In Florida, you can drive for up to 30 days without an official, permanent license plate on a car that you just bought. If you buy a used or new car from a dealer in Florida, you will be issued a temporary paper license plate to use for those initial 30 days.
The dealer then has 30 days to get the metal plate (or tag) and title for the vehicle, an amount of time deemed by the state of Florida for a dealer to complete the application for a title.
It's against Florida law (and a second-degree misdemeanor) for a dealer to issue a second temporary tag.
Getting Tags When Buying From a Private Seller
If you buy from a private seller in Florida, the plates stay with the seller, rather than the vehicle being sold. The buyer must then visit one of Florida's motor vehicle service centers where they will register for the first time the vehicle in their name. A new plate will be given to the buyer then.
If you bought the car in Florida but intend to title it in another state, then you'll need to get a temporary tag from a motor vehicle service center and pay Florida sales tax at that time. The tag will be valid for 30 days in order to allow you to drive the vehicle to the new state.
Once you register the vehicle in a new state, you may have to pay any difference in sales tax between Florida and the new state, depending on any laws governing registration practices.
Florida License Plate Laws
Florida also has laws in place that prohibit any obstruction of the license plate, which many drivers are not aware of. Dealership logos, personalized frames, school or sports frames as well as covers are all technically in violation of this law. According to the law, the license plate must be clearly visible on all sides and frames can keep this from happening.
A police officer may not be able to clearly see the state or expiration. The covers some drivers use, whether clear or tinted, often serve the purpose of blocking the license plate from being seen by traffic cameras or police. The cover causes a glare that can obscure the plate. Fines for violating this law vary, but in Orange County, the penalty is around $114.
Getting Temporary Tags
Florida law stipulates that you can only get a temporary tag if you bought your new or used car from a dealership. The dealership will generally give you the tag at the time of purchase upon confirming proof of insurance.
If you buy from a private seller, then it's your responsibility to get the vehicle registered within 30 days at the Department of Motor Vehicles. It's often recommended to conduct the transaction at a motor vehicle service center for convenience and safety.
Temporary License Plate Types
The 30-day temporary license plate from the dealership is the most common type of temporary plate in the state of Florida. When a customer doesn't have a license plate that can be transferred during the sales process, the temporary tag is meant to be just that - temporary - until the dealer applies for a title and registration on the purchaser's behalf.
Non-dealer use of temporary tags is also possible, even though the 30-day temporary tag from the dealer is the most often seen type of temporary tag on Florida's roadways, it's not the only type available. There are also 10-day temporary license plates.
This type of license plate is available for non-dealer use under limited circumstances, including when the vehicle must be weighed for the purposes of registration or when the vehicle (or motorcycle) needs to have a VIN number so that it can be inspected as part of the process of applying for a certificate of title in the Sunshine State.
Another non-dealer use of temporary license plates includes the use of the temporary 30-day tag. It can be used in a private or casual sale by a bank or credit union that requires the plate in order to sell a repossessed vehicle.
And finally, there is also a 90-day temporary license plate in the state of Florida, but it is only issued in a very limited number of circumstances. This includes some situations for people who are temporarily employed in the state but live in another state. It also includes while a license plate is physically being manufactured for owners who apply for special or personalized license plates with the DMV.
Florida's Insurance Requirements When Registering/Tagging Your Vehicle
Florida has strict rules when it comes to registering vehicles with the DMV, and that includes rules that pertain to car insurance. Prior to registering a vehicle with four wheels in Florida, vehicle owners must provide proof of two types of auto insurance coverage, including property damage liability or PDL cover and personal injury protection or PIP coverage.
A minimum of $10,000 is required by the state of Florida for both coverage types, and it must be purchased from an insurance company authorized to sell insurance in Florida.
Moreover, Florida insurance rules require vehicle owners to maintain this same minimum amount of insurance coverage on their cars, trucks, SUVs, vans, and other vehicles. This includes even during periods of time when the registered vehicle is inoperable or otherwise not being driven.
Prior to canceling the insurance on a vehicle, a driver is required to surrender the license plate for the vehicle. License plates can be turned in at the nearest tax collector's office or DMV.
Vehicle owners who fail to maintain the insurance coverage in the required amounts subject themselves to hefty penalties. This includes potential driver's license suspension and the assessment of up to $500 in fees to reinstate the driver's license or registration once suspended.
