Last Updated on August 22, 2023 by Kristin

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When you rent a car, you probably just assume that the paperwork is in order. But surprisingly, some travelers have reported getting pulled over for having an expired license plate on their rental car.

While it’s rare, it does happen.  AutoSlash recently heard from a customer who got pulled over for this very situation. A Las Vegas Fox News affiliate reported that a man was ticketed in Hawaii when his Ace Rent A Car vehicle had expired paperwork.

Here’s what to do to avoid driving away in a rental car with an expired license plate. And what to do if it ever happens to you.

Check Your Rental Car’s Tags Before Getting in the Car

It’s always a good idea to check your rental car’s condition before driving off the lot.

When you pick up your car, take a few minutes to look over the car before driving away. Get out your smartphone. If your camera has a timestamp function, turn that on. Take pictures of every dent, ding, and scratch on the vehicle’s exterior and interior. Take photos of the wheels and the windshield. No pucker, crack or scratch is too small to document. If you ever need to file a damage claim, you’ll thank yourself.

Considering the scenarios mentioned above, we also recommend checking your rental car’s tags as part of this process. Ensure that the rental car’s license plate has visible tags that will be valid for the duration of your trip. If not, don’t hesitate to point this out to the agent and ask for another car.

What Happens if Your Rental Car Has Expired Tags?

In most U.S. states, driving or parking a car with expired tags is illegal. Having expired tags on a rental car could lead to a fine, misdemeanor charge or both. Whether a police officer will pull you over and give you a fine depends on the specific situation. For example, an ABC news station in Virginia reported that a new law keeps police from pulling over drivers within four months after the expiration date. But many other states are not as forgiving. For example, North Carolina might hit you with a misdemeanor charge.

What To Do If You Get Ticketed for Expired Tags

If you get pulled over or ticketed for having expired tags on your rental car, the first step is to take a deep breath and stay calm. If a police officer is present, explain that you are driving a rental car and therefore not in charge of keeping that vehicle’s registration up to date. This may be enough to get you off the hook with a warning. However, you may find a ticket on your parked rental car. In that case would be expected to pay the fine. In either scenario, let the rental car company know immediately that your car’s tags are expired and insist that it take responsibility.

Let AutoSlash Track Your Car Rental for Price Drops

The rental car company should step in on your behalf, based on past situations. In the Hawaii incident, Ace offered to go to court on behalf of the customer. And a 2011 news story detailed how Hertz cleared up charges after a technical glitch originally left a customer with the bill.

So, always check a rental car to make sure its tags are up to date. And if you get pulled over for expired tags, make sure to notify the rental car company so it can solve the issue.