Obtaining Vehicular License Plate (Placa)

  This document has been prepared to help people obtain their own vehicle plate and registration each year.  In addition, information has been added that can help to change the location that you receive the plate next year to some place closer to home. And, finally, a section is provided that should help you if you need to get somebody else to do the job for you. A- Obtaining Vehicular License Plate (Placa) & Annual Registration

1- Every year you must obtain a Revisado where a photograph is taken, front, rear and sides of the vehicle.  Some places actually do a brief safety inspection while others only take the photo. The average cost is $15.00 for photos only. You must have a valid insurance certificate to get the Revisado.

2- The Revisado can be obtained at any authorized testing station. It does not have to be done at the place where the vehicle is registered. Recommended: Taller Chu in La Chorrera about ½ way between the Y (where the road into Chorrera from Coronado splits to two separate one-way streets) and El Rey; Chu is on the right side.  Time taken is usually about 15 minutes; it is digital & fast.

3- The Revisado technician can usually inform you where your plate will be issued, as they have a list of the plate numbers that tie it to a specific issuing office; the closing of Avenida B office has confused things a little; Ave Cuba office has replaced it. You must go to the specified office because that is where your plate will be.  The car does NOT have to be present at the license office. IF Taller Chu can not tell you which office to go to, then go to the Chorrera Municipio office which is at the Y, on the right side going out from downtown Chorrera.  Go to the back of the building to their licensing office and show them your papers and they can tell you where to go. Time taken: about 15 minutes.

4- If your vehicle is registered in a town other than Panama City, such as  La Chorrera, Penonome, Chame, etc, you will have to get your plate  there.

5- If "4" applies you will have to go to a separate window in the municipal office and obtain a  "paz y saldo". ($1.00)  You do this by producing your carnet/driving license/jubilado cedula.  If your vehicle is registered in any of the Panama City offices, the “paz y saldo” is handled at the same cashier where you pay for your plate and you probably won’t even notice.

6- So, go to whereever you have been directed and follow the instructions there; people have always been good to help the confused.  In Panama, give the cashier a copy of all of the items you brought along and she/he will give back what they don’t need and will ask for originals (Revisado) if they need them. After you have paid for your plate and the “paz y saldo”, you will be issued with a slip of paper that enables  you to pick up your plate, either at another window or room, as in  Panama, or in another building, as in Chorrera.

7- The decal issued with the new plate must be placed on the lower left corner of the windshield so that police can read it, because there are no front plates.

8- You have to get your plate in the month it falls due because every year new plates are issued. They are made in the penitentiary and are only produced to conform to the renewal schedule.  It is advisable to wait until after the 10th of the month because, even if they arrive at the office by the 1st, they have to be sorted and filed. But don’t wait until close to the end of the month because of the month-end-rush.

9- It cost me $44- for my pickup plate in Nov 2008; not including the Revisado which was $15-.

10- Be prepared to use cash.  You do not want to be foolin’ with credit cards of checks in a line at the caja.

B- Documents required for licensing (or renewing) a motor vehicle

Important Note:  Even where this document says “copies”, still ALWAYS bring the original of all documents required and have at least 2 or 3 copies of each as well.

1- Original Registration document. This is two-sided, pinkish colour and has the ATTT hologram on it; named “Registro Unico De Propiedad Vehicular”.  (Note: I have also been asked once to show my last year’s registration; so, have it & a copy with you. -gr)

2-Photocopy of your valid insurance certificate. (You will have to surrender this to get your plates)

3- “Paz y Salvo”  This is a municipal certificate that confirms you are a citizen in good standing (Paz) and owe nothing in fines or taxes (Salvo). It costs $1.00 and is obtained at the municipal office (in Penenome, Chame, etc), often at a separate window. In Panama City it is obtained from the same cashier (Caja) from who you buy your new plates (they do it automatically without you having to ask).

4-Certificate of Inspection known as a “Revisado” (as described above). You need a valid insurance certificate to get the revisado.

5- Carry your driving license.

