Learn How to Get a New Car Registration

A car registration registers a vehicle with a state government agency. Obtaining registration shows that your vehicle has been approved for operation.

Whether it’s new or used, most states require you to complete registration within either 30 or 60 days of acquiring a vehicle. You will also be required to register if you move out of state. Your registration will typically consist of a metal license plate, a validation decal and a certificate of registration.

When do you need a new car registration?

After you buy a car, you must register your vehicle with your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), Secretary of State (SOS), Department of Revenue (DOR) or Motor Vehicle Division (MVD). Some states may have different names for these agencies, but you must register with the organization that sets vehicle regulations for your state. When you come into ownership of a new car, you must submit the proper vehicle registration application to the appropriate agency.

Anytime you purchase a new car, you will need to apply for a new DMV vehicle registration. Since automobile registrations are managed by local state DMV or driver service offices, you will need to apply when you move to a new state. In most states, you will be fined if you do not obtain a new car registration within 30 or 60 days of moving or purchasing a new vehicle. It is illegal to drive a vehicle that has not been registered with the state, therefore, you are recommended to get your car registered as soon as possible.

Understanding the Requirements for Vehicle Registration

A registration of a vehicle is required in order for an automobile to be legally operated. In order to successfully register your vehicle, most states require that you submit a vehicle registration application form. Before you can do so, you may have to:

  • Have valid insurance on your vehicle.
  • Have a title for your vehicle.
  • Complete any additional requested documents.
  • Record your vehicle’s mileage on an odometer disclosure statement (depending on the age of your vehicle).
  • Provide proof that your vehicle passed an emissions test or smog check.
  • Provide proof that you had a vehicle verification completed by an authorized DMV employee or law-enforcement agent.

Note: Each state establishes its own requirements for obtaining a motor vehicle registration. The requirements on this list may vary from the actual requirements of your state DMV. Check your state-specific requirements in order to ensure that you have everything necessary to apply for a new registration.

Methods to Apply for a DMV Car Registration

Applications for car registrations are handled by local state DMV’s and can usually be submitted online, by mail or in person. Each state sets their own DMV and registration regulations. Some states only accept applications for a registration in person. Others states will offer more options to residents. Texas is one of the few states that accepts all methods of applying for a DMV car registration. Check with your local DMV or driver services office to discover which methods are accepted in your state.

The general application process for each of these methods will be detailed below.

1. Online Vehicle Registration Application

While this method is the most commonly used, getting new car registration online is only possible in a limited number of states. For example, California will only accept online applications for vehicles that are currently registered in the state and have been within the past year. Other states like Texas accept all types of vehicle registration applications online.

In order to apply for a car registration, you must have a credit or debit card to pay for the appropriate fees. You may also be required to photocopy your required documents and submit them electronically. Online applications are the fastest and most convenient, but they are also limited to a certain few states.

2. Mail-In Car Registration Application

Many states will accept a motor vehicle registration application by mail under certain circumstances. For example, some states will only accept applications by mail if you are out of state when you apply. There are also numerous states that do not accept applications by mail at all. Before mailing an application for a new car registration, make sure that it will be accepted by your state DMV. To apply by mail, you will need to send the required documents, a check or money order for the appropriate fees and a photocopy of your identification to your local DMV or driver services office.

3. Applying for a DMV Vehicle Registration in Person

Getting a new car registration is a transaction that many states will require you to complete in person. If your state does not accept online or mail-in applications, visiting your local DMV or driver’s license office is your only option. Additionally, when you visit one of these offices in person, you are able to receive assistance completing the application or gathering your required documents. Every state will allow you to get a new vehicle registration in person.

Additional Requirements for Residents Moving to a New State

In addition to getting a new vehicle registration, when moving to a new state, residents must also get a title with that state. The process to apply is generally the same for new residents and state drivers. However, certain states have additional requirements new residents must follow before completing the process. Some examples of further requirements include:

  • Residents of New York are required to surrender their vehicle plates to the state DMV before registering their car in another state.
  • Drivers in Arizona must have their vehicle pass an emissions inspection administered by the Department of Environmental Quality.
  • California requires new residents to perform a smog certification on their vehicle.