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Temporary Paper License Plates


Temporary License Plates and Electronic Report of Sale

Vehicles sold by California licensed dealers and lessor-retailers after January 1, 2019 will be required to display temporary paper license plates or permanent license plates issued by the California Department of Motor Vehicles. Assembly Bill 516 mandates this new requirement. DMV will no longer print numbered paper Report of Sale forms for use by dealers. When a dealer reports a sale electronically, the system will generate a numbered report of sale form. When consumers purchase a vehicle from a dealership, the dealer will be required to generate the report of sale form and attach the temporary identification portion of the report of sale form to the windshield of the vehicle. If the vehicle does not already display the required number of permanent license plates, the dealer will also be required to print and issue temporary license plates and attach them to the vehicle before leaving the dealership. 

Dealers must use the electronic system through a connection provided by either a First-Line Service Provider or DMV’s contracted vendor, Fairfax Imaging, Inc. The forms incorporated into the system are the REG 397, REG 397A, REG 51, REG 396, and REG 398. The system will also produce temporary license plates when required.

Dealers must print temporary license plates on special paper that meets DMV specifications. The paper is available directly from the first-line service providers and Fairfax. Temporary license plates will display the following information: temporary license plate number, report of sale number, Vehicle Identification Number, Year Model, Make, and an expiration date that is 90 days after the date of sale. Valid temporary license plates will include security features.

Customers who need replacement temporary license plates will return to the dealership where they purchased the vehicle to request replacement or duplicate temporary license plates.

The vehicle sale information reported by the dealers electronically will be maintained by DMV in a database that will be available to parking and /toll agencies, law enforcement, and other entities authorized by law to obtain such information. Once a vehicle registration record is created for the vehicle and permanent license plates are issued, the database will be updated with the permanent license plate number and the authorized user querying the information will be able to query the permanent license plate number.


Assembly Bill (AB) 516 (chapter 90, Statutes of 2016) requires DMV to develop and maintain a dealer reporting system that will allow all dealers or lessor-retailers to electronically report the sale of a vehicle and produce temporary license plates. AB 516 restricts access to the information contained in the dealer reporting system to authorized users of the department’s Vehicle Registration and Occupational Licensing databases.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is the DMV implementing this change?

Assembly Bill 516 (Chapter 90, Statutes of 2016) mandates dealers and lessor-retailers, wholesaler dealers and auto auctions to electronically report the sale of a vehicle and provide temporary license plates for vehicles sold without permanent license plates. 

What is the intent of this new law?

The intent is to assist law enforcement and parking/toll agencies in identifying vehicles driven without license plates.

Safety Issue for Law Enforcement –

  • Unable to identify a vehicle that may have been involved in a crime before law enforcement approaches it. 
  • Difficult to investigate crimes involving vehicles.

Toll Evasion –

  • Previously, vehicles could be driven without license plates after a retail sale. Too often, vehicle purchasers delay actually attaching their permanent license plates to the vehicle after they receive them from DMV. During this period, it is impossible to identify vehicles violating toll requirements on roads and bridges.
  • This contributed to toll evasion, costing local governments as much as $15 million in lost revenue annually.

Will the temporary license plates configuration match the permanent license plates?

No. Temporary license plates will contain a unique alpha/numeric configuration. The overall dimensions are the same as permanent license plates.

How long are temporary license plates valid?

Temporary license plates are valid for 90 days after the date of sale, or until the customer receives the permanent license plates and registration card, whichever occurs first.

Will the temporary license plates display an expiration date?

Yes. The temporary license plates display an expiration date (month/day/year) of 90 days from the date of vehicle sale.

Will the customer incur any charges for the temporary license plates?


Is there a penalty for vehicles displaying expired temporary license plates?

Yes. Drivers will be issued a correctable offense citation similar to the citation they receive for displaying expired registration or not displaying permanent license plates.

What is the penalty for someone whose vehicle does not display temporary or permanent license plates?

The fine amount can differ depending in the county where a violation occurs. The fines range from $25 with proof of correction up to $197 without proof of correction. Drivers may receive multiple tickets if they delay making the correction.

What should a person do if they do not receive permanent license plates within 90 days?

The customer should return to dealership to resolve this issue. If the customer is not satisfied with the answer they receive, they should register a complaint with DMV by using the Record of Complaint Form (INV 172A) available on the DMV website.

How is the DMV safeguarding the program to ensure there is no fraud?

Temporary license plates contain a number of security features.

  • A QR Code with specific information is embedded in the temporary license plates to make them difficult to counterfeit.
  • The temporary license plates display the report of sale number, which should match the report of sale number indicated on the temporary identification portion of the report of sale attached to the windshield.
  • Legitimate temporary license plates are linked to a DMV database that identifies the buyer and a description of the vehicle.

If temporary license plates are reported lost or stolen, vehicle purchasers should contact the California licensed dealer where the vehicle was purchased, and the dealer will cancel the stolen temporary license plates and issue new ones. The database record of the sale is updated to reflect the change and alert law enforcement that the originals are no longer valid.

Do other states issue temporary license plates?

Yes.  Temporary license plate programs exist in numerous states including Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, New Jersey, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Virginia, Wisconsin and West Virginia.

What about private party sales?

This new law does not affect private party sales, and temporary license plates will not be required for these types of sales.

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