What To Do With Old Arizona License Plates?

If you have some old Arizona license plates lying around from a previous vehicle, you have several options for dealing with them properly. From recycling to gifting, there are creative ways to reuse or dispose of old plates no longer in use.  

Those dusty Arizona plates stacked in your garage or basement don’t have to clutter your space any longer. Give them a new life through one of many possibilities, whether decorative, practical, or charitable in nature.

Do I Need to Return My Arizona License Plate?

When you buy a new car or move out of state, you must return your Arizona license plate. The Arizona Motor Vehicle Division (MVD) requires you to remove your license plate from your old vehicle when ownership changes. Whether you sell, trade-in, or junk your old car, you cannot legally transfer the plate to a new owner.  

Some exceptions exist, such as transferring the plate to a new vehicle you purchase in Arizona. However, in most cases, you must return the outdated plate to the MVD. Doing so lets the agency know the associated vehicle is no longer in use and cancels the plate’s registration. 

It is illegal to throw old license plates in the trash or fail to notify the MVD about vehicles and plates taken out of service. Make sure to follow proper procedures when turning in old plates to avoid fines or complications.

You Can Send Your Old Plates Back to the DMV 

You Can Send Your Old Plates Back to the DMV 

The easiest option for discarding old Arizona license plates is sending them back to the Arizona DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) for proper disposal. They provide a straightforward process for individuals and dealerships to return unneeded plates by mail or in person.

When plates expire, get replaced due to wear/damage, or the associated vehicle goes out of service, they cannot be used again. The DMV’s license plate return program helps get old plates back in circulation or destroyed if unusable. By returning plates no longer being used, Arizona residents help control inventory and get credit for giving the plates back per ARS laws.

To return license plates by mail in Arizona, remove the plate from the vehicle and mail it to:

Arizona Department of Transportation 

  • PO Box 2100, Mail Drop 538M 
  • Phoenix, AZ 85001 

Make sure to include a copy of the plate’s registration cancellation notice or other documentation with the surrendered plate. This helps the Arizona MVD correctly process and record the transaction.

Instead of mailing plates back, Arizona residents can also return them at an Authorized Third Party location or to their county Motor Vehicle Department. The MVD may offer a small registration credit for giving back the plate depending on the situation.

What to Do with Old Arizona License Plates?

Old Arizona license plates can still prove useful even after you can no longer legally mount them on a vehicle. Rather than tossing them out without considering other possibilities, explore creative ways to give used plates new life.

Several viable options exist for reusing, repurposing, or sustainably disposing of outdated Arizona plates no longer attached to a registered vehicle. Choices range from practical to decorative to charitable. 

For example, you can display old plates as garage wall art or create a commemorative photo frame out of a meaningful plate number. Or mount a plate in your workshop to hold small tools and hardware. More possibilities include selling plates for profit, gifting special ones to friends or relatives, or even recycling aluminum ones at a scrap yard.

Before choosing what to do with plates not returned to the MVD, make sure they are no longer linked to an actively registered vehicle in the state. Expired plates that remain unclaimed by Arizona can spark fraud investigations.

Recycle Your Old Arizona Plate 

One eco-friendly option for discarding old Arizona license plates involves recycling them. Standard Arizona plates contain aluminum metal, making them ideal for scrap recycling programs. Aluminum recycling allows reused materials to create new metal products later on.

If your outdated plates show significant wear with faded numbers/paint, recycling the aluminum offers a practical solution. Scrap metal recycling facilities can shred damaged aluminum plates and pay out small amounts per pound. Just make sure to remove any screws, plate frames, or other non-metal attachments first.

Sustainably disposing of old plates through metal recycling gives the materials renewed purpose. Just remember to officially cancel the plate’s vehicle registration first.

Transfer It to a New Vehicle

Instead of turning old Arizona plates back into the MVD, you may have the option to legally transfer them to another vehicle. Certain qualifying conditions must be met to switch Arizona plates from one owned vehicle to another.

For instance, plate transfers only apply to private party sales, gifts, or acquisitions of cars within the state. And the vehicle type must match the plate (e.g. passenger car plates onto another passenger vehicle). Requirements prohibit transferring specialty, tribal, moped, trailer, and other restricted plates.

If qualified to do so, transferring an old Arizona plate saves time and fees from getting brand-new plates. Make sure to promptly register the plate with the new vehicle through MVD procedures to avoid complications.

Sell Your Arizona Plate

Selling your Arizona license plate is a straightforward process that involves notifying the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) and transferring ownership to the buyer. Ensure compliance with state regulations, complete necessary paperwork, and provide accurate information to facilitate a smooth and legal transaction. Consider researching the market to understand the potential interest and value of your specific Arizona plates. Keep in mind that regulations may vary, and the process might differ for Old License Plates New York.

Use as Garage Decor

Vanity plates, childhood plates, or grandfathered plates passed down hold nostalgic meaning for many car owners. Rather than turning such Arizona plates back into the MVD, creatively reuse them as garage wall decor.  

Affixing an old plate onto a basement or garage wall makes for inexpensive yet meaningful automotive decor. Center plates within handmade wreaths, arrange in collages with related photos or memorabilia, or craftily mount them into other DIY art pieces.  

Lightly distressed or purposefully aged plates can complement shabby chic style garages or rustic man cave spaces too. Just ensure electrical wiring safely powers any illumination lighting you incorporate. Use this idea to proudly put old Arizona plates on display where car talk and memories get shared.

