Purchasing a vehicle is no small accomplishment, however, registering it as your lawful possession is a whole other deal. In order for you to be able to enjoy your new purchase, you’d be required to submit specific paperwork to your local DMV office in 4-6 weeks of the purchase.
This article will specifically detail the Why’s, How’s of the registration process you must undertake.
Regardless whether you’re registering your car for the first time or re-registering it by state law, these steps will be of great value to you, providing you with precise information which could save you time, unwarranted fees and a lot of trouble.
Why is Vehicle Registration Required
The first question that warrants an answer is the matter of “What is vehicle registration?”. Your vehicle registration links your car to your person, making it officially your property.
The reason this step is so vital and important is because it allows both citizen and government to recognize the ownership of a motorized vehicle. All motor vehicles regardless of their size, number of tires of axils, weight or type, require a registration at the respective DMV office.
The process itself can take anywhere between 1 and 3 days, depending on the type of documentation required for the full registration of the vehicle (see bellow for a full list of documents).
Not only does your vehicle’s registration provide you with full power of custody over the vehicle, meaning that you can lease it, sell it, or do whatever you want with it, but it also gives you the power of attorney to operate it.
Along with rights, your registration also entitles you to responsibilities, meaning you are responsible for its maintenance, regular check-ups, smog or emissions tests and so forth.
How Does Vehicle Registration Work
The way vehicle registration works is it ties a certain car or motor vehicle to an owner through a series of documents. The cases in which this type of administrative obligation is required, are:
- Purchasing a new vehicle (used or brand new);
- Re-registering a vehicle on an annual or biannual basis;
- Moving to a new state with different DMV requirements.
Upon registering your vehicle for the first time, you will also receive a license plate for said vehicle, which you are obliged to maintain and keep visible at all times. During this process you can also request a custom license plate, which will add to the cost of the registration, but will no doubt make the vehicle feel more “yours”.
Depending on the state you might also receive a license sticker which you will need to change out each time you renew your registration. There’s no need to change the license plate, luckily.
You will also receive a registration card which will display:
- Your vehicle identification number;
- The car title number;
- The expiration of said registration;
- The make and year of the vehicle;
- Owner’s name and address;
- The license plate number.
Why You Should Follow-up on Your Registration
While the registration process itself might seem tedious, more tedious still are the renewal dates in different states. Some states require that you renew your registration each year, luckily you can mail-in your information.
Be sure to check and see if you need to validate your personal information or the information of the vehicle, and if you are required to pass smog or emissions tests. Each DMV has a list of licensed emissions offices where you can validate the state of your catalytic converter.
Older vehicles might subject to increased taxes due to lower emissions results, with some diesel engines outright being forbidden from driving on state roads due to high inefficiency.
Some Southern states (such as Mississippi) don’t have regular inspection or emissions states, making it a lot easier for drivers and motor vehicle owners to renew their registration.
States like California and New York, however, have extremely stringent requirements on both emissions and safety check-ups.
The states that DO NOT have emissions requirements are:
- South Carolina;
- South Dakota;
This is important to note, because emissions tests are a part of registration or renewal processes in all other 41 states. These tests can be quite a hassle especially for the owners of older vehicles.
The Registration Process Explained
The registration process has several requirements which you need to meet in order to qualify for a license plate with the name of your state. The first requirement is that you submit your paperwork within 4-6 weeks of acquiring the vehicle or moving to the state.
Driving the vehicle without a license plate or without a valid state registration sticker (only applies for some states) can rack up severe fines and in some cases even a repossession of the motor vehicle.
The process of registering requires the following documents:
Vehicle Registration Documents
In order to start the process, you will need to submit 7 documents in total, some of which you might need to acquire physically from your local DMV or through mail. You will need:
- Verifiable identification (driver’s license, ID card, etc.);
- Proof the vehicle has insurance (some states like California require that the vehicle be insured, before it can receive a license plate);
- Proof of sales tax payment;
- For leased vehicles – copy of signed (by you) of said lease agreement;
- For self-financed or owner vehicles – car title with valid VIN number;
- Proof for successful safety inspection (applicable to 41 states);
- Proof of smog or emissions test (only some states);
- Form for registering the vehicle.
Smog and emissions test must be passed by a specific deadline, the details of which you can get from the DMV you are registering your vehicle at. For mail-in registration the same process as mentioned above applies, with the addition of adding the registration fee by mail.
Online registration would require the same process, and you might also need to have this information on hand, just in case:
- A photo of the current vehicle registration card;
- Details of car insurance;
- Car’s VIN (vehicle identification number);
- Car’s license plate number;
- Your or driver’s license number.
The Cost of Vehicle Registration
The most important detail for some, are the costs of registering your vehicle with your state’s DMV. The truth of the matter is that registration fees can vary greatly from state to state and year to year.
The best way to know for certain how much registering your vehicle would cost is by checking with your local DMV. Some states do charge a flat fee regardless of the type of car, however, other states do have more intricate and details methods of calculating fees.
Some factors which might determine the final cost for all registration and renewal processes are:
- Vehicle size and weight;
- Vehicle age;
- Vehicle value;
- Emissions tests results;
- Vehicle horsepower and torque.
You can check in with us to see what other funky or annoying details there are regarding your particular registration process.