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After buying your car, it is important to register your car as soon as you are able to do so. Vehicle registration provides proof that all necessary fees have been paid by the owner and indicates the car is recorded by the state. Registering your car is required by law. You can register your vehicle online, or in person at a Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), depending on what is available in your state.
What is car registration?
Registration is the legal connection between you and the car you own. Vehicle registration is proof that you have the legal rights to drive your vehicle. Typically, vehicle registration is represented by an official piece of paper that is kept in your car while driving.
What do you need when registering a vehicle?
Each state may require different documentation for car registration. Check with your local DMV in your state on what materials will be needed. Common required documents are as follows, but may vary by state:
Driver’s license or personal identification card
Proof of insurance
Proof of sales tax payment
Proof of a passed smog emissions test
Proof of a passed safety inspection
Car title or signed lease agreement
Gathering all the information and documents ahead of time can save time at the DMV.
You've purchased a car - now it's time to register it (if the dealership didn't do so already). Once you gather all the required documentation (check your local DMV on what's required), you're ready to make an appointment at your local DMV. Some DMVs allow walk-in and some allow you to register/renew registration online. Make sure you check your local DMV's registration process.
Once you're at the DMV, you'll be required to complete the registration form. The form will include personal questions and questions about your vehicle such as the VIN, make, model, year etc. Once you've completed the car registration process, the DMV will give you a sticker for your license plate.
Car registration fees
Be prepared for vehicle registration fees. The cost will vary by state and often the type of vehicle can be a factor in registration costs. Most DMVs accept all forms of payment.
To avoid possible penalties, check your state's laws on how soon after you purchase a car, registration is required. Depending on how you acquired the vehicle, the registration process may differ. Dealerships might take care of the registration process for you, but, keep in mind each state has their own regulations. There are a few commonalities between states.
Generally, you must register a vehicle within 10-60 days from the purchase date, or from the date you move to a new state. If you fail to register your car within the given timeline, you may be subject to penalties for this violation. Regardless of what state you live in, registering your vehicle is a must. Here are a few common scenarios when you typically need to register a car:
Purchase of new or used vehicle: When a car is purchased through the dealership, sometimes the car registration process is handled at the dealership. If purchasing from a private seller, registration falls on the buyer.
Address change: When moving to a new state, it is required to register the vehicle again. Check with your state's laws on the timing.
Vehicle registration renewal: Depending on the state you live in, vehicle registration renewal is required either annually or every two years. Check state laws to confirm how often your vehicle registration renewal will occur.
If you fail to register your car or renew your registration, you could face penalty fees, a ticket and possibly impoundment. If you get pulled over, the officer will likely ask for your car registration and driver's license. If you don't have registration or if it's expired, you'll receive a ticket. To avoid penalties, make sure you're following your state's guidelines around vehicle registration and registration renewals.
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