What You Need to Know About Car Registrations

What You Need to Know About Car Registrations

To operate a vehicle legally in any state, it must be registered with the Department of Motor Vehicles. Each state requires cars be registered so they can track ownership of vehicles operating on their roads.  This is what you need to know about car registrations.

Registration is required for new and used vehicles. Every time a vehicle is sold, it must be re-registered with the new owner’s information. The information collected on a car registration includes:

  • Name and contact information for the owner of the vehicle
  • Name of insurance company covering the vehicle
  • Odometer reading
  • VIN of the vehicle

To obtain a vehicle registration, you must have the following:

  • Proof of residence in that state. This is usually just a driver’s license.
  • Bill of sale. This is especially important if you are purchasing the vehicle used.
  • If your state requires emissions testing or other screenings for a vehicle, you must bring proof that these tests have been completed along with the results.
  • Insurance policy naming that vehicle as part of the policy
  • Odometer reading of the vehicle. Some offices will send someone outside to take the actual reading.
  • Title of vehicle. The title shows ownership. If you purchased the car used, you would have a title that has been signed over to you from the previous owner(s). When you are registering your vehicle, you can apply for a new title in your name at the same time.

When your car is officially registered, the state will give you license plates for your vehicle. You must keep the registration with you at all times when operating the vehicle.

Most states require the registration be renewed each year or two years. When you are renewing registration for the vehicle,  proof of insurance and an odometer reading may need to be provided. If you are in a state that requires vehicle testing, you will have to provide evidence of testing completion each time you register.

Car Registrations Have Many Benefits

Car registration is more than just a way to get license plates. When you register your vehicle with the state, you also receive the following benefits:

  • If there is a recall on your vehicle, the manufacturer will use registration information to contact the vehicle owner to issue them a recall notice.
  • In the event of natural disasters, like flooding, hurricanes, or earthquakes, a registered vehicle can be traced back to the owner.
  • You are creating a history of the vehicle that can help potential buyers make informed decisions when purchasing a used car.

What You Need to Know About Car Registrations


When Purchasing A Vehicle

Always remember to run a VINsmart report on any used vehicle before making a purchase.  A VINsmart report runs a complete history on the vehicle including whether it has ever been reported as stolen, involved in a major accident, or listed as a totaled vehicle.

VINsmart reports will also give you a registration history and mileage at registration.  It reports any significant incidents related to the vehicle, such as being involved in a fire or flood.

When you are going to purchase a used vehicle, the best way to ensure you are making a good purchase is to know the vehicle’s complete history.


To get started with VINsmart, click here.

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