Having a lapse in your car insurance coverage is never a good idea. Insurance companies hate to see a lapse in coverage and will charge you accordingly when you decide to reinstate your policy.

In addition to higher premiums, an insurance lapse in North Carolina may result in losing your license plates and $100 in fees before you can get them back. Keep reading to see what you need to know about returning your license plates in North Carolina.

Key Highlights
  • A lapse in car insurance coverage will almost always result in a premium increase when you reinstate your coverage.
  • You must surrender your license plates in North Carolina if your insurance has lapsed. 
  • You must show proof of insurance and pay the required fees to get your license plates back in North Carolina.

How long do you have to turn in your license plates in NC?

You have 10 days to prove you have new car insurance or turn in your license plates if you have not secured new coverage. If you fail to respond to the notice and prove you have new insurance in place within 10 days, there are steep penalties to pay.

According to the North Carolina DMV, failure to respond within the required time – 10 days – can result in losing your license plates for at least 30 days and possible registration suspension.

After the revocation period, you must pay a $50 restoration fee, a $50 service fee and standard license plate fees before you can legally get back on the road. The service fee can be avoided by surrendering your license plate to the DMV during the 10-day period after receiving a notice of revocation.

What happens if you don’t return your license plates in NC?

There are fees for not returning your plate if your insurance lapses, which go up each time your coverage lapses.

If you let your insurance lapse more than once, the fees will increase. The NCDMV assesses penalties for lapsed coverage based on the number of prior lapses a registered owner has had on their vehicle within three years.

The fees, in addition to a $50 restoration fee, are below:

  • First lapse: $50
  • Second lapse: $100 
  • Subsequent lapses: $150

If you are leaving the state for good or no longer driving, you must return your license plates to the state.

What are the requirements for returning your plates to DMV?

The following are the requirements to be met for returning your license plates to DMV:

  • The owner must furnish a copy of their out-of-state registration reflecting the vehicle has been registered by the owner in their new state within 30 days of the cancellation or expiration of the owner’s North Carolina motor vehicle liability policy.
  • The owner must submit a copy of their current out-of-state registration to NCDMV.
  • The owner must return the valid North Carolina license plate or submit an affidavit (MVR18​A​)​ indicating that the North Carolina registration plate has been lost, stolen or destroyed.​

If you need to return your plate, North Carolina license plates can be returned to any NCDMV license plate agency. Alternatively, you can mail them to NCDMV Vehicle Registration Section, Renewal Title & Plate Unit, 3148 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27697-3148.

FAQs: License plates

Can I transfer my plates to a new car?

According to the NC DMV website, you can transfer a license plate to another vehicle if the insurance on the new vehicle was current while the insurance was canceled on the old vehicle. In short, there must not be an interruption in coverage.

Can you appeal a revoked license plate in North Carolina?

If your license plate was revoked and you want it reinstated because you believe your lapse in coverage was not your fault, you can request a hearing. You must file a liability hearing request form and pay a $60 fee. You can also call the NCDMV at 919-715-7000 to request a hearing if you believe the lapse in coverage was not your fault.

Can you drive in North Carolina if you have an insurance lapse?

You cannot legally drive in North Carolina if you are not carrying car insurance, including a lapse in coverage, even if it is for only a few days or weeks. 

North Carolina car insurance law mandates that your insurance company notify the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles if you don’t maintain continuous liability insurance coverage. Once the NCDMV has received that notification, they will send you an FS 5-7 form, which is a liability insurance termination notice.

If you’re shopping for a new policy, our guide to North Carolina car insurance provides expert tips on how much coverage to buy. It shows average rates by coverage level, company and ZIP code, so you know what you can expect to pay.

Check out our detailed guide on the cheapest car insurance in North Carolina

– Michelle Megna contributed to this story.

Resources & Methodology


North Carolina DMV. “Moving outside N.C.” Accessed October 2022.

North Carolina DMV. “Liability Insurance Help.” Accessed October 2022.

Laura Longero

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Laura Longero

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Laura is an award-winning editor with experience in content and communications covering auto insurance and personal finance. She has written for several media outlets, including the USA Today Network. She most recently worked in the public sector for the Nevada Department of Transportation.

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