Checklist for Car Registration Renewal

Failing to request a vehicle registration renewal in a timely manner can have serious consequences.

For instance, the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) could flood you with several fines if you forget to renew your car registration before it expires. While some states have a grace period after an expiration date, others will issue penalties the day after your registration expires. You could even get a traffic ticket if a police officer discovers that you are driving with an expired car registration. Therefore, the best way to avoid fines and tickets is to stay on top of the expiration date designated for your registration credentials.

What You Need to Renew Your Car Registration

When renewing a car registration, your state may give you the option to decide how long you want to renew it for. For example, you may be able to renew your registration for one or two years, or even be granted the option to renew it for five or more years. While it may be tempting to renew your car registration for just one year, as a shorter registration period is cheaper, a vehicle registration that expires faster is more of a hassle than it may seem. That is because you will have to go through the same process and pay the same fee again the following year. Thus, you may reduce your chances of driving with an expired vehicle registration by renewing it for a longer period.

Additionally, some states have vehicle emissions tests or inspections requirements rolled into the car registration renewal process. If that is the case, you might have to schedule an inspection before you renew your registration. Look up the tests and inspections required in your state or county to make sure that you are aware of what your requirements are for this procedure. If you are due for an inspection, you will usually be notified when the state issues a car registration renewal notice.

Depending on what state you live in, you may have to complete an inspection test before you can renew your car registration. In such states, you will have to provide proof of inspection to complete the process. Additionally, states may have auto insurance requirements in order for your car to be driven on public streets. You will likely need the following documents and information to renew your vehicle registration:

  • Vehicle registration renewal notice
  • Vehicle renewal identification or verification code, if needed
  • Vehicle inspection report, if applicable
  • Vehicle smog check report, if applicable
  • Proof of current insurance
  • Car title number
  • Vehicle registration number
  • Vehicle identification number (VIN)

The exact documentation required for a car registration renewal may vary according to each state and county, as well as the model year of your vehicle. Thus, it is important to carefully research the particular requirements before renewing a car registration in your state. In many cases, you may require additional documents that were not listed above.

How to Renew Your Car Registration

In order to renew your car registration, you must determine whether you are required to complete any inspections. If you have received a renewal notice in the mail, that document should tell you what inspections (if any) are due. About half the states in the United States have an inspection requirement in at least a few counties. In addition, you must research the fees related to this procedure in your area. Car registration renewal fees are typically low, generally falling under $10. Furthermore, you need to determine where you must go to complete this process. Most states have streamlined the process by moving it online, thus allowing you to easily complete a vehicle registration renewal from home.

Renew Your Registration Online

Most states allow you to renew a car registration online quickly and easily. An online car registration renewal is typically the fastest method for completing this process. However, sometimes states have restrictions on a car or applicant’s eligibility for online renewal. Therefore, you must determine whether you and your car are eligible for this online renewal method prior to beginning your request.

  1. Visit your state DMV website and find the appropriate car registration renewal page.
  2. Input the information requested. This will typically include your vehicle’s license plate number and part or all of your VIN.
  3. Input any personal information required, such as your full legal name and date of birth.
  4. Select how long you wish to renew your vehicle registration, if the choice is available.
  5. Using a credit card, pay the car registration renewal fee. Most DMV websites will also charge a small convenience fee for online transactions paid with debit or credit cards.
  6. Wait for your renewed registration in the mail. Once you receive it, apply the car registration sticker to your license plate immediately.

Renew Your Registration by Mail

Renewing a car registration by mail is only allowed in a few states. As an example, Washington DC accepts mailed-in vehicle registration renewal applications. In general, this process will take longer than an online or in-person procedure, because you must wait for the postal service to both deliver your application and return your renewed car registration credential. Therefore, if you choose to mail in your renewal application, give yourself enough time to complete the process before your registration expires.

  1. Gather all of the necessary documents for the mail-in car registration renewal process. This may include your vehicle plate number, your driver’s license number and a copy of your renewal notice.
  2. Place the required paperwork in an envelope, along with a check or money order for the cost of the vehicle registration renewal. Research any additional necessary fees before writing out your check.
  3. Mail the envelope to the appropriate address, which will most likely be a particular state DMV office.
  4. Wait for the DMV to process your application. This can take several days.
  5. When you receive your new car registration sticker, apply it to your license plate immediately.

Renew Your Registration in Person

Many states allow you to renew your vehicle registration in person at a DMV office. However, you may need to make an appointment ahead of time and research which documents you need to bring with you.

  1. Gather all of the necessary documents for your car registration renewal application.
  2. Visit the appropriate office to complete the renewal process, bringing the necessary documentation with you.
  3. Submit the documents to a clerk at the DMV and provide any additional information required.
  4. Pay the vehicle registration renewal fee.
  5. Wait for the DMV to process your application.
  6. When you receive your new registration sticker in the mail, apply it to your license plate immediately.

After you have completed the car registration renewal process, local law enforcement officers will identify your car as a vehicle that has complied with current traffic regulations in your state. Moreover, make sure to keep the registration renewal receipt for future reference. This receipt can be used to determine when you should renew your registration again, allowing you to expect a renewal notice in the mail. If a car registration renewal notice does not arrive when expected, contact your state DMV for more information.