Understanding What Is Car Registration?

  • by: Patrick Peterson
  • August 10, 2020
  • Other

Part of buying a new or used car is registering it. The vehicle registration is as necessary as the title and other documentation that you keep as long as you own it. 

What Is Vehicle Registration?

A vehicle registration certificate is an official document providing proof of registration of a vehicle. Shortly after buying a new or used car, you must register it with the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) or town offices. Depending on the state, you may have only a few days or up to a month to register it. Typically, you must provide information about the car, your name, and address, and you have to pay a car registration fee. You may be able to pay both the local and state charges at the same time. You must register your car each year or every other year (each state is different) and keep the car registration paper in the vehicle at all times. Generally, you must register your car in the town where you reside, unless you move within the state and then you may be able to keep your old one until it expires. Most states have online services to make auto register easy. 

You cannot drive a car legally without a registration and license plate sticker, and if you get stopped by the police, they will ask for your driver license and registration. A car registration is vital, but thankfully, it’s easy to obtain and renew. Many states now allow you to renew your automobile registration using online services after the first year or at one of their office locations.

what is a car registration

What Is The Difference Between Title And Registration & License?

Owning a car comes with specific responsibilities and paperwork that you must acquire and keep current to drive on the roads legally. There is a distinct difference between the various documents you must have when owning a vehicle. Each is explained in more detail below:

What Is a Car Title?

A car title is a legal document proving ownership of a vehicle. Vehicle titling is tied to a car or truck’s VIN number and shows personal details about the owner, such as name, address, and date of purchase. It also shows the odometer reading when the car was acquired, the vehicle type, and other details. The title used to be printed on pink paper, but now it may be printed on any color paper. If you perform a vehicle identification number (VIN) check on a vehicle, you can see the title history meaning everyone who has ever owned the car and if it has been in a severe accident or given a branded title. A vehicle title also serves as a public safety document, ensuring that no vehicle is driven on the roads that are not safe. 

What Is a Driver’s License?

To drive legally in the United States, you must have a driver’s license. A license is typically plastic, like a credit card. It is imprinted with information about the driver, such as a photograph, date of birth, driver’s license number (assigned by the state), the expiration date, and the driver’s name and home address. There may be other details like driving restrictions or other types of licenses, such as CDL or motorcycle license provisions. You must carry your driver’s license at all times when driving, and if you get stopped by the police for any reason, you must produce it and show it to them. Depending on the state, driver’s licenses must be renewed every few years; a typical scenario is every four or five years. If you violate certain driving rules such as DWI or DUI, you can lose your right to drive, and the police may take away your license. 

A registration card is tied to the car and simply registers your vehicle with the state, so they know your license plate number, driver’s license number, and your name and mailing address. It is a way of cataloging all drivers and cars within the state to keep track of them in the case of crime or emergencies. Along with the registration, you will need to get an inspection sticker too from a licensed inspection station. The town offices or DMV offices send out vehicle registration renewal notices before they are due. 

vehicle registration

When Do I Need To Register My Car?

When you need to register your motor vehicle depends on the state. Many states like New Hampshire, have you register your vehicle every year during your birthday month. Some states have you renew your vehicle based on a letter in your last name that corresponds to a particular month. Other states allow you to register your car, truck, or trailer for multiple years. The state DMV should send you a renewal notice a few weeks or months before it’s due.

What Do You Need To Register A Car?

When registering your motor vehicle, you will need to bring a few things. State laws vary, but generally, you need:

  • Your driver’s license, real ID, or ID card.
  • The current registration.
  • If the car is a new purchase, you must bring the title or a title application.
  • If your state requires insurance, proof of a policy.
  • Money to pay the fees.
  • Additional information as necessary. 

When registering recreational vehicles or mopeds, you may need to provide additional paperwork. 

where to find car registration number

How Much Is Car Registration Fee?

Each state has its own car registration fees. You must pay a portion to the town where you live and then a state fee as well. Check with your local DVM office for the car registration fees that apply to your vehicle. They are typically based on year, make, model, vehicle type, and weight of the car or other details. 

Car Registration FAQs

Below are some commonly asked questions about car registrations.

  • How Do I Check my Registration Status?

It depends on the state, but you can sometimes check your vehicle registration online using your driver’s license number or social security number or call the DMV to check on it.


  • Where Can I Get a Copy of My Car Registration?

You must contact either the DMV for your state or your town offices where you registered your vehicle. They can print you a new copy if you lose yours. 


  • What State has the Highest Registration Fees?

Florida has the highest registration fees averaging $225 for a new vehicle plus other add-on fees. Arizona has the lowest at the cost of only $8. 


  • What Do About a Lost Registration?

Contact either the DMV or town office where you registered your vehicle. You may need to produce some paperwork and your ID and pay a fee for a new copy.


  • What Does a Motor Vehicle Registration Look Like?

Each state has a different car registration card, but it is usually a small piece of paper that fits in your glove box with your VIN, name, vehicle information, license plate number, and signature. 













About the author

AutoDetective.com Logo