Driving a Car from Out of State
If you're from outside the state of Florida, you can generally drive around with your plates from another state unless one of the following occurs:
- You become employed in Florida
- You register to vote in Florida
- You place your children in a Florida school
- You buy a house in Florida
These things establish Florida residency, which means that your vehicle will need to be registered in Florida within 30 days the same as if you had just bought it.
How To Transfer an Out of State Title
In order to apply for a Florida vehicle title, the car's vehicle identification number (VIN) must be verified and the mileage recorded.
New residents can do this by bringing the vehicle to a Florida DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) office along with a specific Florida form authorized by one of the following:
- Florida notary
- Florida licensed car dealer
- Florida law enforcement officer
- Florida local DMV inspector
- Any out of state car dealer providing an official dealer letterhead
- Police officer in the state where the vehicle is currently titled
You can get a temporary 10-day tag for $5 in order to bring in the vehicle for inspection. In order to get that tag, you simply need to present the current vehicle title and show proof of a current Florida car insurance policy.
If your title is being held by a bank, then you'll need current vehicle registration instead. You will also need a photo ID. Qualifying photo ID includes any state-issued photo ID, any valid driver's license from Florida, another state or Canada, or a government-issued passport.
If you bought your vehicle less than six months prior, then you'll need the invoice or bill of sale. You may have to pay a difference in sales tax.
What to Do Before Buying a Used Car Privately
The first thing to understand is that Florida does not have a lemon law, so buying a car through a private sale is very much one and done. In other words, there are no built-in protections when buying private vs. a licensed dealer.
It's important to do the following before purchasing:
- Check for recalls on both the vehicle and tires
- Verify the odometer reading with the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles
- Check for an etched vehicle identification number on the windows and make sure it matches the title
- Have the vehicle inspected by a trusted mechanic
- Verify the previous owners' ID or Florida driver license to make sure that it matches what's on the title
Make sure you understand that a private party price won't include fees for the tags, title or sales tax. You will need to pay these fees upon transferring ownership.
Applying for a New Title
The FLHSMV recommends that a private party transaction be conducted in a motor vehicle service center to help protect both buyer and seller. If the original title is paper, then the owner will complete a section on the front of the title called Transfer of Title by Seller. The buyer needs to fill out an Application for a Certificate of Title.
Both documents must be turned into the motor vehicle service center in order to transfer the title. At this point, sales tax and vehicle registration fees will also need to be paid.
If the title is an electronic one, then both buyer and seller must go to a motor vehicle service center in order to conduct a secure title reassignment and verify the odometer reading. If the vehicle has a lien on it, then the lien holder has to be paid off and a Satisfaction of Lien needs to be sent to the FLHSMV.
If the vehicle will be taken to another state for titling, then the buyer needs to get a 30-day temporary tag in order to take the vehicle there. In order to get the tag, the buyer will need to pay Florida sales tax on the vehicle.
Registration Fees and License Plates
The fees for registration are based on vehicle weight, and buyers will have to go to a motor vehicle service center to complete registration. If you have a valid license plate from a vehicle you recently sold, you can transfer that to your new vehicle.
Similarly, the seller will keep the vehicle's previous license plates and can do the same thing. When the vehicle is being operated, the vehicle registration certificate must be either in the vehicle or on the person operating it. Florida allows no grace period for registering a vehicle or renewing the registration of a vehicle.
Dealer Charges For Tags
Dealers are only allowed to charge the exact amount of the tag, title, and sales tax as indicated by the state of Florida. However, some dealers will tack on a processing fee for this service. If they do add such a fee, then it must be separately disclosed.
Penalties for Misuse of Temporary Tags in the State of Florida
Florida is very strict about the use of its temporary license plates. The use of temporary tags in the state of Florida is governed under Section 320.131 of Florida state law.
The law states that it is a first-degree misdemeanor for "any person who knowingly and willfully abuses or misuses temporary tag issuance to avoid registering a vehicle requiring registration."
The law also states that it's a third-degree felony for "any person who knowingly and willfully issues a temporary tag or causes another to issue a temporary tag to a fictitious person or entity to avoid disclosure of the true owner of a vehicle."
The bottom line is that getting a new license plate in Florida requires going through the mandatory hoops, one of which may mean using a temporary license plate until your official license plate and sticker arrives, which should be within 30 days of the date of purchase.
Any questions regarding your eligibility for a temporary license plate should be directed to your local DMV.