Does putting "LAF" on a car make it street-legal?

I reguarly see cars on the road with a piece of paper in the back window that says “LAF”. I understand this to mean “License Applied For,” suggesting the owner has recently applied for a license plate for this vehicle but has not yet received it in the mail.

Does putting “LAF” in the rear window actually make it legal to drive such a car on the road? Or am I just encountering these people before a cop pulls them over and has the car towed?

Never heard of it. Any traffic laws will vary greatly depending on jurisdiction. Which you have not provided.

It would not be legal in Massachusetts. Here, if you sell your old car, you have 7 days to transfer the registration to your new car, and can move the old plates to the new car. If you don’t sell an old car but buy a new car, you have to get it registered & get plates immediately. If you buy from a dealer, they generally handle that for you. If you buy from a private party, your first trip better be to an RMV office to get a new registration and plates - they give you the plates on the spot when you pay the fees, so there’s no excuse not to have them on the car.

In California, the plates go with the car if you’re buying used. I have no experience buying new cars.

Let me guess: this is a question about Wisconsin?


The same is generally true in the SoW, although an owner has the option of keeping the plates when selling a vehicle or trading it in.

If a vehicle purchased from a dealer does not have plates, the dealer will put a temporary permit in the rear window which includes an expiration date; I’m not sure what the procedure would be if a vehicle without plates were purchased from a private party, but I know the Department of Licensing will sell you a temporary transit permit which also goes in the rear window. In any case, I seriously doubt that a homemade ‘LAF’ would get you off the hook.

On a cross-country trip, I saw a tractor-trailer with a handmade plate that read LOST - APPLIED FOR - COMING - (Paperwork in cab, really!) The writing managed to look exasperated and I suspect the poor SOB had been pulled over every ten miles for days.

In Georgia the hand written tags mean nothing. If pulled over you have better have supporting documentation that you recently purchased the car from an indivdual (bill of sale and/or copy of the title), the tag was stolen (copy of the police report), etc. Cars bought from a registered dealer will come with a paper tag that is valid for up to 30 days.

I got pulled over for driving with an expired tag once. I was driving the car 5 miles to the residence of a guy who was buying it from me. I showed the cop the title, a bill of sale which included the buyer’s address but didn’t yet have his signature and offered to let the cop follow me to the address to prove the purchase was legit. He still waffled for several minutes before letting me off with a warning.

I was pulled over two blocks from home for having an expired year tag, during a short drive of a “summer car.” I was taking advantage of an unseasonably nice day for a quick spin around the neighborhood. First CHP that saw me flipped his lights on. (I had the tag in my glove compartment; was waiting for a day to remove the license plate frame to put the tag on neatly. He was polite about it, and the rest of the stop was talking about the car.)

Sometimes the dealers put plates on their new stock, sometimes they don’t. I’ve bought new cars in CA. The last one I bought didn’t have plates, and I got the dated notice taped in the back window until they arrived. Other times, my new car already had plates on it. When I got the notice taped in the back window, I kind of wondered about whether or not I’d experience any hassle because I was driving the car out of state for a week before the plates would arrive. Wasn’t a problem.

CO and PA have the dealers issue temporary plates if you don’t have any (both plate with owner states). The temporary plate is black on white and made out of cardboard, with an inked-in expiration date on it. But it has a number, and fits in the license plate holder. One funny aspect of this in CO is that if you buy a motorcycle, they have to stick the car-sized temporary on it, until your actual motorcycle sized plate arrives.

More on CO. You are allowed to drive without plates after buying a car for 36 hours if a private sale. For this reason, a bill of sale must have the date and time written on it. Also, if purchased on a Satuday or Sunday or after hours but interestingly enough CRS 42-3-115(2)(b) doesn’t seem to put a deadline on those. It cant be 36 hours because if you buy it Saturday morning you can’t apply for your new license plate before Sunday night.

That being said, you will get temporary tags while waiting for yours to arrive. I don’t know about yabob’s county but in El Paso and Boulder county, temp tags are paper with the expiration date written in sharpie and are to be displayed in the rear window. I also believe thay are in county pink not black and white.

Not legal in Texas. The FAQ on the DPS site makes it explicitly clear (register and wait for plates or have the vehicle towed/transported).

Not legal in Arkansas, either, I believe, though my brother claims you’re ok with just a bill of sale.

I was told by a car dealer that RI had a grace period before you needed a license plate. He said you’ll get pulled over anyway if you don’t have some valid license plate on the car, but you are allowed to use a plate from another car for this purpose. All second hand info, no confirmation. Go see the AAA thread, this is another use for their towing service.

I haven’t seen “LAF”, but around here you occasionally see an untagged car with a sign in the back window that says “IN TRANSIT”, as if that makes them immune from registration laws. I suspect it makes them more likely to get pulled over. “Thanks for displaying the sign. At that distance, I might not have noticed you didn’t have tags!”

For completeness, here in South Australia we are remarkably more strict than any I’ve seen up thread. The only way way you can drive a car without registration plates is if you are a dealer, in which case you have a “trader plate” which must be displayed. (So actually you do have plates on the car.) Or, you can drive a car without plates with a special permit. The permit costs money, and is for a single designated journey, on a designated date. The exact route to be taken is described.

The reason for the strictness is that here, third party insurance is part of the car registration. If you want a car on the road, you must have third party insurance for the car. Trader plates carry their own third party insurance, and are about the only transferable form of car insurance. The permit to drive an unregistered car is actually a third party insurance policy.

It would be very unusual to need to drive a car with such a permit. Dealers register new cars before they are delivered to you. Second hand cars retain their registration. This includes the third party insurance - it is sold with the car - and for cheap old cars the amount of time left on the registration is an important part of its value. If you have vanity plates you need to swap the plates to normal ones before you sell the car. I once had to get a permit. I had had a car shipped from another state. I had to drive it from the shipper’s yard to the registration depot. Second hand cars from out of state are required to have a physical inspection by the motor registrations department to check provenance of the car. They check all the identification, check the stolen cars lists, and check for cut and shuts, and other bad things, as well as compliance with the various road-worthiness rules.

The penalties for driving an unregistered car are pretty high, since this means you are driving without third party insurance.

Mybe I’m misunderstanding you but it is the same here in (almost all of) the States. You need insurance before you can register the car but that’s not what leads to the registration laws we have here.

Yes. Most states don’t actively crack down on uninsured cars. They invalidate the registration and fine you, but nothing is done to go out and find the cars. Since they don’t know the car has been sold, and unregistered cars don’t need to be insured, they don’t even know that the law is being violated.

Here in South Australia you don’t need insurance before you can register the car. Registration includes the insurance, and is of itself proof of insurance. The other thing I omitted. There aren’t year tags on the plates. We used to display an annual registration sticker on the windscreen, but as of about a year ago this was dropped. Now the police run the plate to see if your registration is paid up.

It’s also possible that I’m out of date. CO had a black on white temporary plate that went in the license plate area when I lived there (Adams County), as did PA, but that was many years ago.

I actually got in DMV catch 22 that way once. DMV said they would’t transfer tag/title until I had insurance. Insurance company said they wouldn’t insure till tag/title was in my name.