Vehicle Registration In the United States: How to Register a Car?

One of the most important aspects when it comes to vehicle registration in the United States is to have all the valid, legal and original car papers. When buying a car, the first thing to do is to register the vehicle, since, together with the driver’s license , these are the documents that the police request in case you are stopped and asked for these papers.

It is very important to carry out the vehicle registration in the US, since, otherwise, you will have to pay fines for lack of documentation and, they can even take away not only your license, but also your car, so it is necessary that you register your vehicle and have your driver’s license up to date, if you do not want to go through these avoidable situations.

Vehicle Registration In the United States: How to Register a Car?

What is a vehicle registration?

The vehicle registration in the USA is essential so that drivers can circulate without possible inconveniences when facing traffic police, since it is a document that provides the personal information of the driver and the data of the car. This is why it is necessary to keep the data up to date and renew the registration every so often, depending on the state in which you reside.

In the event that an infraction is committed, or it is necessary to contact the owner of the car to send him a fine, citations or any other paper corresponding to the car, such as stickers or license plate, the driver will be contacted through the information provided in the registration of the car.

The registration of the car allows to verify that the car can be driven by the driver, either the owner or rented vehicles. You have to know how to differentiate between the vehicle registration and the title of a car . While the first certifies anyone to drive the car (as is the case with dealer or rental vehicles), the second certifies only the owner of the car with the permission to drive it.

What do I need to register a car in the USA?

The number of documents required for vehicle registration depends on each state, since not all require the same. However, below, we will list the most common papers that are required at the time of carrying out the procedure.

  • Title: Car owners must present the title of their vehicle.
  • Identification: It is essential to present the current driver’s license to obtain the registration of the car.
  • Lien: In the case of vehicles purchased with financing, the lien agreement will be requested.
  • Application form: Personal data is provided through the vehicle registration application form, in addition to data about the car, such as model, brand, VIN, etc.
  • Bill of sale: This is the document that the previous owner, or dealership, gives you when you pay for your car.
  • Car insurance policy: The card or proof of car insurance will be requested to complete the vehicle registration.
  • Odometer: Sometimes it is necessary to present an odometer reading, which is taken by a DMV officer at the time of registration. In some states, owners can report the number of miles driven.
  • Emissions test: Although it is not required in all states, this inspection is an environmental control that is required in places where there is more pollution, such as Illinois (emissions test), or California (smog test).
  • Registration Fee: A fee is required to register (or renew) the car. The amount to pay depends on each state.

How to register a car in the USA?

One of the big unknowns when buying a car for the first time is about the US vehicle registration. When purchasing a car at a dealership, whether for new or used vehicles, they are normally in charge of the vehicle registration. On the other hand, if the car is purchased privately, you must register it on your own.

To do this, you need the title of the car belonging to the previous owner, which must contain the owner’s signature to prove that it was a legal transaction agreed to by both parties. If you have already obtained all the documentation that we mentioned in the previous section, you can start the process of registering your car.

This procedure can be done online, by mail or in person, at one of the offices of the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles), the agency in charge of carrying out all the procedures related to vehicles and their drivers.

NOTE: It is likely that if you are registering a car for the first time, you will have to appear in person at one of the DMV offices.

How much does it cost to register a car in the United States?

One of the requirements to register a car in the USA is to pay the fee corresponding to this procedure, which varies depending on the state in which the procedure is carried out, which has the following taxes:

  1. Registration: The fee varies by state, but is around $70In addition, an extra 3 dollars must be paid to register the type of fuel used by the car.
  2. Highway Patrol Rights: The price of this fee is approximately 20 dollars.
  3. Vehicle license (Possession): It is a payment of 0.65% of the total amount of the purchase of the car. Some states have exemptions for certain sectors of the population (veterans, disabled, Indians, etc.).
  4. Local programs: These fees are for the financing of different services, such as emergencies, transportation programs, digital identification (with fingerprints), anti-theft, air quality, etc.

What do I do if I lost my vehicle registration?

If you have lost the registration of your car, it is important that you know that you cannot drive without the registration, since you could be fined and, even, your car could be taken away, which will be recorded in your traffic record. However, to recover your registration, you must consult it with a DMV office, since you will have to file a report for loss of registration.

