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The following is for informational purposes only

What Does Car Registration Look Like: Full Process Guide

Registering a vehicle allows the owner to have legal rights over their car. It is paper, kept in the vehicle, or placed at the bottom corner of the driver-side window. It is also different from the license, which is the person's identification and certification for operating a vehicle. The registration links the person to the vehicle within the specific state. Registration is unique depending on the state, but a few general requirements exist to register the vehicle.

Prerequisites for Registration

The first is the title which shows that the vehicle belongs to the person. It is advisable to always complete a car purchase by taking possession of its title on which the previous owner declared the buyer the current possessor. In addition to the title, a bill of sale will be required for vehicle registration. It shows the transaction and amount for the purchase of the vehicle.

Thirdly, certain states require an emissions test for the vehicle. These are done regularly, such as yearly or every two years. Other states, like Florida, do not require emissions testing, so it would be great to check with local authorities if this is needed in the current state. Identification and insurance are also required for vehicle registration. That is to cover the driver, passengers, and others in an accident.

Steps To Register the Vehicle

Registering a vehicle can be a tedious process that begins at the local Department of Motor Vehicles outlet. Given the nature of the DMV, though, it would be advisable to make appointments in advance. The offices will require the owner to submit the prerequisite documents and fill out an application form for car registration. This form asks for the individual's personal information as well as information concerning the vehicle, like its make, model, and Vehicle Identification Number.

The vehicle identification number is a code that is specific to every car. It is comprised of 17 characters and displays unique attributes and the manufacturer. Law enforcement or tracking platforms may use the VIN for registrations, recalls, warranty claims, and thefts. Once the form is completed, it will be presented to the DMV personnel along with prerequisite documentation.

Following the submission, the owner will issue payment for registration. Registration fees vary, though, depending on the state, from $12 to $225. The good thing is most DMVs accept all payment modes. Once that is done, the owner will be provided a registration sticker. It should be applied conspicuously as well to illustrate proper registration.

The registration may last a year or two, depending on state regulations or the duration paid for. Fortunately, registration renewal does not have to be done in person. Vehicle owners can renew their registration via mail or online. Most of the time, one does not have to remember the renewal time as there will be a mail notification as the time approaches.

Potential Penalties

Vehicle registration is mandatory for all owners. If one does not follow these laws regardless of the state, it will result in significant financial penalties. Typical problems result from getting caught in a traffic stop with an expired registration. Most police officers ask for a person's license and registration, so it is easy to detect these offenses.

In this case, the officer may give a ticket or issue higher penalties. Similarly, the Department of motor vehicles has the person's registration on record, which means they might just get a ticket in the mail if they notice that the owner has not renewed their registration in time.

At the same time, other penalties make driving difficult. For example, not keeping up with registration renewal affects credit, causing higher insurance rates. It is because the insurance company views the person as a potential risk, so premiums increase. The car may also be impounded, and that costs significant fees to get it back.

Vehicle Insurance

As mentioned, vehicle owners must get auto insurance when purchasing or leasing cars. If one has attained a loan to get the vehicle, the financier institution will require that the owner gets insurance and will issue the requirements for coverage. If the owner does not get insurance for their vehicle, the penalties can be quite high. States like New York, for example, issue a $1,500 fee and an additional $750 penalty to restore a driver's license if it is revoked.

There is also the potential for vehicle impounding and a suspension of driving privileges. In every state, the two factors determining auto insurance are driving and credit history. It may be an issue for immigrants and expatriates relocating to get insurance without these histories. Fortunately, platforms that assess ex-pats and base their decision on pricing are available.

StateVehicle registration feesLicense plate feesTemporary License plate feesAverage annual cost of minimum coverage
Alabama$50 annual fee plus $15–$23$23 standard and $1.25 for transfer$25 per 30 days$441
Alaska$100$5 for transfer$15$421
Arizona$40$12 for transfer$15 for 30 days$587
Arkansas$17 to $30$1 for transfer$17$443
ColoradoDepends on the weight of the car$25$7.03 for 60 days$500
Connecticut$120$5$21 for 10 days$620
Delaware$40Not applicable$20.00$801
Florida$225$28, $7.35 for transfer$2.00$1,128
Georgia$20Not applicableFree for 45 days$639
Hawaii$12 minimum$5$5$344
Idaho$45 to $69Not applicable$60$267
Illinois$151Not applicable$10 for 7 days$552
Indiana$21.35$9.50$3 for 96 hours$327
Iowa1 percent of listed price and $0.40 per 100 poundsNot applicable0.75% of list price for cars 8-9 years old$223
Kansas$39 to $49Not applicable$13$416
Kentucky$21Not applicable$2$678
Louisiana$20 to $82$3 for transfer$5.50$805
Maine$35Not applicable$25$225
Maryland$135 to $187$10 for transfer$20$815
Massachusetts$60 per two years$25 for transfer$10$429
MichiganDepends on vehicle value$5$10$1,104
Minnesota$35 and above$8$1 for 31 days$585
Mississippi$14 for first time registrationNot applicable$5$446
Missouri$18.75Not applicable$5$490
Montana$30.57 to $225.24$10.30$24$310
Nebraska$15$3.30 a plate$21.70$359
New Hampshire$31.20$8$10$319
New Jersey$35.50 to $84$6$5$782
New Mexico$27 to $62Not applicable$15$346
New York$26 to $140$25$12.50$1,371
North Carolina$38.75$21.50$10$432
North Dakota$49 to $274$5 for transfer$5$269
Ohio$31$6 for transfer$15 to $20$338
Oklahoma$96Not applicable$22$406
Oregon$122 to $152$24.50$33$616
Pennsylvania$39Not applicable$20$428
Rhode Island$30$8$12$551
South Carolina$40Not applicable$5$524
South Dakota$36 to $144$5 for transfer$15 for 15 days$276
Tennessee$26.50Not applicable$10$371
Texas$51.75Not applicable$25 to $50$565
Utah$44Not applicable$6$539
Vermont$76Not applicable$6$238
Virginia$30.75Not applicable$5$494
Washington$68.25 to $115.25$10$33$515
Washington D.C$72 to $155$12 for transfer$13 for 45 days$607
West Virginia$51.50$10 for replacement$5$421
Wyoming$30Not applicable$50 for 30 days$263

Registration is Different for Each State While Still Being a Requirement

The vehicle registration process is legally required across every state in the country. Vehicle owners are mandated to do this to prove their ownership. It follows then to provide documentation for the process, including the vehicle title, car insurance, bill of sale, and any emissions testing required. Depending on how one acquired their vehicle, the registration may differ slightly.

If it was obtained from a dealer, the title and registration may already have been handled, which means the vehicle owner does not have to do anything. That is not the case every time, though. So the buyer has to confirm these have been done. Similarly, moving to a new state requires one to reregister their vehicle. There is usually a grace period for vehicle registration, but durations also depend on the state. It is advisable to complete registration immediately after relocation or vehicle purchasing.

The rates for registration also vary, and the maximum is $225. Renewal fees are much lower for most states and are paid yearly or two. Heavy penalties may be exacted on individuals caught with expired registrations or without insurance. That includes issuing tickets, revoking the driver's license, or even impounding the vehicle.

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