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Waste Watch: License Plate Replacement Costs

Updated: Saturday, August 3 2013, 10:47 PM CDT
Texas is one of several states that requires drivers to replace license plates every seven years. Other states allow drivers to keep them as long as they want. And that made at least one of our viewers curious.

Mel Bucher of Lago Vista wrote KEYE TV this e-mail: "My existing plates are like new. I was told to paint over the numbers and throw them away. What a waste of money. New license plates have to be made for no real reason. Plates could stay on a vehicle for the life of the vehicle as long as they are not damaged."

We looked into how much money is spent on replacing the plates and found out the state spends millions of dollars a year to make new ones.

The Department of Motor Vehicles said it's necessary because the reflectivity of the plates begins to degrade after about seven years, causing safety concerns.

“Everything we can do to make a vehicle safer, we should try to do,” explained Randy Elliston, the Director of Vehicle Titles and Registration at the DMV. “The cost is one we believe is acceptable.”

Elliston told us each plate costs the state $1.60 to make. He said about 6.4 million new plates go on Texas vehicles every year, costing the state more than $10 million dollars.

The state's 22.5 million drivers pay for that. The fee is incorporated in your annual $50 dollar vehicle registration fee.

Elliston told us the glass bead sheeting on the plates helps law enforcement know it's an authentic plate and allows drivers to easily see other cars parked on the sides of roads.

But some drivers say every seven years is overkill. Other states allow drivers to keep plates for life. 

“I think people are smart enough to know when they need to replace something on their vehicle,” said driver, Danny Ruiz from his truck. “I think this is another way for them to make us do things that are not necessarily needful; it's just a waste.”

“If it's for safety reasons, it seems reasonable to me,” countered Austin driver Mark Ocean, who said he’s okay with the replacement plan.

The DMV told us any type of change would take action from state lawmakers.

So what happens to the millions of expired license plates? The DMV told us it recycles them, if you bring them in. Or you can take them to your local recycling center. Just make sure to deface the plates with permanent marker, so no one else can use it.
Waste Watch: License Plate Replacement Costs


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