How to Change a License Plate (with Video)

by Isabella JanneyUpdated July 11, 2023

In 1905, individuals were responsible for making their own license plates or stenciling their license numbers on the fronts and backs of their vehicles. Today there are standard, required plates for vehicles, strictly monitored by the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) of each state, which is regulated through the Department of Transportation. To be a vehicle owner and operate a motor vehicle, you need to have a valid driver’s license and real ID, insurance, and a registration plate with the appropriate decal or sticker that indicates you have paid your registration fees for that year. You can do this through online services. Law enforcement will ask or look for these things to ensure that you’re following gov rules for your vehicle title.

You need to change vehicle license plates when you get new customized license plates, buy a new car, get new vehicle registration, or move to a different state. Your license plate number identifies you and your vehicle, which is why there are plate fees and why a new registrations means you can’t just put your old license plate on a new car. Getting a replacement license plate is also possible if you have damaged plates and need to do a registration renewal because of that.

There are different kinds of plates for commercial vehicles and passenger vehicles. Most people have standard plates, but there are also specialty license plates for military and people with handicaps, and other plate types like personalized license plates and special plates that you have to special order for an additional fee off of the official website for the DMV.

Changing a license plate is a fairly simple procedure if you know what you are doing. Here’s a step-by-step guide with some common FAQs for these vehicle services.

Locate the four screws in each of the four corners of the license plate. Some license plates are attached with just two screws, and hex-head bolts are always a possibility, particularly if the car's previous owner lost one of the original screws.

1. Unscrew each of the screws using the Phillips screwdriver or flathead screwdriver

Unscrew each of the screws using the Phillips screwdriver or flathead screwdriver, turning it counterclockwise. Keep track of the screws; you don't want to be that guy with one missing screw or mismatched hex bolt.

2. Remove the existing license plate frame

Remove the existing license plate frame -- if applicable -- by giving the frame a light tug. Repeat the same tugging motion to remove the license plate itself. Place the new license plate inside the back of the license plate frame, if required.

3. Align the holes in the four corners of the license plate

Align the holes in the four corners of the license plate and license plate frame with the four holes on the vehicle. If you are not using a frame, simply align the holes in the license plate with the holes on the vehicle.

4. Attach the plates and frame to the vehicle

Attach the plates and frame to the vehicle by inserting the screws into the holes and tightening them just snug. Don't over-tighten; some cars use cheap, metal tabs that are easily stripped.

Video - How to Change a License Plage

Helpful Comments from the Video:

  • This is very helpful and hilarious lol. I was laughing so hard when you dropped both screws haha, totally relatable.


You can purchase logo screw covers for your license plate online. The screw covers pop on over the screws on your license plate and have your car's logo on each cover. You can also get basic chrome- or gold-colored covers if your screws are rusty. Return your old license plates to your local DMV to ensure that no one else will use them illegally. You may also be eligible to receive a pro-rated refund if your tags have not expired.

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