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Getting pulled over for no plates

I took delivery of my S and luckily had no issues for about 2 wks but I have now been stopped by Virginia law enforcement 3 times in 4 days (twice in the past 7 hours!) for having no tags. All 3 times after lengthy stops with multiple questions was told I shouldn't drive the car until there are plates. The State Trooper even tried to run the vin accessing California's database and said the vin was not in the system and he suggested the California temporary registration I had taped in the window could be fake. Fortunately, no citations (yet) but this is a major hassle. Local DMV will not issue temporary tags if I go in with a bill of sale. Local Tesla service center can't print temporary tags because they haven't obtained designation as a "dealer" yet. Customer left having to not drive the car or risk repeated run-ins with law enforcement. I am tempted to take a valid plate off our 3rd vehicle which will be sold and put it on the Tesla just to prevent this from happening but that's not legal and could end up with worse punishment (fine/impounded etc) if discovered. Any other advice?

Weaving and jackrabbitting will help.

I received an electronic copy of the Tesla Letter of Explanation after I called the Maryland Service center to discuss the problem with my DS. He said the latter had previously only been given to folks who received their car by direct ship and not those who picked up at the service center. He indicated they would probably start giving it out to everyone given the run-ins with LEO's.

It's a PDF document on Tesla letter head, I copy and pasted the text below for those interested. If you post your email I can send you a copy.

State Law Enforcement,
The customer listed on the attached California temporary registration tag purchased this Tesla Model S as an internet purchase from Tesla Motors, Inc., a dealer licensed in the state of California (dealer #68106).
A California temporary tag is legal registration for up to ninety days from issuance and has been issued in accordance with California law. During this time, Tesla Motors, Inc. will submit Manufacturer’s Certificate of Origin and other documentation to register the vehicle with Department of Motor Vehicles in the customer’s designated state.
The attached California temporary tag has been reported to the California DMV, allowing the vehicle to be released from California and registered in the proper state.
If further information is necessary, please contact me at the number listed below.
Thank you,
Nancy McCain
DMV Compliance Supervisor

I have the letter and it has worked, although I was pulled over this morning on the way to the airport. Note that the CA "tag" is just a small strip of paper with 1/4" lettering. This was the fifth time I have been pulled over in less than 3 weeks and about 2,000 miles. TM needs a better way. Soon.

Thanks, DFibRL8R. Perhaps related, apparently due to no Maryland dealer license, people can no longer pick up at the Rockville Service Center.

In Maryland, can you take all of the Tesla paperwork and simply get the paper temporary tags at the MVA Express while you wait for the real ones to show up?

VA Tesla owners, where are you getting your car inspected?


Not sure where you got your info, but I took delivery at Rockville several weeks ago, and saw deliveries underway there last Saturday when dropping off for service. Unless this is a new development in the last two days, check your source. I was informed that they will not do deliveries at the downtown DC store because there isn't space, so Rockville is the only choice.

I took delivery at the Rockville service center on Saturday 2/23. They are still going strong. Got no plates, etc., just like everyone else.

Just renewed my temporary tags for another 60 days. The County says they are having trouble getting paperwork from the "dealership".

Someone in Maryland, told this by Tesla. Maybe they plan to stop after the already-planned ones are done, or something? Or maybe it's another left-hand/right-hand issue where internal communication is screwy? Hmm. Thanks, Dave & Sam.

@KevinR: Is that in Maryland or Virginia? Are you talking about renewing the California tag? If you're in Maryland, then where/how do you check on this stuff with Maryland? I'd love to find out where things stand with my tags, but sometimes find locating things on Maryland's sites a challenge.

@KendallPB Actually I'm in Colorado.

Wow, sounds like a drag. Of course, here in California all new cars come this way, so I've never been pulled over. Hopefully Tesla will get dealers licenses at least in all the states that don't prohibit it and manage to do the registration in a normal way for each state before delivering the cars.

I looked around for my MVPA printout and the copy of my loan paperwork, and realized I'd had them in the glove box this whole time--accidentally prepared for being pulled over, without knowing it! ;-) I put them back in the car for just in case.

@DFibRL8R, I'd like a copy of that letter, if it's not specific to you. I still haven't gotten around to calling Rockville about a couple of things I need to chat about, and who knows when I'll get around to it, so a copy of the letter would be nice. My e-mail is my first name (i.e., my handle minus the "PB" part) and the domain name is Thanks in advance!

Maybe they should just turn the whole registration and title process over to the owners like they do here in Arizona. I got my car this past Sunday, received all the necessary papers the following day, went to the Arizona DMV and registered the car. Walked out with my permanent plates, registration and title in hand. Took all but 45 minutes to get it done. Seems the quickest and easiest way to avoid all the hassle for both Tesla and us.

I got off the phone with the Rockville Service Center and Tesla Headquarters. They will only do delivery at that location now if you prepay for the car. If you want to inspect the car before paying for it (as I am doing), the car can not be picked up at the Rockville Service Center. This is because they are not licensed in the state of Maryland. Thus, I will pick my car up at the DC store.

Cert of Orgin came yesterday. It took less than 2 weeks from delivery to recieved it. I had been pulled over twice and called Tesla to let them know. They appologied and said they would try to get the CofO out soon. They pullted through for me.


@Carefree is right.
(Each state has their own process.)

Here in Arizona, which is not exactly know as a progressive-legislation environment, different Model S owners have had very different experiences. Some received registration paperwork a week before the car arrived, and others requested expedited services from Tesla to get the registration paperwork three weeks after the car was delivered.

