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In California, when purchasing a car from a private party, does the old owner immediately remove the license plate?

For the most part, when you sell a car in California, the plate will stay with the car. However, if the seller desires to keep the plate themselves, t can fill out forms that will allow them to keep them. From the California DMV site's FAQ. How to Change Vehicle Ownership What do I do with the license plate? Most vehicles have sequentially issued "standard" license plates that remain with the vehicle when ownership is transferred. If the license plate is a special interest or personalized license plate, you must decide if you want to retain the plate for use on another vehicle, or release your interest in the plate. Complete a Special Interest License Plate Application (REG 17)(PDF) or a Special License Plate Application (REG 17A)(PDF) indicating your retention or release of the special plate and give the form to the buyer.

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Fill out PDF: All You Need to Know

If the buyer does not claim the plate or the transaction is complete, the plate and registration must be transferred to the new ownership. California DMV provides a special form for this — Special Plate Owner Release (REG 21)(PDF) The following are examples of ways to keep the plate.