License Plate 101 in Puerto Rico

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Legal considerations
Wrapping up
puerto rico license plates


Yet another thing the United States and Puerto Rico have in common is having to drive with a valid license plate attached to your car so that it is clearly visible. If you drive your car without a license plate, or an expired one, expect to get pulled over and get an expensive ticket or two. The three most common license plate violations and the corresponding fines in Puerto Rico are:

  • Unreadable license plate – minimum $100 fine
  • Driving with another vehicle’s plate – minimum $1,000 fine
  • Driving without a license plate – (often just enforced for the rear of the vehicle) minimum $100 fine
  • Altering a license plate – minimum $100 fine

So, you cannot drive with someone else’s license plate, whether they gave you permission or not. You cannot alter your plate, so this means you cannot paint it, draw on it or put decals/stickers on it. Your license plate must also be readable so you cannot have a tinted visor over it and your tag lights must be working so that it will be readable at night. These fines are all dependent upon the fact that you are an actual licensed driver with an insured and registered (up to date “marbete”) vehicle. If not, there will be additional fines and/or possible arrest.

If you need a new license plate in Puerto Rico you will have to go to the Department of Transportation and Public Works (Departamento de Transportación y Obras Públicas) which is often abbreviated as DTOP. The DTOP is the Puerto Rican version of the Department of Motor Vehicles. Make sure your car has been registered before you do this, otherwise you will be unable to get your plates. Once you have been approved for your plates you will be given temporary tags and then you will get your actual license plates via the mail about a week or two later.

In certain situations, the police may even choose to remove your license plate so that you will not be able to drive your car anywhere without being pulled over again. Having an expired inspection sticker or not having an inspection at all is an example of an offense where police in Puerto Rico can do this. In addition, you will receive fines and you will be without your plate for several days until you are able to pick it up.


There are several different types of special license plates that are legal to drive with in Puerto Rico. However, not everyone can choose any plate. For example, only handicapped people can have a handicapped plate. Regardless, there are several types of non-standard license plates that you could see or possibly get yourself in Puerto Rico. They are:

  • Personalized – Much like you often see in the United States, these are regular license plates with a customized message as the six characters on the plate rather than a typical license plate number.
  • Government – Government plates in Puerto Rico have unique designs, list the title of the particular government official and often only have three numbers instead of six numbers or characters.
  • Historical/Antique – Historical and antique license plates in Puerto Rico are only given to cars that are actual historical/antique vehicles and have that status officially registered. These plates are also have unique designs and typically pay homage to the particular style of car that they are affixed to.
  • Handicapped – Handicapped plates and parking works the same in Puerto Rico as it does in the United States, if you do not have a handicapped plate or placard, you cannot use a handicapped space. If you have both either, you may use a handicapped space.


Wrapping up

Your license plate is obviously a tremendously important part of being able to drive legally in Puerto Rico. You must always have one affixed to the appropriate places on the front and the back of your vehicle. On top of that, they must be your plates, you cannot alter them, and they must always be completely visible. There are several types of non-standard license plates in Puerto Rico including government, historical or antique, and handicapped plates.

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