Specialty License Plates in North Carolina

There are a variety of unique and elegantly designed license plates provided by the state of North Carolina. The following are a few examples of specialty plates that can be registered:

  • Military License Plates. Issued to those with proof of enrollment or with discharge papers from the U.S. Military. Examples of license plates:
    • Ex-POW Plates
    • Purple Heart Plates
    • Vietnam War Veteran Plate
  • Collegiate License Plates. Issued to those who want to show their support for a state college, university, sorority, or fraternity. Examples of license plates:
    • Duke University Plates
    • Purdue University Plates
    • Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Plates
  • Sporting License Plates. Issued to those who want specialty plates with their favorite teams or sports. Examples of license plates:
    • NASCAR Plates
    • NHL Plates
    • NFL Plates
  • Organizational & Causes Plates. Issued to those who wish to show their support to a local or national organization, charity or cause. Examples of license plates:
    • Ducks Unlimited Plates
    • Support Our Troops Plates
    • Litter Prevention Plates

These are just a few examples of the specialty plates available in North Carolina. Contact a North Carolina DMV for more information about speciality plates, pricing, and eligibility.

Personalized License Plates in North Carolina

Most standard, specialty, and disability license plates can be personalized in North Carolina. Applicants are required to follow these guidelines when applying for personalized license plates:

  1. Use the appropriate number of characters
    1. Up to 8 characters for passenger vehicles
    2. Up to 7 characters for motorcycles
    3. Up to 4 characters for special plates
  2. Cannot duplicate a license already registered
  3. Do not use profanity or inappropriate suggestions

Registering and renewing specialty license plates cost $30. Available plate numbers should be checked in advance before applying.

Transferring License Plates in North Carolina

It is possible to transfer license plates from a previous vehicle to a new vehicle only if the vehicle is registered in the same name. It is not possible to transfer license plates to the person purchasing a vehicle from another person.

When transferring license plates, it is necessary to do the following at a DMV office in North Carolina:

  • Register the new vehicle
  • Provide title certification for the new vehicle
  • Provide proof of insurance
  • Pay the transfer fees: $20

Replacement License Plates in North Carolina

If license plates are lost, stolen, or damaged, they must be replaced from the DMV immediately.

In addition to the application forms and documents required to apply for replacements, the fees are:

  • Replacement License Plates: $20 per plate
  • Notary Fees: Varies by location

Although a police report is not required if license plates in North Carolina are stolen, filing a police report helps to prevent their abuse and misuse.

Surrendering License Plates in North Carolina

It may be required to surrender license plates if:

  1. The vehicle’s insurance is cancelled
  2. A person moves out of state
  3. A vehicle is sold and plates are not transferred to a new vehicle
  4. License plates are damaged and replacements are ordered

License plates can be surrendered either in person or mailed to a DMV office.

Renewing License Plates in North Carolina

Before the registration of a vehicle expires, it is mandatory to renew it. Renewal can be done:

  • In person
  • Online
  • By mail

Upon receiving new decals, they can be placed over the old decals. Vehicles should be renewed before the date expires, in order to avoid any late fees.

Looking Up License Plates for Free

Available license plate numbers can be found using the search engine above. Simply enter the plate number for the state of North Carolina, and the results will reveal whether a plate is available or not.

FindByPlate can also be used to obtain some historic and background information about the vehicle registered to a license plate.