But I will add this: over three weeks, with no plate, driving 50 miles daily on AZ metro freeways, including a road-trip to Las Vegas, NV and back, with the stupid-little temp CA slip of paper taped to the back window, I was never stopped once. Honestly, I think much of this is driven by local (meaning state or county) manpower and priorities. In AZ, Phoenix PD and County Sheriffs don't have time for this issue -- they're trying to ... that would be political, I'll stop now.

Maybe just being close to CA helps. (?)

It could be that they're more used to seeing new California cars. I doubt eastern states ever see many CA cars with temp registrations. This morning in CA a highway patrol pulled up behind me at the light to get on the freeway with my no-tags and little slip of paper car. They followed me onto the freeway and then passed me, no problem.


Can the California Temp Registration be laminated or put in a FedEx pouch and attached to the traditional license plate location? That might at least let the LEO see that there's some kind of temp plate/registration for the car.


That's what I did because I have tinted windows so the little strip of paper did not show through the window. So I laminated it and taped it inside the blank license plate surround. That was before I was pulled over five times. So far no tags.

For the MD-specific question, I went to the MVA in Glen Burnie about getting a temp plate, but the TM paperwork won't do it. They said I am legal and suggested either not driving or being willing to continue being pulled over. I apparently drive where there are a lot of LEOs, so hope the plates come soon.

@Dave: Was MVA able to check on the status of your plates? I don't understand why these things take forever...modern world...internet...why isn't all this stuff 'net-based and quick? Sigh. ;-)

We received the car in Delaware on the 22nd. Certificate of Origin arrived on the 26th but my wife has been too busy to go to the DMV ( registered jointly ).

On Thursday the 28th the police pulled me over! At first I thought it was because I was speeding since I was giving the car a nice "sprint" test. Never really exceeding the speed limit ( too much ) but punching it when the lights turned green.

Turns out I had left my wallet at home ( I was not expecting to drive back from a dinner since my wife drove us there ).
Three kids in the back and 9:30PM ... I thought I was in trouble. The police explained that the only issue was with the missing tags, I explained that 1) I left my drivers license at home ( 1st time in my life ) 2) The car was from CA and had that tiny registration slip and that we had just received the required documents for registration.

It was my lucky day - he let me go.

I think he gave me a break because 2 of my 3 kids were asleep ... he asked how far away I live ( 2 blocks ) and then said for me to go home, don't drive the car until it is registered.

What a close call. We are going to the Delaware DMV today!

I got my MD plates! 4 weeks and 2 days after pick-up, although delayed a couple of days because Solar City's truck blocked my mailbox until I told them today to park in the driveway, so the mail wasn't delivered for a couple of days. Now I can put the plates on and be "legal".... ;-)

Yeah, it's nice to only have to watch the speed now which is enough of a challenge in this car!

On day 2 of ownership I got pulled over in Scottsdale with the tiny California tag in my window. Cop said he has never heard of anyone using a small paper tag in the window for new cars. Spent 20 min with him trying to look up my VIN etc which he never found. I gave him all the paperwork that thank God the local store had just given me right before this (mine arrived with no paperwork of any kind). He misread it, copped a bit of an attitude (pun intended), and told me to read it again when he handed it back to me, but in the end finally let me go without a citation. I decided it wasn't worth going through that again, so I went to the DMV on Monday and got plates. Unnecessary irritation. Tesla should be able to give us the usual full sized window tag. I'm not sure why the VIN is not available to the police, but I imagine Tesla has to plugged that in to some database?

side note, the AZ Tesla staff told me to go for environmental inspection first to get paperwork that would qualify me for the alternative fuel plates and HOV lane access. Not quite. I wasted an hour there while they tried to sort out if they could provide me any document. If you are in AZ, just go straight to a DMV office. No inspection available or needed. The certificate of origin clearly states Electric for engine type, and that's all they needed. The only pain at the DMV was the wait and paying sales tax, and the woman miscalculated my VLT--but it was so cheap still I didn't argue.

I think drivers in my state play it safe. Once they detect a car with no plates, they avoid you and change lanes, so the police could spot you. It works every time, and I think the drivers are patting themselves on the back whenever I get pulled over. Man....
Where are my tags, please?

Strange. Here is the SF Bay Area pretty much every Porsche, every other BMW and few Infinity and Lexus in between don't have the front plate. I have never seen cops pulling them over just for that.

California is an Odd Duck, but it's more of an East Coast West Coast thing, coming from Florida Originally, you get temp tags with the purchase of a vehicle.. Here in Los Angeles I've gotten hit by a car with brand new (No Plates, except for I bought mine from XXX) and the driver RAN ! I pulled into a parking lot to Discuss the Damage.. the person Ran, and I had to flip a U turn, and chase after them, the chase ended when I got stuck at a red light and they ran the yellow. I didn't want to add manslaughter to the ordeal... So I stopped. But It gave me a very real idea that with temp tags, I could have gotten a partial plate, or something. But Instead my insurance took the report, and I never got dinged with the "Fault" but I did have to pay the $500 deductible.

I say it's a problem where California/WestCoast needs to get with the times, and not trust people to do the right thing. But that's a larger Issue.


The small paper in the window is not a Tesla thing. That's Califorinia DMV. And if the VIN isn't found in the shared database, that's also DMV. Anything we need done at the DMV here is very slow due to CA's budget cuts.

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