All states require you to register any vehicle you drive in the state. And while individual state laws differ on how often you need to register a vehicle, how you do so tends to follow the same basic steps. Short of having the dealer do the paperwork for you when you buy or lease a car, you usually have to register the vehicle yourself, especially when you move from one state to another. Here’s how to register your car.
Find out your state requirements for car registration
The state in which you live plays a big part in what you need for registration and how often you need to register your car. In addition, many state’s only give you a certain amount of time to register a vehicle in the state once you move there. Not doing so within the time limit can result in penalties that you must pay before the state can register your car.
Follow these steps to register your car:
Step 1: Visit your state DMV Website or call your local DMV office. To find out the registration requirements in your state, visit DMV.org for more information. You can also look up your state DMV Website using a browser search.
Step 2: Gather your documentation. The documentation you need at the time of registration also varies by state. Check with your state DMV to determine what exactly you need. The following includes the most commonly requested items when you register your car:
- Driver’s license
- Proof of insurance
- Proof of residence
- Proof of inspection (if needed)
- Smog certificate (if needed)
The registration application
Next, you need to a fill out and submit an application of registration. Most often you only need to do this the first time you register a car in a state. After that you just need to send in the appropriate paperwork your state DMV mails you and pay any applicable annual vehicle registration fees. To initially register your vehicle in a new state, complete the following steps:
Step 1: Obtain an application from the DMV office or print a form from online. Either obtain an application at your local DMV or county clerk’s office or print one out from an online source.
Step 2: Fill out the application. Fill out the application, making sure to fill out all of the required information. Make sure all of the information you fill out represents the truth to the best of your knowledge.
Step 3: Submit the application. Once you have filled out the registration application, you can submit the form either in person or online if allowed in your state.
Most of the time, you need to visit a physical DMV or county clerk’s office the first time you register your car in a state. After that, you can re-register electronically as long as you do so within the time limit provided on the renewal form.
Step 4: Turn in old license plates. If you move from another state, most states require you to turn in your old tag from the state you move from before they can issue you any new tags.
Step 5: Pay any fees. You must also pay any fees associated with the registration process. In some states you may have to pay additional fees and taxes before you can register a vehicle.
Step 6: Wait on new license plate. If buying a new vehicle or lease, you need to wait for your new license plate to arrive at the place you bought or leased the car. In the meantime, the dealership issues you a temporary tag to take the place of your permanent one.
When registering your car in a new state, the DMV or county clerk’s office either issues the plates as soon as you submit the application and pay or mails them to you. In the case where they must mail the new license plates to you, you keep your old plates on your car until you receive the new ones.
Registering a vehicle properly helps you avoid breaking the law and accumulating unnecessary penalty fees. Before registering your car, though, make sure you have a legal driver’s license, the appropriate inspection certificates, and the required amount of car insurance.