Every car driver knows they must follow specific rules to operate the vehicle in Texas. These rules are not only related to road safety regulations. The vehicle owners must also have all the required documents on their hands while driving, including driving license, car insurance policy, and registration certificate.

The last document proves that you own the vehicle and are allowed to operate on Texas roads. However, registering a vehicle in the state can take some time, and many people wonder what to do if they need to drive it during the registration process. If you’ve wondered this yourself, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we will figure out what a temporary license plate is, why you may need one to drive a vehicle in Texas, and how to obtain the document legally.

What Is a Temporary Tag?

In most U.S. states, you are required to have a license plate on the front and back of your vehicle to drive it, and Texas is no exception. But there are times when your transport is not registered yet, but you need to drive it, for example, to the inspection station. And that’s where temporary tags will come in handy.

Temporary license plates allow vehicle owners to drive their cars in Texas before the vehicle’s registration is completed. Temporary tags are issued by the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). If you buy a vehicle from a licensed dealer, you may receive a temporary license plate immediately because the Texas DMV allows the dealers to issue temporary license plates to buyers. If you buy a used car, you will have to get the temp tag by yourself in the Texas DMV or county tax office.

When You May Need to Get a Temporary Tag

Texas temporary tags are official documents that allow vehicle owners to drive their vehicles until the registration card and license plates are mailed to them. Without temp tags, the drivers may be fined or ticketed when pulled over by a police officer. Let’s take a look at some situations when temporary plates are needed.

  • Buying a new car in Texas

Imagine that you purchased a car, and now you need to register it. The registration process in Texas can be quite lengthy due to a large amount of red tape. However, you may need to use your car before completing the registration. As mentioned above, if you buy a car from a licensed dealer, you will probably receive a temporary tag upon the deal completion. Otherwise, you must visit the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles or a local car dealership to get the necessary document.

Note: If you need a bill of sale for a car deal in Texas, you can find it here.

  • Inspecting the vehicle to complete registration

If you buy a used car with a salvage title, re-build it, and decide to operate the vehicle, you will be required to pass an inspection in order to complete the vehicle’s registration. It means that you’ll need to obtain a temporary tag to drive your transport to the inspection site.

  • Moving to Texas and getting the car with you

If you’re moving to Texas, you must register your car in the state. Moving to another state may be troublesome and exhausting, and your car can come in handy to arrange things. A temporary tag will be helpful in this case. The document will be placed on your windshield, allowing you to drive legally and calmly to move to the state while the registration is processed.

  • Visiting or living in the state temporarily 

Texas temp tag may be needed if you’re visiting Texas and want to drive your own car for your stay. This document is also required if you are just traveling through the state or temporarily living in Texas. Note that it works on both sides—if you plan on driving the vehicle outside of Texas, you will need to get temp tags from each state you plan on driving in. This can be done by visiting each state’s Department of Motor Vehicles.

How to Get a Temporary Tag Legally

It’s illegal to drive a vehicle without registering it in the state. However, as we said earlier, the vehicle registration may take some time and create inconvenience for those who are used to driving the car daily. That’s why the DMV provides temporary plates helping people legally drive while their car is being registered.

Getting temporary plates is not complicated or time-consuming. However, fraudulent tags seem to be a significant problem for the state’s law enforcement. Since the DMV allows car dealers to issue temporary paper tags, the latter often use this for criminal purposes. It usually goes like this: a person registers as a licensed dealer (relatively easy in the state) using fake and stolen identities, creates paper tags for cars they have never sold, and sells these tags on the black market.

So, if you need a temporary tag, you must be very careful and address only a licensed Texas dealer in the DMV or dealership. The dealer will most likely charge a fee for the tag, but it will be less than the cost of registering the vehicle. It’s better to avoid online advertisements proposing you a quick issuing of the paper tags; these ads may drag you into a crime.

What Are the Requirements to Get a Temp Tag?

Buying a new vehicle from the dealers is easier since they tend to register the vehicle by themselves and provide the buyer with a temp tag for their convenience. However, if you buy a car from a private seller, the latter may not have the same courtesy. That’s why you may face dealing with this matter alone. If so, there is no cause for concern. We’ve prepared the main requirements to get the document without trouble, such as the following:

  • You need to have a valid driver’s license
  • It’s necessary to get the car insurance
  • Usually, you are required to pass an inspection with your transport
  • The car’s maximum weight must not exceed 10,000 pounds

Main Steps to Getting a Temporary Plate Legally

When you have all the documents on your hands, you can apply for a temporary tag. Here’s how to get a Texas temporary tag with several steps:

Step 1

Go to your local county tax or car dealership office or apply for a temporary permit through the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles online. The department has a temporary permits system that allows you to

Step 2

If you are applying online, you first must choose the type of temporary permit. The permits vary depending on the purpose and period they remain valid and may be 72-hour, 144-hour, one-trip, and 30-day. Ensure that you fill out all the necessary information when ordering your permit, including your contact details, vehicle information, and the reason you’re requesting a temporary tag.

Step 3

Prepare to pay the necessary sum of money for the permit of choice—from $5 to $50. You will also have to pay the required processing and handling fee of $4.75. This fee is non-refundable and paid per permit.

Step 4

Once your application is processed, you’ll be issued a temporary permit that must be displayed on the rearview mirror of your vehicle.

Step 5

You can drive with your temporary permit for the period you state when applying. After that, you’ll need to re-obtain the temporary tag or get permanent registration. Note that you can obtain a temporary plate only three times.

It is essential to remember that a temporary license tag is not the same as a dealer plate. A dealer plate allows a car dealership to operate the transport on public roads for the purpose of selling it. A Texas temporary tag allows an individual to drive a vehicle on public roads for up to 30 days without registering it in the state.

Be sure to keep the temporary tag in the car at all times, as you will need it if the police pull you over. Avoid using expired license plates because it may lead to significant fines. If you still have questions about how to get a Texas temporary tag, it’s recommended to contact your local county tax office.

Bottom Line

If you’re driving a car in Texas, you may be pulled over and asked to present a valid registration. You could be ticketed or even arrested if you don’t have one. The good news is that you can drive a car without registering it by obtaining a temporary tag, which will allow you to drive your car for up to 30 days. This can come in handy while you wait for your transport to be permanently registered or when you visit the state temporarily.

Texas has been dealing with fake temporary tags for a long time. People frequently try to cheat since the procedure of processing and issuing the title takes time. That’s why drivers need to be careful when applying for temporary paper license plates by themselves.

Published: Apr 22, 2022