How Long Does It Take To Get A License Plate?

If you’re reading this, you probably just acquired a vehicle. To that, we say congratulations! After all the registration paperwork is finished, you’re likely wondering how long until the license plates come in. We’ve researched to find the length of time, so you know how long you might have to wait.

The exact wait time varies per state, but you generally should only have to wait between two to three weeks. If you still haven’t received them after 30 days, reach out to your local DMV to get a status report on your license plate delivery or request an extension on the temporary ones.

Today, we’ll explain how car registration works, how long of a wait it can be in certain states, and more. Continue reading to learn all about it.

American License Plates on Wooden Background. Car Registration and Licensing Concept. How Long Does It Take To Get A License Plate

Length of Time to Receive Your License Plate

As mentioned before, the exact wait time for your license plate depends on the state you’re registering in. Three weeks may be the average wait time, but some states hand you the plates the same day you pay for registration. Here are the exact wait times for specific states.


If you’re getting the car registered without already having a license plate from a seller, you need to apply for a temporary license plate. Doing so requires your driver’s license, insurance, title, inspection, and an application for a temporary registration (labeled as MV-351). Go to your local DMV or authorized PennDOT facility to complete the paperwork.

These temporary plates are valid for 90 days. During that time, your permanent license plates should come in the mail in eight to ten weeks. This applies to custom license plates as well. If they don’t arrive by then, contact your DMV again to resolve the issue. 


If the car is purchased from the dealership, you’ll be given temporary license plates that are valid for 90 days. Otherwise, you obtain them from the DMV. The wait time for the official license plates is two weeks to a month. 

Make sure to stay in communication with the dealer and the DMV. Certain laws make obtaining your license plate a hassle and can financially hurt you in the long run.


According to the Texas DMV, a dealer is responsible for processing the title and registration. If you haven’t received your license plates in the mail within 30 days (or 45 if the car was financed), you can file a dealer complaint.

If your temporary tags expire soon, purchase a temporary permit. A dealer complaint can take up to three weeks for the investigation to complete.


Buyers who bought their car from the dealership won’t have to do much after paying the necessary fees. The dealership is required by law to transfer the title and registration plates to you within 30 days. Keep in touch with them to ensure they do so. In the meantime, you’ll be able to drive with the 30-day temporary license plate they offer you.

If you bought the vehicle from a private seller, then you’ll have to visit a local service center to finish the paperwork and registration. 

What if I Ordered Custom License Plates?

If you decided to get personalized license plates instead of regular ones, you’d be waiting a bit longer. Keep in mind that if you ordered custom license plates for a vehicle you just acquired, you’re going to need to renew your registration. It’ll expire by the time the custom license plates are ready to pick up. 

Depending on the state, the wait can be as short as six weeks to as long as 12 weeks. Make sure that whatever customization you’re getting is available or allowed. Configuring the license plate to something similar to an already issued license plate or something offensive will delay the wait time even longer.

How Long Does a New Car Take to Register?

Happy couple buying a car in a showroom while men are shaking hands after reaching a successful deal. Focus is on man with glasses.

The process to register your car isn’t long at all. However, it’s only quick if you have all of the documentation you need for the process. For a smooth transition, have the following ready:

  • Title: legal proof that you’re the new owner of the vehicle
  • Up-to-date inspections: the car must pass your state’s inspection requirements and emission levels
  • Valid ID: a driver’s license or government-issued ID
  • A completed vehicle registration form
  • Proof of valid insurance
  • Proof of residency: a bill with your name and address matching your ID is fine
  • Form of payment: you won’t be able to pay in cash. You’ll most likely need to pay using checks or money orders. Some DMVs may let you pay using a credit or debit card.

Can I Register My Car Online?

Hands of a businessman on a keyboard

Some states allow you to do the entire process from the comfort of your home. Example states include Texas, California, New York, and Arizona. You need to submit all necessary documents electronically. However, other states will require you to submit some, if not all, of the documentation in person. 

If you complete the process online, you will receive all necessary paperwork in the mail. Follow up with your DMV to see how long it takes to arrive. 

Do Car Dealerships Register Your Car For You?

In some cases, the car dealership will be able to handle the paperwork for registration. All the fees you’d typically pay for doing it yourself are included in the total sale price. According to Edmunds, the car buying process can take an average of over three hours to get in the door, negotiate, fill out the paperwork, and drive off. 

You need to have all of the documentation listed above to make the process go smoothly. If you’re trading in a vehicle, you’ll also want to bring the current title and registration from that vehicle. Payments can be made with a check or with an auto loan from your bank. Credit cards will not be accepted except for down payments with a limit determined by the dealer.

Note that you'll have to handle the registration yourself if you’re purchasing the vehicle from a different state. The dealer will provide a temporary permit so you can drive to your DMV without getting a ticket.

For a more detailed guide to dealership car registration, check out our other post.

Can You Spray Paint Your License Plate?

Male hand in a glove holds an aerosol spray can with white paint

In nearly every state, it’s illegal to make any alterations to the original license plate. The original license plate is made to be scanned electronically when going through a toll, for example. It’s also made with reflective material.

If you’re thinking about spray painting your license plate to touch up some faded colors, you’re better off replacing the plate altogether. Spray painting it (or doing any other alteration) will hinder its scannability. That will lead to possible legal trouble while on the road.

Does PhotoBlocker License Plate Spray Really Work?

PhotoBlocker License Plate Spray is useful for unintentionally running red lights that were still yellow when approaching the intersection. It’s meant to make the plate reflective, so a red light camera gets blinded by its flash. 

The spray’s effectiveness is very situational, however. For example, some intersections have red light cameras angled differently. In product review tests, users reported that the camera could still capture a legible image of the license plate. The state you’re in matters, too; you might have success if your state gives you bright-colored license plates to boost the reflectiveness. 

Overall, we urge you to avoid running red lights and to slow down at yellow lights as much as possible.

In Closing

Hopefully, this post gave you the info you need to get your license plates in a reasonable time. No matter where you purchase your vehicle, ensure you stay in contact with the dealership and the DMV. That way, you won’t run into any hiccups with receiving the necessary documentation.

Additionally, don’t forget about the tags that go on the license plates, either. They’re just as important to have. Read our post explaining what car tags are and how to keep up with them.

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