Keep as a Souvenir 

Some old Arizona license plates hold special significance tied to fond vehicle memories. Perhaps the plate was on a beloved first car, favorite vacation road trip vehicle, or maybe a classic that stayed in your family for years.  

Rather than turning in such personally meaningful plates to the Arizona MVD, keep them as nostalgic souvenirs instead. Mount the special plates as wall hangings inside your home or potentially frame them alongside related photos.  

You could even emulate the license plate commemoration seen in many restaurants or bars. Screw the old plates flat against a section of wall or ceiling and affix a lightweight chain, string, or wire to create a plate hanging mobile. Use it as memorabilia commemorating your vehicle history over the years. The DIY possibilities are only limited by your imagination and sentimental value associated with the old Arizona plates.

Sell to an Antique Shop

Explore the possibility of selling your Arizona license plates to an antique shop. Vintage license plates hold historical charm and can be sought after by collectors. Before selling, verify legal considerations and potential value. Antique enthusiasts appreciate unique items, and your old plates might find a new home among those who value the nostalgia and history they represent. Consider researching the market to understand the potential interest and value of your specific Arizona plates.

When Can You Return Your License Plate in Arizona? 

When Can You Return Your License Plate in Arizona? 

The Arizona MVD sets specific requirements regarding when you must surrender your license plate, including:

Transferring vehicle ownership

Once you sell or gift your vehicle to someone else, the plates must get turned in for that specific vehicle since the new owner needs to properly register and title it under their name. The only exception is legally transferring plates between two privately owned vehicles without a dealer or owner change. 

Moving out of state

Arizona plates can only remain actively registered while residing within the state. If you permanently move away, the plates from your car must get surrendered to the MVD. Some exceptions apply for military families or Arizona students attending out-of-state colleges.

Plate expiration

Standard Arizona plates expire after 12 years from their initial registration date. Once the plate reaches this limit, the MVD deactivates it in their system and it can no longer stay attached to your vehicle. Exceptions apply for certain specialty plates eligible for extensions, permits, or grandfathered status.

In all situations when you can no longer legally use Arizona plates, make sure to promptly return them per established MVD turn-in procedures. Failure do so risks fines, penalties, confusion for future owners, and potential fraud.

Why Doesn’t Arizona Accept Old License Plates for Return?

Arizona’s vehicle services agencies including the MVD and ADC [Arizona Department of Transportation] no longer allow for residents to return old license plates more than 10 years old. 

Any Arizona plates still considered valid but over a decade old must get transferred or renewed instead. Outdated plates facing turn-in can only get accepted within 1 year past the marked expiration date printed directly on the plate. 

This policy change stemmed from inadequate tracking and inventory issues when accepting plates too old for still being in the DMV computer systems. Exceptions exist for specialty plate programs eligible for renewal beyond typical periods.

So while Arizona still requires properly returning plates taken out of service, residents cannot casually turn in plates decades old they rediscovered in the attic or garage. Proper disposal must take place through other channels.

Can You Transfer an Old License Plate to a New Vehicle in Arizona? 

In certain qualifying situations, Arizona residents can legally transfer old license plates onto a newly acquired vehicle instead of needing newly issued plates. However, some important restrictions and rules apply for properly handling plate transfers that vehicle owners must follow.

The primary requirements include that the original registered plate owner matches the new vehicle owner with no private party sales in between. And acceptable plate transfers only apply to standard passenger vehicle plates getting moved to a similar class passenger car, truck, or SUV. Specialty, tribal, commercial, moped, trailer, motorcycle plates carry different restrictions. 

Additionally, transferred plates cannot get swapped between two differing owners on a vehicle title and registration to circumvent normal registration fees or vehicle history documentation. There are specific forms and paperwork needing filed with the MVD when legally performing the license plate transfer in Arizona.

While you avoid plate replacement costs and can maintain an older plate number, the trade off means having to visit MVD offices for appointments to validate VIN changes, verify ownership continuity, update descriptions, and handle payment transactions associated with the updated registration. Weigh the convenience against costs when deciding if transferring your plate makes sense over a straight new plate replacement through normal renewal or first time registrations.

What Happens When You Surrender Your Old Plate to the Arizona MVD?

What Happens When You Surrender Your Old Plate to the Arizona MVD?

When Arizona vehicle owners properly surrender their old license plates to the state’s MVD or authorized third party offices, the plates get formally logged out of the registration system. Workers verify plate return details like registration name, vehicle VIN, plate number, and expiration before accepting the physical plates.

Whether returned plates still have valid registrations or ended up expired, the DMV digitally closes out their active status tied to your vehicle ownership. Typically a small pro-rated fee refund results from voluntarily cancelling an existing plate registration before expiration. However, old plates turned in after lapsing require no additional fees or credits.  

After software cancellation, surrendered plates either get destroyed if too damaged or recycled. Still valid plates in acceptable condition may eventually get reissued to a new registrant down the road as well.


Now that you know the Arizona MVD’s protocols and requirements for handling old license plates taken out of service, put that dusty pile of unused plates in your garage or basement to good use. Better yet, dig them out and give them an artistic, decorative, or practical new purpose other than indefinitely collecting dust bunnies.

Put those old Arizona plates on display with pride, or give them renewed life through creative DIY re-purposing. You can even thoughtfully gift or donate certain sentimental plates if feeling charitable. Whatever option you choose, bringing the newfound potential to retired plates beats needlessly sending usable materials to the junkyard to languish.

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