Every state requires drivers to register their vehicles before driving them, and you may need to register the vehicle yourself within a few days of the purchase. The process to apply for a car registration depends on your state. In some states, you’ll need to visit the DMV in person while other states let you begin your registration online.
However, there are a few documents that everyone will need when registering their vehicles, including proof of insurance, ownership and identity. In some cases, you also need proof of a vehicle inspection to register your car for the first time.
When to Apply for a Vehicle Registration
Most drivers have to register their vehicles after purchase. If you buy a car from a private seller, you’ll need to register the car yourself within a few days of the purchase. If you’re buying a car from a dealership, however, an agent will typically handle the process for you.
Another reason to complete a new car registration is moving to a new state. Each state has its own registration requirements and its own database, so you have to complete a new registration when you move to another state. You typically have between 10 to 30 days to complete the registration. If you miss the deadline, you may have to pay penalty fees.
You may also face penalties if you do not follow the steps to renew your registration before it expires, or complete the registration replacement process if your card is lost or badly damaged.
Application Methods for a Vehicle Registration
The process to complete a vehicle registration depends on your state. However, there are three main ways to apply for a registration:
- Online through your state’s DMV or another office
- In person at your state’s driver services office
- By mail
Some states have more than one registration option while others may require everyone to register their cars in person. If you are wondering, “How do I find a car registration near me?” many states have search tools on their websites, which allow you to find nearby offices.
Documents Needed for a Vehicle Registration
When you’re filling out a car registration application, you have to give personal information to prove your identity and state residency. The information includes your full name, your date of birth and your residential address. You must also give some information about the vehicle you are registering, such as:
- Proof of car insurance – Most states require proof of car insurance before motorists can register their vehicle. Drivers must meet the minimum coverage requirements in their state to be eligible for a DMV car registration.
- Proof of ownership – Most states require applicants to provide a car title when registering a vehicle. This document states who currently owns the vehicle. You will likely complete the titling and registration process at the same time if you purchase a vehicle from a private seller in the state.
- Vehicle details – You will need to provide the vehicle’s make, model, year, vehicle identification number (VIN) and lienholder, if applicable.
Are there penalties for not getting a vehicle registration?
In most states, it is against the law to drive without a proper car registration. Just like states have different rules for registering a vehicle, they also have different penalties.
In some states, motorists who are caught driving without a registration may have to pay fines up to several thousand dollars. Other states may suspend their driver’s licenses until they obtain their vehicle registrations.
However, the rules may be relaxed in limited circumstances. This may apply to drivers who have just moved to the state and are still within the time frame to register their vehicle.
Drivers who have just bought a vehicle and are driving to or from the DMV or driver services office may also be able to drive without a registration without risking a ticket. Some states provide temporary waivers in these cases.