The Plate-to-Owner law which went into effect Jan. 1 is designed to encourage car buyers to get their vehicle titles changed promptly. It also requires car dealers to remove vehicle license plates and registration sticks and either give them to the previous owners or destroy them. According to the law, the owners of vehicles such as this one would have the option of transferring the old license plates to their new vehicle or destroying the plates.

Do you like your license plate?

Texas drivers get the chance to keep their old license plates and either destroy them or use them when they buy a new vehicle thanks to a state law which prohibits individuals who buy used vehicles from dealerships from using existing license plates. The law is meant as an incentive to get car buyers to stop by their county’s tag office and have their vehicle’s title changed to reflect the new owner’s name and information.

The law went into effect Jan. 1.

Not everyone is pleased with the way the Plate-to-Owner law is being implemented.

A used vehicle salesman at a U.S. Highway 82 car dealership said one thing which annoys him about the law was the speed at which the Texas Department of Transportation disseminated information on the new rules.

“TxDot sent out a paper backdated Jan. 14. We’ve had that much notice,” he said.

The law applies to passenger vehicles and light trucks. Motor homes are not affected by the law, nor is dealer inventory acquired before Jan. 1, 2008.

Customers who sell their vehicles have the option of keeping the plates from their previous cars and transferring them to a new vehicle or disposing of their old plates to prevent the license plates from being used fraudulently.

(TxDot recommends marking through the plate with an indelible marker before discarding or recycling the old plate.)

Dealers are told to remove plates and windshield registration stickers from the cars they buy and give the metal license plate to the original owner of the vehicle.

The paper window sticker which is applied to the lower, left driver side windshield is to be removed. Dealers have three options for disposing of the registration sticker.

TxDot recommends dealers who do not have access to the motor vehicle database keep the registration stickers so they can determine when the vehicle’s registration should be renewed.

Dealers can also dispose of the sticker “in a way to prevent fraudulent use” or dealers can give the stickers to customers with instructions to destroy the items.

TxDot notes that even though the plates and sticker have been removed, the registration remains with the vehicle and is valid until the month and year of expiration.

Dealers who purchase vehicles through auto auctions are also required to remove the license plate and sticker.

A vehicle may remain on a car lot without a plate and tag as long as it stays on the lot. Vehicles taken on test drives must display a temporary tag.

In order to comply with the law, a dealer who wants to transfer license plates for a customer must remove the plates and registration sticker from the vehicle sold or traded and give the plate to the customer.

The dealer then collects a $5 plate transfer fee and submits the title application for the customer. The metal plate can then to affixed to the vehicle and a buyer’s temporary tag placed on top.

Some plates cannot be transferred including general issue license plates that are not for passenger cars or light trucks.

Plates must be transferred to the same class of vehicle,( i.e. a car can only be transferred to another car.)

Plates that are seven years or older must be replaced because plates tend to loose their reflective qualities over time, according to TxDot.

Dealers are being allowed a 60-day acclimation period to adjust to the new law before enforcement is set to begin March 1.

Although the changes seem a little confusing, not all dealers are upset with the law.

“We haven’t had any trouble with it yet,” said James Martinson of Martinson’s on East Highway 82. “It’s been pretty much clear sailing, but that’s not to say we won’t have any (trouble) in the future,” he said.

Cooke County Tax Assessor Collector Billie Jean Knight said the change to the law came about after lawmakers realized there were some problems with buyers who continued using the previous owner’s plates without transferring the vehicle’s title to their own name.

She said sometimes when an individual sold a vehicle and the buyer did not transfer the title properly, the seller would receive undeserved tickets for traffic infractions or unpaid tolls.

“Suddenly the seller is receiving citations in the mail. Something had to be done,” Knight said.

In an August 30 Register story, Mountain Springs resident, Don Fletcher experienced a similar situation when he sold a 2004 Chevrolet Silverado to Holiday Chevrolet on Nov. 10, 2006 and the dealership did not remove the plates. Fletcher said he began receiving citations for unpaid toll road fees after cameras captured photos of his old vehicle passing through the roads without paying the tolls.

This kind of hassle and confusion can be avoided if people do the right thing and remove their old plates and change their vehicle titles, Knight said.

She noted that several states have practiced the Plate-to-Owner procedure for years.

She said the law is a positive thing but it will require a period of adjustment for buyers, dealers and sellers.

“It’s a good idea once people get the hang of it. Especially in individual-to-individual sales because it encourages the person to come up and get their title. It will prompt that new owner to get up here quicker to transfer that title,” she said.

She said the procedure is optional for vehicles sales between individuals.

“The seller does not have to take the plates off that vehicle, but (removing the plates) does prompt that buyer to get the title changed,” she said.

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