Vehicle Registration and Titling


Every new car purchase, whether you're buying this year's model from a dealership or a second-hand vehicle from a neighbor, requires registration and titling. The paperwork, depending on your state, is handled either by your local DMV office or your county clerk.

Dealerships generally ease the process by handling paperwork duties for any vehicle, new or used, purchased from their lot. But if you buy from an individual, you're responsible for submitting the proper forms and fees in a timely fashion. Some states will tack on a late fee if you don't register within a designated amount of time, usually around 20 to 30 days.

Each state adheres to different registration rates and requirements. Some charge flat annual fees, while other states determine rates by vehicle size, number of wheels and/or county of residence.

Registration requirements also vary by individual situations. Owners of salvaged vehicles, for instance, generally must, in addition to everything else, also arrange for vehicle identification number inspections. New residents, depending on their state, usually have anywhere from 30 to 90 days to alert the DMV of their arrival and obtain new plates. And military personnel can usually expect some leeway, depending on their whereabouts, with registration requirements.

Depending on your state or county of residence, your vehicle may also be required to pass an emissions test before being allowed to register. If required, you'll be instructed on where to find an authorized emissions testing station in your area.

And others, mainly eastern states, require annual vehicle inspections. Flaws, such as cracked windshields or busted headlights, must be repaired before you'll be given proof, for registration purposes, that your vehicle passed inspection.

Most DMV offices require registering in person. After submitting paperwork and registration and title fees you'll be handed license plates and tags (small license plate stickers that affix to the rear plate indicating your registration's expiration date). If, however, you request personalized plates, also known as vanity plates, you'll be given a temporary plate in the interim.

Most states now offer a menu of plates to choose from. Group affiliations (fraternities, sororities, colleges), environmental causes and plates for military veterans are some of the most popular offerings. Most come in different colors than the standard plates, highlighted by your group's name or insignia. If you opt for one of these, expect to pay a slightly higher fee.

Plates must be renewed each year. Some states base renewal on date of purchase, while others, such as South Dakota, base it on the first letter of your last name. Most state's send renewal reminders several weeks in advance, with the option to renew either by mail or online.

If, for whatever reason, you lose a plate or tag, you can easily replace, for a small fee, by visiting your DMV office or county agent. This same option also applies to lost registration certificates and titles.

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Vehicle Registration And Titling Information From the Government

Vehicle Registration And Titling - NHTSA

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