There are actually two different types of “farm use” license plates in Virginia.
The first are the unregistered “farm use” tags that you’re likely to see at farm supply stores.
The second are registered “F-tags” which you have to pick up from the DMV.
In either case, these tags can be a useful alternative to more expensive forms of registration, especially for farmers with multiple vehicles.
However, as with all special types of vehicle registration, there are certain requirements you need to follow.
In this article, we’ll go over the different ways people commonly misuse farm use license plates.
What are the Rules for Using an Unregistered Farm Use Tag?
One of the most common areas of confusion is the difference between registered and unregistered farm use vehicles.
Generally speaking, unregistered farm use tags are available for vehicles that are almost exclusively used on a farm.
The main benefit of this tag is that you don’t have to register your vehicle for farm use as long as you follow a few specific rules.
- The vehicle cannot be a car (or any other passenger vehicle not commonly associated with farm-use).
- The vehicle can only transport materials or agricultural products to and from your farm (there is an exception for farmers working in a co-op).
- In addition to transporting materials, you should only use the vehicle to go to the market, get supplies or equipment, dispose of trash or other farm waste (such as timber or brush), or go to other points for sale or processing. Taking the vehicle to a repair shop is also perfectly fine.
- Finally, Virginia Code § 46.2-666 states that a farm use vehicle can’t travel more than 75 miles to and from the nearest plant or market they are going to.
The main advantage of using an unregistered farm use tag is that you don’t need to pay any registration fees on the vehicle, or even title it.
In fact, technically you don’t even need the “farm use” license plate, though it’s highly recommended that you use one.
For all of these reasons, unregistered tags are a great option for farmers trying to save some money.
However, it’s important to note that the term “farm” doesn’t refer to just anyone with a small garden.
You must use your land to produce a specific set of agricultural products.
Registered Farm Use Tags (“F-Tags”)
There are two main differences between registered (“F-tag”) and unregistered farm use vehicles:
- Unlike with unregistered “farm use” vehicles, you need to properly insure your F-tag vehicle, or pay the $500 uninsured motorist fee.
- Additionally, for F-tag vehicles, “non-farm use is [allowed for]…personal use of the owner and his immediate family to attend church or school, to secure medical treatment or supplies, or to secure other household or family necessities.”
Essentially, an F-tag is a kind of middle-ground between a fully registered car and an unregistered farm use vehicle.
You still need to obtain official license plates, insurance, and decals for your vehicle.
However, you’ll pay significantly lower costs for registration in the long run.
Further, there aren’t as many restrictions on how you can use the vehicle.
As one other added bonus, if you volunteer with a fire department or emergency medical service (EMS), you can use your F-tag vehicle to respond to calls, go to meetings, or report for duty.
What’s the Penalty for Misusing a Farm Use Tag in Virginia?
There are some pretty harsh penalties for misusing or falsifying farm use tags in Virginia.
According to Virginia Code § 46.2-613, misusing an unregistered farm use tag will result in a fine of up to $250.
Any subsequent offense will result in a mandatory $250 fine.
An officer may cite you under this law if you are pulled over while performing any action not otherwise authorized in the Virginia Code.
For example, you might receive a ticket for using your unregistered farm use vehicle to drive to Bingo night or an outing with friends.
However, if an officer pulls you over while you’re on the way to an authorized location (such as if you’re carrying brush to a landfill) you will likely have a defense in court.
As three of the most common exemptions, you can use your vehicle for:
- VA Code § 46.2-665 — A few specifically listed agricultural and horticultural purposes, such as going to a repair shop or disposing of trash.
- VA Code § 46.2-666 — Seasonal transportation of produce and livestock.
- VA Code § 46.2-670 — Transporting certain wood products.
What about F-tag vehicles?
In a similar (though significantly more serious) fashion, improperly using an F-tag vehicle is a Class 2 misdemeanor in Virginia.
Unlike misusing an unregistered farm use tag, this crime carries serious penalties such as a fine of up to $1,000 and possibly even jail time.
On a related note, you should be entirely truthful on any and all applications for, and usage of, F-tags.
This is punishable by between 12 months and 5 years in jail, or, alternatively, up to 12 months in jail and a fine of not more than $2,500.
If you find yourself in any of these situations, you should speak with an attorney as soon as possible.
An attorney can help guide you through the specifics of the legal process, and possibly even help you avoid many of the larger fines.
When does my F-tag vehicle need regular tags?
Figuring out when to transition your farm vehicle to a normally registered vehicle is another common area where people mess up.
If you start using your farm vehicle for regular use, you need to amend your registration with the DMV within 30 days.
Failing to do so is a serious crime.
This can lead to a $1,000 fine and/or up to 6 months in jail.
Farmers in Virginia can choose either registered or unregistered “farm use” tags for their work vehicles.
Each type carries different restrictions and benefits.
The biggest benefit that these tags share, however, is cost, as each can end up saving you a great deal of money in the long run.
For this reason, people sometimes abuse this privilege, and the resulting penalties are rather severe.
Even people who accidentally use these tags incorrectly can face harsh penalties including fines and possibly jail time.
Before you decide to use unregistered farm use tags or F-tags, you should go over the general guidelines on the DMV’s website.
If you’ve already been charged with illegally using these tags, you should speak with an attorney immediately.