How to Register Your Vehicle

Any time you purchase a car, be it new or used, you must register the vehicle in your name. If you don't, you are violating laws that could leave you with a hefty fine. If you purchase a new car from a dealership, they will most likely handle the registration for you. But if you buy a car from a private sale or auction, you might have to register it on your own. The process can be difficult, but knowing what to expect will better prepare you for a smooth transition.

How to Register Your Vehicle:

Though this list is fairly comprehensive, be sure to check your state and local requirements before you go to register your car.

  1. Complete your vehicle registration form
  2. Anytime you register a vehicle, you will need to complete a registration form with the DMV. Sometimes, this form will be available prior to your appointment so it can be filled out early. The information required on this form varies by state and local requirements, but the employees at the DMV will be able to guide you through filling out this form.

  3. Prepare your documents
  4. There are a number of documents you will need to register your vehicle. There may be more documents required than listed below, but this gives a general idea of the documents that will be needed in most cases.

  5. A driver's license or valid ID
  6. Of course, to register your vehicle, you will need to provide your valid driver's license or other form of identification. This is necessary to prove who you are. A driver's license is the most common form of identification, but other forms (like a passport or Real ID) could also work.

  7. Proof of insurance
  8. In America, you legally must have your vehicle insured in order to drive on the road. When obtaining your vehicle registration, you will need to provide proof that you have taken out an insurance policy on the vehicle. Without this, the DMV will not be able to issue a registration for the vehicle.

  9. The car title
  10. In addition to proving your identity, you must also prove that you are the vehicle's rightful owner. This is done by providing the car title, the legal document proving that you own the car and have the right to license it. Take caution when purchasing a vehicle from a private seller, as they are responsible for providing you with the car's title, and delays in doing so could lead to delays in getting your vehicle.

  11. Proof of passed safety inspection
  12. To register a new or used vehicle, it must first pass a safety inspection. The extent of this safety inspection varies based on the local and state ordinances, so be sure to check what is required in your area. This safety inspection must be performed prior to your DMV appointment, so make sure to schedule the inspection far enough in advance.

  13. Payment for any registration fees
  14. Naturally, when registering your vehicle, you are going to need to provide payment for any registration fees that are necessary. The fee can range based on where you live, and the DMV should be able to tell you before your appointment how much you will need to pay to register your vehicle.

    Registering a vehicle can be quite a headache unless you know how to prepare. As long as you have a plan for what to do and what you need to bring, the process of registering your car should be fairly straightforward. Again, be sure to check local and state ordinances. For example, in the state of California, you must also provide proof that your vehicle passes a smog test to meet requirements for vehicle emissions. If you are ready to register a new vehicle, consider donating your old vehicle. By donating a vehicle you are no longer using, you will be able to make a huge impact on a charity of your choosing. However, keep these steps in mind when going to register your car in order to ensure the process is as easy as possible.