I couldn't have been doing a more stereotypical activity with my wife this past Saturday morning. No, not that. We decided to finally clean out our cluttered garage, and separate everything into "keep" "throw away" and "donate" piles. What I wasn't expecting was a question about if we would be breaking the law.

License plates are one of the most popular forms of memorabilia in the state. From celebrating your birthday by buying New York plates from the year you were born to decorating your home bar, license plates can be found for sale at local flea markets, antique stores, and even eBay listings. But is it legal?

Old license plates are cool... but can you sell them? (eBay/Jasonfang via Canva)
Old license plates are cool... but can you sell them? (eBay/Jasonfang via Canva)

Can You Keep Your Old License Plates in New York?

This was the debate that was sparked in our house in Newburgh, NY. "Should we put these license plates in the donation pile or throw them out?", my wife asked. I had no idea. Luckily, the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) had a very straightforward answer.

eBay/Jasonfang via Canva
eBay/Jasonfang via Canva

What the NY DMV Says About Old License Plates

First off, the New York DMV does not want your old license plates, and there is no method for returning them (if you sell or donate a car, you can and should return the plates to DMV here. This article is referring to "found" plates not associated with a recent vehicle). While states like California have specific methods to reclaim old plates, New York drivers are on their own. Not only do local DMVs not accept license plates plates, but they don't want anyone to have them.

Read More: What was the New York License Plate the Year You were Born? 

Why You Shouldn't Keep Your Old New York License Plates

The specific request from New York DMV offices is that New Yorkers should destroy their old plates. The DMV actually classifies old plates as scrap metal, and asks residents to treat them as such. From the DMV:

Do not return your old plates to DMV. Destroy your old plates so that they cannot be reused... When destroying the old plates, we recommend that you use a permanent ink marker to cross out the plate number or otherwise deface the plates. You can recycle them at your local scrap metal yard or recycling drop-off station.

While it's not classified as a crime to keep your plates (there's no License Plate Recovery Team... yet), the DMV warns of a specific risk of keeping the plates, cautioning that "If someone else uses [your plates], you could be held responsible for any traffic tickets written against the plates and for any fines resulting from the tickets".

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Luckily, New York is keeping it fresh with new license plates specifically honoring different regions of the state. Check out some new recent plates below, and keep scrolling for New York's license plate laws.

New York's New License Plates

New York's newest custom license plates celebrate various regions of New York.

Gallery Credit: New York State DMV

9 License Plate Violations You Can Be Ticketed For In New York

Believe it or not, there are several ways your license plates could get you a ticket if they are not displayed correctly. Some are obvious, others not so much even if you think your plates are perfectly visible to law enforcement. Here are 9 things to watch out for so you can avoid a ticket for a licence plate violation, according to Rosenblum Law.

Gallery Credit: Matty Jeff

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