It is important that you go to a DMV branch in the state where your car has been registered . That is, if you have registered your car in North Carolina, you cannot go to a DMV office in New York, since they will not be able to help you.

REMEMBER : You must request an appointment with the DMV to be able to go to their offices.

When you report your registration lost to the DMV, you will likely be asked to fill out a form that will serve as your registration replacement until you get your registration renewed. This document is available on the website of the DMV of the state in which you reside and have registered the car, or of the corresponding state entity. Another option to report the accident is by postal mail to the DMV, communicating what happened.

To facilitate the process, you can present, if you have it, the title of your vehicle. This will make the process much more agile, since, with this document, the authorities will be able to verify that the car is your property.

How to renew the vehicle registration?

Registering a vehicle for the first time is much more “complicated” than renewing it, since your data will be stored in the registration system, so you can renew without having to leave your home, online, although if you prefer, you can go to a DMV office, but you must request an appointment.

The renewal of the vehicle registration is carried out every year and, generally, it is in the month of the driver’s birthday, or exactly one year from the date of registration, or in the month that corresponds according to the letter of the last name. This varies depending on the state in which you reside, so it is important that you verify it with the DMV (you can do it from the web).

Once you are ready to renew the registration, you must pay the corresponding fee, and a new sticker is placed on the plate, verifying the renewal of the document. These stickers take approximately one month to be sent by mail, so we recommend that you complete the renewal process at least one month before the registration expiration date.

Normally, for the renewal, the VIN number, the car insurance card and the driver’s license are requested.

Can I have multiple cars registered in the United States?

Having several cars registered in the United States is quite normal, and it is not illegal to have more than two cars in your name. In fact, there are no limits regarding the number of cars that are allowed per person. Of course, you have to have the documentation up to date and pay the taxes corresponding to each car.

Good news for car lovers, collectors, or large families, as there is no law in the United States that prevents having several cars. In any case, having many cars can generate disagreement among the neighbors if you do not have enough space to store them, so we recommend that you always have a reserved space, either in a private parking lot or in your garage, for Don’t park all your cars in areas where your neighbors might.

Can my neighbors sue me for having too many cars?

There is no law that prevents multiple car owners from parking all their cars on the same block. However, this action would be very selfish on the part of the owner, since it would prevent neighbors from leaving their cars in front of their houses, which could cause disturbances in the neighborhood.

Neighbors cannot sue you in court, but they can send a document to the local council. To avoid any unpleasantness, it is best to make sure you have enough space to park all the cars, either in the garage or in a private place.

Read Also: The 7 Best Online Auto Auction Sites in America


How to check the title of ownership of a vehicle ?

To perform a vehicle title search , you must enter the DMV of your state. You will need to enter the VIN, license plate number, year, model, and make of the car. Next, provide the requested information and explain why you need the car title information.

Can I insure several cars in the same policy?

Yes. You can insure several cars in order to legally drive in the USA, but there is a limit to this amount. Each policy can insure up to 4 drivers and 4 cars. However, this varies by insurance company, as there is no exact figure. In case you want to insure more than 4 cars, surely the insurer will give you discounts for a second policy.

How do I find vehicle registration offices near me?

As we mentioned at the beginning, the DMV is the Department of Motor Vehicles. This entity is in charge of processing the procedures related to drivers, registrations, licenses, qualifications, etc. To find the DMV office closest to your home, go to the agency’s website in your state.

Can I register my vehicle somewhere other than the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV)?

Normally, you cannot register or renew your car anywhere other than the DMV. However, this depends on the state in which the applicant resides, since, for example, there are some states, such as Connecticut, that allow this process to be carried out directly with the concessionaire or with other entities that are authorized to carry out these processes.

What are the penalties for not registering a car in the USA?

It is mandatory that, as soon as you buy a car in the United States, you register it to be able to drive legally and without fear of being stopped by the police, who will request your license, insurance card and proof of registration. If you don’t have your registration, you will have to pay fines ranging from $ 200 to $1,000 (or more), and they could even take your car away.

How long do I have to renew the registration after expiration?

Generally, if your registration has expired, you have 15-30 days after the expiration date to renew the registration. This varies by state, so you’ll need to check your county’s DMV website.

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