How to replace a lost/damaged/stolen New York license plate

department of motor vehicles in Albany

Updated 2014-02-28

There is no "peg" for this post. And it isn't interesting. It's just that we recently had to replace a license plate and the New York DMV website is... well, there are (somewhat hard-to-find) instructions, but we figured they could be a bit clearer. (Less than helpful: the help line, which apparently had too many calling for help.)

So, good drivers of the Empire State -- mostly those in the future via Google -- here is how you do it...

Was your license plate(s) lost, damaged, or stolen? The answer to this question affects some of the steps you'll need to take. So keep that in mind.

Step 1: Download this form: MV-82. Yep, it's the "vehicle registration/title application" form -- and you already have a registered vehicle (because you had the license plates) -- but you still need it. Fill out the form.

Step 2: Is the plate lost or stolen -- or have all of your plates been destroyed? You'll need to get a "Report of Lost, Stolen or Confiscated Motor Vehicles Items" form (MV-78B) from the police (or a letter to the same effect). The upside to this: if the police report says you lost the plates as part of a crime (example: someone stole them), you get replacement plates free.

Step 3: Get together the above mentioned form(s), your driver's license (or other equivalent ID), your auto insurance card, and the remaining license plate.

Do you want to do this by mail? This will take two weeks. Yes? You'll need to photocopy your license and send that copy along with the documents -- and the appropriate fee -- to the state DMV (the plate replacement fee is $28). Here are the instructions -- scroll down to "Can I replace my documents by mail?" and follow the links. Read them a few times to make sure you've done everything.

Do you want to go to the DMV and get this done now? Yes? Read on.

Step 4: Go to the DMV, bring the form(s), driver's license, insurance card, and (if applicable) the remaining plate. Make sure to fill out the form before you get there -- this will make the process faster for you. Pre-completed forms will also make the woman at the information desk smile. She will then give you a ticket. Have a seat and wait.

Step 5: Your number's called. Go up to the window. Tell them up what's up, hand them the forms and the old plate. They'll punch your info in. They'll get you new plates. You pay. Say thank you and go forth.

What not to do

+ Don't try to do this online. As far as we can tell, this is not possible.

+ Don't think, "Oh, hey, I'll just order new custom plates..." because you can do that online. The custom plates won't arrive for 4-6 weeks, and you won't be able to get replacement plates in the interim.


* There may be a place on the DMV website where this is all laid out in exquisite and helpful detail. We have not yet come upon that place.


What not to do:
+ Do NOT go to the Albany DMV on South Pearl Street, there is nothing here but despair. It is the proverbial Hellmouth. Lucifer was a trainee once there. Your number's called, go up to the window, and your organs *will* be collected. Puppies kick people in this place.

What to do:
+ Go to the Clifton Park DMV. They give you slippers as soon as you get in, handwoven by angels, your initials embroidered by Ryan Gosling himself. Just go.

What to do:
+ Go to the Clifton Park DMV.

Seriously? You can go to another county's DMV?

@ Lu You can use any NY DMV that you want. It does not have to be in the county that you live in.

@Lu - yes, you can. I actually didn't realize it until a few years ago when I had to renew my non-driver state i.d. card. I dreaded going down to the DMW in Albany (extremely long lines, slow and rude service, etc.). But I had some errands to run in Troy and someone suggested I get my card renewed there. I took that advice and it made a huge difference. Shorter line, decent service.

@Lu: damn it, I forgot my sarcasm detector at home. But yes. I mean... sure? I live in Albany and I surrendered plates just a few days ago in Clifton Park. You can even make an appointment with them ahead of time to skip the non-existing line. Also remember the Albany DMV is not in Albany county, but technically in a parallel dimension ruled by Giant Spiders (with chainsaws). It's easy to get confused.

Yes, Lu, you can go to any one you want to. I live in Guilderland, went to Schenectady to get my license and take the tests (it was a supposedly easier place to do the parallel park than in downtown Albany), and for the last few years since the Schenectady DMV has moved around, have gone to Schoharie, which is nice and small. Or, working in downtown Troy, if I can't get away for a day, I go to their DMV that is only a few blocks away.

I highly recommend the DMV in Ballston Spa: They have craft beer on tap, manual pour-over coffee from beans roasted on the premises, and the best bagels this side of NYC. And get this -- their spoons actually fit your mouth.

Despite being raised to fear the South Pearl Street DMV, even taking my permit and drivers test in Troy despite living in Albany, I still go there now because I can never really remember how to get to the one in Troy.

Anyway, I was getting my license plates replaced this summer at the Albany one, and my remaining plate was still on my car and the screws were rusted and stripped and I could not get it off with my own tools or the tools provided to me by the DMV (a pair of scissors...?)

But a very helpful, albeit somewhat scary man came up to me during my struggles, whipped out a drill, seemingly from nowhere, changed the bit, and removed the old plate with out saying a word. It was great. Left me with great faith in humanity and the kindness of strangers.

I agree that Clifton Park is *the* DMV, as going there about 12 years ago healed me of the phobia I had developed over the years about the DMV in general. The sure are nice. But.....then a few years ago I lost a plate, but could not take too much time from work to get new ones, so I made the quick drive to S Pearl, and voila, in hardly any time at all (about 15 min.) I had new plates and no grumpy feedback. So I also got my enhanced license there, and the guy was both nice AND hysterical. Weird, bc I got there about 20 minutes before they closed.

This is great info except for a motorcycle with one plate, you need to have a police report when you stop by the DMV with the completed for.

this is great info and I love you for it!

THANKS for this! Very helpful. I only broke down in tears once through the whole process. The only addition I can add is that the if you are replacing plates for a car that you are not the registered owner of you need a copy of the registered owners license and the registered owner needs to sign MV-82 form. Thanks again!

DO NOT go to the DMV first. Report your plates stolen at the police department. They give you a receipt and then take it to DMV & they replace them free of charge. Just about to do this for the SECOND time!!! Rrrrrr!!

Thanks for the great info that i could not find on the NYSDMV site itself. However, the link you have to mailing this request seems to in error link to the proof of identity. Are there instructions and requirements for mailing in this request?

Editors: Thanks for catching that. The link is now updated above. And here it is:

So what is the cost for replacement?

Also, what do you do while going through the process so you don't get pulled over? If by mail, how to obtain a temporary sticker to operate?

Awesome article and it saved me so much time and aggravation. Hardest part was the police report. The first station I went to wouldn't do it because I don't live in their jurisdiction (even though they are closest too my house and I have to drive by them to get to the state police). Everything else went smooth... Including the DMV.

What is the DMV address to mail application for replacement plates?

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