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Registering your car for the first time? Here are some tips to make everything simpler

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Registration is essential for driving any vehicle to obtain ownership and avoid penalties. Being prepared will save you the hassle of registration problems that can cost you time and money.

Everyone remembers their first car; it’s a memory that never fades. If this is your first time owning a car, keep in mind that it’s not all about road trips and picking up your friends. You have to register your car before hitting its gas pedal, and the process of registration can be long and frustrating. Failing to register your car can lead to severe penalties and is illegal. The penalties can vary from a ticket to your car being impounded. However, if you follow our guidelines, you won’t have to worry about all of that.

When should you register your car?
Registering a car is not a one-time thing and should be done in several cases. Every state has its own procedures and paperwork for the car registration process, so you should check with your local DMV for the paperwork needed. The car registration and title are usually handled by the dealership when purchasing a car from them. However, in the case of buying a car from a private seller, you have to do the registration yourself. If you have moved to a new state, you are required to register your car unless you are a full-time student or currently in the military. Finally, you need to renew your car registration every year or couple of years depending on the state. The renewal notice from the DMV will state the available options for renewal which can be done in person, by mail, by phone, or online.

Before going to the DMV
There are a few things you need to do before going to register your car at the DMV. Firstly, after purchasing a car, you should have legal proof of owning this vehicle, whether it was proof of ownership or a vehicle’s title when you purchase it from a dealership. A smog test, also known as an emissions test, is required by most states for vehicles over 4 years, and a licensed local business can conduct this test and report results to local regulators. Make sure not to exceed the grace period when purchasing a car, which is around 30 days, however, in some cases, it can be 3 to 5 days depending on the state. Finally, in most states, you need to have insurance on your car before registration and submit proof to the DMV.  

Vehicle registration documents
In California, the dealership generally takes care of the registration process, so check with your dealership before purchasing to make sure that they handle registration. You will be issued a temporary registration until your permanent one and the stickers come in the mail from the DMV. In most other cases, you have to do the registration yourself, however, you don't have to directly deal with the DMV as you can often complete the registration online through the registration services websites. You will need to get some documents prepared before starting this process. These documents are:

  • A filled application for title and registration form (Form REG 343)
  • The vehicle’s title and mileage, if the car is no older than 9 years
  • The Smog certificate

You will receive the registration card, stickers, and plate after an employee completes your Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) inspection at the DMV.

Vehicle registration fees
The DMV accepts payments by credit card, cash, or check to facilitate the payment process. You can pay several different fees during the registration, which differ from one case to another. A dealership will add those fees to the car purchase, so you don’t have to pay at the DMV, and in most other cases, you pay the DMV directly. There are many factors that are used in the calculation of vehicle registration, which includes vehicle current value, fuel efficiency, horsepower, the vehicle’s age, and other factors. However, there are some fees that are required from all vehicles which are:

  • Registration Fee: ~46$
  • California Highway Patrol Fee: ~23$ (in the state of California)

California residents can calculate their registration fees by using the Vehicle Registration Fee Calculator offered by the DMV. Late fees will apply if you exceeded the grace period of 10 days after purchasing your vehicle.


Photo by Stephan Müller from Pexels

Registration is essential for driving any vehicle to obtain ownership and avoid penalties. Being prepared will save you the hassle of registration problems that can cost you time and money. Always contact your DMV in order to prepare your paperwork before heading there or doing it online. Pay the fees required for registration and the troublesome process will be over before you know it. Enjoy your new car and drive safely and responsibly.


Main photo by Kaique Rocha from Pexels

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