Vehicle Registration

Vehicle Registration in the United States

In the US, every state requires motor vehicles to be registered and titled. Vehicle registration rules and procedures vary from state to state. Each state has a DMV agency that handles motor vehicle registrations and driver licensing. Motor vehicles may not be driven legally if they have never been registered or if the registration has expired.

When you register your vehicle, you are required to provide specific documents that will prove your identity and residency. Some of the documents that you need to provide are valid U.S. driver’s license, international or home country driver’s license, and/or Social Security card. You will also be required to have your car insured.

What is a Vehicle Title?

In the United States, the certificate of title for a vehicle (also known as a car title or pink slip) is a legal form, establishing a person or business as the legal owner of a vehicle. Vehicle titles in the U.S. are commonly issued by the Secretary of State in the state the vehicle was purchased by the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

Each state in the US has its own distinct process for the Certificate of Title. When filling out the title during a vehicle transaction, the rules in one state do not always apply to a different state.

Getting a Driver’s License

Drivers in the US are required to obtain a driver’s license from their state of residence. Each state policies and requirements vary but all states recognize each other’s licenses for non-resident age requirements. You can use the driver’s license issued in your state to drive anywhere in the US and Canada.

License Plates

A vehicle registration plate, often called the license plate, is attached to motor vehicles for identification purposes. All US states require registration plates for road vehicles such as cars, trucks, and motorcycles.

Plates are usually fixed directly to a vehicle or to a plate frame that is fixed to the vehicle.

Sales Tax

When you purchase a car in the United States, the sales tax (if required by your state) is not included in the original selling price of the vehicle. You will pay your sales tax when you register your vehicle. If you are leasing a vehicle, the sales tax will be included in the monthly payment.

Emissions and Safety Requirements

States have specific emissions and safety requirements. They only permit units that comply with their standards. As such, examinations may be conducted prior to registration.

Vehicle Insurance

Almost all states in the US require vehicle insurance. The necessary content of the insurance policy may differ depending on the state and vehicle type. A typical insurance policy consists of more than one insurance coverage.

Registration Fees

Vehicle registration fees charged to motorists for each vehicle under operation in the state vary from state to state and, sometimes, between localities within a state. Many states assess a flat fee while other states utilize a scale based on any number of metrics, including gross vehicle weight, vehicle age or even fuel efficiency, thus making a state-by-state comparison difficult.

How to register your vehicle

To learn how to register your car in your state, contact your state’s DMV or transportation agency, or click on your state on the map below. Registration can usually be handled in person, by mail or online. For first-time registration, some states might require you to handle the process.

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