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General Information: Disposition

DISPOSITION OF PLATES UPON SALE OR TRANSFER OF VEHICLE
 
Over the past century, two main policies have been followed by states when a vehicle owner sells a car and buys another one.  In the plate-to-vehicle system, the plate that had been issued to the owner stays on the car and is re-registered to the car's new owner.  In the plate-to-owner system, the plate is removed and placed on the owner's new car.  Over the years, more and more states have switched to the plate-to-owner method due to the advantages of being able to keep a particular plate, whether it's personalized, reserved number, amateur radio, extra-cost optional design, occupational or political office.  Monthly staggered registration systems, if based on an owner's birthdate or surname initial, also work better under this plan.
 
The following table lists the system used and the dates in effect, if known.  Where an "x" appears, we believe the information for that state to be complete.
 
KEY:  C = Plates cancelled or returned to DMV
      O = Plates remain with owner
      V = Plates remain with vehicle
 
AL x V 10/1/1911 - 12/31/1997, O 1/1/1998 - 2014
AK   V 1951 - 2014
AZ x V 9/20/1912 - 12/31/1974, O 1/1/1975 - 6/30/1975,
     V 7/1/1975 - 12/31/2001, O 1/1/2002 - 2014
AR   C 8/13/1911 - 1935, V 1941 - 12/31/1967, O 1/1/1968 - 2014
    ("A" Truck switched from V to O 7/1/1967)
CA   O ? - 1/31/1920, V 2/1/1920 - 2014                               
CO x O 7/15/1913 - 2014
CT   O 7/15/1905, 1929 - 2014
DE   O 5/1/1907 - 1941, V 1942?, O law passed early 1959,
     V law signed 8/19/1959 - 2014
DC   O 1929 - 2014
FL x V 1/1/1918 - 6/30/1974, O 7/1/1974 - 2014                         
GA x O 9/1/1910 - 12/31/1915, V 1/1/1916 - 4/30/1997, O 1/2/1997 - 2014
HI   V 1964 - 1997, O 2014
ID x V 5/7/1913 - 2/11/1957, O 2/12/1957 - 2014
IL x O 7/1/1907 - 6/30/1909, C 7/1/1909 - 6/30/1911, O 7/1/1911 - 2014
IN x V 4/15/1905 - 6/30/1913, O 7/1/1913 - 2014                        
IA x V 7/1/1904 - 12/31/1978, O 1/1/1979 - 2014
KS x V 7/1/1913 - 6/30/1937, O 7/1/1937 - 2014
KY   C 6/14/1910 - 1914, V 1929 - 2014
LA   V 1/1/1915 - 1997, C 2014
ME   "S" plate 1913-15, not O or "S" 1916-19, "Special" 1920,
     O 1929 - 2014                                                     
MD   V 1929, O 1938 - 2014
MA x V 7/21/1903 - 4/19/1905, O 4/20/1905 - 2014
MI   V 6/15/1905 - 6/27/1907, O 6/28/1907 - 12/31/1909, O choice, then
     V 1/1/1910 - ?, V 1925 - 10/31/1957, O 11/1/1957 - 2014
MN x V 5/15/1909 - 2014
MS   V 6/1/1912 - 1976, V if individual or O if dealer 1977-82,
     O 1983-86, V 1987/88, O 1989/90 - 2014                            
MO x V 8/1/1911 - 10/31/1921, O 11/1/1921 - 2014
MT   V 4/1/1917 - 6/30/1969, O 7/1/1969 - 2014
NE x V 7/1/1905 - 4/5/1915, O 4/6/1915 - 2014
NV x V 4/23/1913 - 6/30/1960, O 7/1/1960 - 2014
    (O may retain plate for a fee 1/1/1916 - ?)
NH x C 4/4/1905 - 12/31/1911, O 1/1/1912 - 2014                        
NJ x C 6/1/1905 - 6/30/1906, V 7/1/1906 - 3/8/1915, O 3/9/1915 - 2014
NM x V 3/15/1913 - 3/31/1979, O 4/1/1979 - 2014
NY x V 5/4/1904 - 12/31/1930, O 1/1/1931 - 2014
NC   O 7/1/1909 - 1929, V 1932 - 12/31/1961, O 1/1/1962 - 2014
ND x V 7/1/1911 - 11/30/1997, O 12/1/1997 - 2014                       
OH   O 1911, 1923 - 2014
OK   V 1929 - 6/30/2019, O 7/1/2019 - present
OR   O choice, then V 8/1/1911 - ?, V 1929 - 1997, O 2014
PA x O 1/1/1906 - 2014
RI   O 1929 - 2014                                                     
SC   V 1929 - 1964, V (or O if same weight class) 1973 - 1984,
     O 1985 - 2014
SD x V 5/4/1905 - 6/30/2008, O 7/1/2008 - 2014
TN x V 7/1//1915 - 3/31/1951, O 4/1/1951 - 2014
TX x V 7/1/1917 - 12/31/2007, O 1/1/2008 - 2014
UT   O 5/11/1909 - 5/10/1915, C 5/11/1915, C (then O or V) 3/9/1923,
     V 1933, C 6/26/1933 - 1942, O 1964 - 2014                         
VT x V 3/16/1905 - 12/31/1929, O 1/1/1930 - 2014
VA   V 6/13/1906 - 6/14/1910, O 6/15/1910 - 3/14/1934,
     O choice 3/15/1934 - 1942, O 1945 - 2014
WA x O 6/10/1915 - 6/12/1929, V 6/13/1929 - 12/31/2014,
     O 1/1/2015 - present
WV x O 5/1/1905 - 6/30/1918, V 7/1/1918 - 6/30/1935, O 7/1/1935 - 2014
WI x V 7/1/1905 - 12/31/1945, O 1/1/1946 - 2014
WY x O 4/15/1913 - 2014                                                
AS   V 1976 - 1985
GU   V 1975 - 1985
PR   V 3/11/1909 - 1997, O 2014
VI   O 1975 - 1985
CZ   V 1974 - 1979
USG  V 1977 - 1985                                                     
AB   O 1926, 1964 - 1997
BC   V to 11/24/1973, O 11/25/1973 - 1997
MB   C 1915, O 1916, 1948 - 1997
NB   V 1974 - 1997
NF   V 1974 - 1997
NS   V 1974 - 1988, O 1989/90 - 1997                                   
ON   V 1974 - 1982, O 1983 - 1997
PE   V 1974 - 3/31/1987, O 4/1/1987 - 1997
QC   O 1914, 1974 - 1997
SK   O 1974 - 1997
YK   V 1914 - 1976, O 1977 - 1997
NWT  V 1974 - 1982, C 1983 - 1990, O 1991/92 - 1997                    
 
MAJOR SOURCES
1903-18 State Motor Vehicle Laws
1929    Oakland (CA) Tribune article, 9/29/1929
1932    Athens (OH) Sunday Messenger article, 1/31/1932
1936    Middletown (NY) Times Herald article, 12/3/1936
1938    Madison (WI) State Journal article, 1/30/1938
1941    Branham's Automobile Book
1942    News article
1964    AAMVA Book
1973-85 U.S. DOT charts
1986-97 Polk guides
2014    Seattle (WA) Times article, 12/15/2014
2014    National Conference of State Legislatures:
 
www.ncsl.org/research/transportation/license-plate-information.aspx
 
SUMMARY:  NUMBER OF U.S. STATES WITH PLATE-TO-OWNER SYSTEM
1929 - 16, 1936 - 18, 1938 - 20, 1941 - 20, 1958 - 24,
1964 - 27, 1973 - 29, 1997 - 34, 2014 - 43, 2015 - 44.