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News / City Life

California is finally requiring temporary license plates

California is finally requiring temporary license plates
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Ying L

Sorry, license plate-free drivers, but that Rusnak frame isn't fooling anyone into thinking that 5-year-old Audi is fresh off the lot. Whenever we see one in traffic, we can't help but think that plate-free cars are just flat-out unfair—essentially a free pass for toll evasion—and potentially unsafe—good luck identifying a hit-and-run offender. But California's insanely liberal window on driving around a new car without a license plate is about to get a bit of sanity.

A new law will require California car dealers to provide temporary license plates for newly purchased vehicles. Though a visual standard has yet to be developed, all temporary plates will clearly display the report-of-sale number and expiration date. Under the current law, new-car drivers are issued a small temporary registration to stick onto the corner of the windshield. You're then free to ride around without plates for up to 90 days.

Governor Jerry Brown signed bill AB-516 into law on Monday—you can read the full text here if you're in the mood for some dense legalese. The new legislation will go into effect January 1, 2019; beginning the year prior, the DMV will begin using fees on parking and toll evasion to pay for the new system. The law will also bump up the cap on dealer processing fees from $80 to $85.

The move was primarily touted as a means of combating toll evasion, which the bill's author, assemblyman Kevin Mullin, says causes the state $15 million a year in missed revenue, according to the LA Times. The existing system, with its tiny registration sticker, was essentially a license to evade tolls and red lights for three months with a fix-it ticket as a worst-case scenario. And don't even think about crafting your own temporary plate, unless you're alright with a felony charge.



William S

This is devastating. I guess I'll have to trade my lease in, like, every 90 days?