Most people don’t think about license plates on a daily basis, but here at Brown-Phillips, we do! Unless you’re stuck in traffic behind someone with a clever saying or a special design, you probably pay no mind to those required rectangles of tin. When it comes to insurance, however, those little buggers can cause quite the headache if you’re not familiar with the rules.
We’ve been getting a lot of questions lately about license plates and what the DMV requires when you possess them. This link (https://www.ncdot.gov/dmv/vehicle/plates/) provides all of the necessary information in detail so be sure to visit that, but here are a few guidelines as it relates to insurance.
If you bought a new car or have just moved to North Carolina, you won’t be able to get plates until you provide proof of liability insurance (from a company licensed to do business in NC) for the vehicle in question with the following minimum requirements:
-$30,000 – bodily injury, one person
-$60,000 – bodily injury, two or more people
-$25,000 – property damage
-Uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage, uninsured motorist property damage coverage, and in some cases, underinsured motorist bodily injury coverage.
-If your vehicle is financed, your lien holder will likely require additional coverage like collision and comprehensive.
Once you’ve got an insurance policy with those requirements, you’ll need to provide proof via one of these four documents:
-Form DL-123 from your insurance agent
-Vehicle insurance policy reflecting your name and the issue and expiration dates
-An insurance binder
-An insurance card with your name, the policy number and the issue and expiration dates
If you’ve traded in a vehicle, you don’t necessarily have to get new plates for the replacement vehicle – you can transfer the plates from the old one. First, contact your insurance agent to notify them of the change so they can endorse the policy (and provide an updated document of proof). Then you can submit the form and pay the transfer fee of $20 at your local DMV office.
If you’ve sold the car (and are not replacing it), if it was totaled and salvaged due to a claim, or if you are moving out of North Carolina, you must surrender the plates. This is not to be taken lightly. In all three of those scenarios, you will be cancelling your insurance coverage as it exists in North Carolina, but it is important not to do that until you are ready to return your plates to the DMV. North Carolina law requires you to have liability coverage in effect on your vehicle DURING THE ENTIRE TIME IT IS REGISTERED AND THE LICENSE PLATE IS IN YOUR POSSESSION. Even if you are keeping your vehicle but putting it into storage or do not plan to use it for an extended period of time, you must surrender the plate before cancelling your liability insurance coverage.
Cancelling your liability insurance before returning the plate incurs a civil penalty as outlined below. There is some leeway here if you’ve moved out of state – you obviously need the plate to drive to your new home – but once you’ve registered your vehicle in your new state, you must mail in your plate ASAP to: NC Division of Motor Vehicles, 3148 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-3148.
Lapse of Insurance Coverage
If you change insurance carriers or you have a lapse of coverage (including a cancellation for non-payment of premium), your insurance company is required by law to notify the DMV. At that time, the DMV is required to send you a Form FS 5-7 Notice, to which you must respond within 10 days. If you have not had a lapse of coverage (i.e. you have a new policy with another company that started the same day your other one cancelled), simply enter your new information and return the form within 10 days.
If there has been a lapse in coverage or you don’t respond in time, your license plate may be revoked for 30 days and you will have to complete the following steps to re-license:
-Provide proof of insurance coverage Form FS-1 (via your agent)
-Pay a civil penalty fee of 50.00, 100.00 or 150.00 (depending on how many prior lapses you’ve had)
-Pay a 50.00 service fee
-Pay appropriate license plate fee.
All of that is a major hassle for you, and it can be avoided by simply a.) paying your premium bills on time; and b.) surrendering your plates before you cancel your insurance coverage if you get rid of a vehicle or move. You may have been rid of your actual vehicle for months, but as long as you have the DMV’s license plates, that insurance policy needs to be active or they will hunt you down for those fees.
If you’ve read this far, we’d like to thank you by ending things on a light note! Here’s a gallery highlighting some of the funniest and/or most inappropriate license plate requests that have been rejected by the NCDMV: http://www.wral.com/news/local/image_gallery/13455295/