6- Copies of your passport photo and signature page and your cedula/jubilado’s.  Particularly if changing the Municipio (more later on this) or if another person is doing it for you.

7- I operate on the principle that a few extra copies and carrying the originals one-time is cheaper and easier than making the trip again because I left one needed piece of paper at home.

C- Changing (cambio) the Municipio where you get your plate

You don’t have to go to Panama City to get your license plates next year if you can get the plate process transferred to your area (i.e. Chame) this year. 

The way it is done is by requesting the transfer when you get your plate this year in Panama City.  After you have your new plate in hand, ask for the window/room/office where you can “Cambio Municipio” for the next year.  You must do the transfer application in the month that you get your plate; so, it makes sense to do it when you are in the building and in the process.  You need to have copies of all the same items as you had to get the plates, possibly for the originating office, but certainly for the receiving office (new municipio).  You need to complete a very simple form, when you find the right person, to get another paper, then go to a caja and pay $5 (2009 price)  and then take the receipt back to the same person again who will likely stamp something.  About 1 week later, gather up all your paper work and go back to pick up the official transfer papers from the originating office.   Take those papers to the Municipio license office to which you transferred (in my case – Chame) and they will register you to pick up your plate there next year.  At the new municipio, they may ask for a utility bill with your address on it to prove where your live (they did for one person but did not for me – so, have one with you).  It will cost about $5 at the new Municipio.   Then the next year, all you have to do is get your revisado wherever you want (I think you’ll go back to Chu), and pick up your plate at your local municipio.   One person I helped got her plate at the Pedrigal office; however, she had to go to Av Cuba office to do the “cambio municipio” but we were able to do both in one day before a late lunch.  She had her file/process transferred to San Carlos for 2010.

D- Having somebody else do it for you

The process is so much fun, why would you want to do that???    Well, in my case, I’m not going to be in the country when my plate validity expires. There is a fine if you do not get new placa when due.  So far, I have only used other persons with the dealer where we bought the car.  There is a local garage that will do it all or just the revisado, but it is not recommended.  Essentially, everything that has been described in the previous sections holds true regardless of whether you or an authorized other is doing it.  Just make sure that they have the originals and all the copies they need.  He/she will need to have copies of your passport & cedula and will need to be carrying their passport (if expat) & cedula  A person who does it for a living can likely cut down on the paper that they need from you because they know the process better.  Provide the person with the papers needed. The authorization form on the next page has been verified by Municipio de Chame, Dep Placa; there should be no reason it will not work for Panama municipio; but this IS Panama.  Make sure to put a “cedilla” over the “n” on “ano”.  Again, two originals signed are advisable.   It is possible that an authorized person may not be able to do the “Cambio Municipio” for you; but, it is not clear at this time. 


Final notes:  with the exception of the last section, the processes described have worked for people in the recent past.  All things are subject to change.  Some people are asked for items that others are not. Go prepared. Original information was provided by Malcolm Wilson and Doris Lanatta.  Editing and additions by Glen Rennie (rennie2x@yahoo.com) based on his and others experiences.

A / to:  Municipio de _________________
    Dep. Placas

Yo, ________________________________________  con cedula numero ___________________,   autorizo Sr / Sra ___________________________, quien tiene cedula ______________________________, para actuar de mi parte para obtener la placa de mi carro del ano ________ (marca: ______________, modelo: ____________, placa numero ____________________). Lo autorizo para presentar los documentos requeridos, pagar los honorarios requeridos, y recibir las nueva placa  y nuevos documentos de registro. Esta autorización es solo para éste transacción.

Persona que hace la autorización:

Name / Nombre : ______________________     Cedula / passport: ______________

Signature / Firma : ____________________________  Date / Fecha: ___________ 


Traducción ingles:

I, ________________________________ with cedula number _____________, authorize  Sr/Sra ___________________________, who has cedula: _________________,  to act on my behalf to obtain the new license plate for my car for the year ______ (Make: ____________, model: _______________, plate number: _______________).  I authorize him/her to submit the required documents, to pay the required fees, and to receive the new license plate and new registration documents.    This authorization is issued for this one transaction only.