Getting all of your vehicle's documents and insurance in order can be a real hassle. Do you need to register your car in a new state but don't know how long this will take? Do you have to register a vehicle? Luckily, we've done some research and have the answers to these questions below.
In general, it will take between four and six weeks to register a car. Once you are approved for the registration, the state will need to send you a new license plate.
Of course, this timeline will vary depending on how many other drivers are registering and whether the shipping is on time or delayed.
As we begin, we will cover all things registering a vehicle and discuss why this process takes so long. Whether you're moving, already in a new state, or curious, we're here to help. With that said, let's get right into this topic!
What Does Registering A Car Mean?
Registering is essential for those new to driving or owning/leasing a vehicle. When you register your car, this gives the DMV your vehicle's information, which the government can use for taxation or crime detection.
Typically, you will need to register your car in the state you live in. You will do this through your state's website and then wait until your new plate, tab and registration show up in the mail.
Have you ever wondered how people get their license plates? That is all thanks to the registration process. When you apply to own and drive a car within a given state, you pay a fee, and a new license plate is sent to you.
When you receive your new plate, you can attach it to your car and legally be up to date.
As we said, this entire process should take around 4-6 weeks, depending on the shipping times. Furthermore, insurance often requires current registration for the vehicle you drive to be effective, so if you want coverage, make sure to register ASAP.
The last thing you want is to get pulled over with an unregistered car, which can be flagged as a stolen vehicle.
Do You Have To Register Your Car?
Yes, it is mandatory in the US to register a vehicle with your state. For example, in Arizona, you must register your car immediately after they establish residency.
Furthermore, you also need to provide proof of vehicle insurance to apply, so contact your provider beforehand. This is a two-way street: your insurance requires updated registration, and your state needs proof of insurance.
It's also common for the new state your register in to ask for your current license plate, so don't be alarmed if they send that request.
Again, this process is in place to protect your property and keep tabs on what you drive within the US.
Why Does It Take So Long To Register A Vehicle?
One of the biggest complaints about the title registration process is the wait. As we covered earlier, it can take up to six weeks for your new information to update.
If you move to a new place and need to drive immediately, this unknown period can be stressful. Typically, it's good to register for a new license plate and pay the related fees the minute you claim residency.
That means when you sign a lease, buy a home, or even move in with a friend or family. Besides keeping you legally up to date, registering your vehicle in your state can prevent it from flagging as stolen on a US roadway.
If a police offer pulls you over for another violation and sees your car doesn't register in that given location, this can become an issue. On top of that, you can receive a fine for failing to register, which nobody wants to deal with.
Let's cover some popular states' registration timelines and protocols below:
For drivers in California, your registration process should be pretty fast. According to the state's website, new registration and sticker will be mailed within two weeks.
You can also check out one of the DMV kiosks and register immediately through them, so that's great news for new drivers.
If you need to register your car in Pennsylvania, you should only need to wait about ten days. According to the state DMV, you will receive your permanent registration card within ten business days.
Like California, this is a bit shorter than the national average. Additionally, the state requires you to submit any new address to PennDOT within 15 days of moving.
In New York, drivers can expect a slightly longer registration wait time. The New York DMV will send new documents and license plates within 90 days of an approved application.
This process will be around six weeks or more for your custom plate, so make sure to submit it ASAP. Furthermore, every vehicle registered in the state needs a yearly inspection to remain active, so keep that in mind.
For drivers in Florida, you should get your new documents and plate within ten days of approval. This is a shorter wait, so that's good news for Florida applicants.
You can also obtain a temporary registration if you go into a tax collector's office and show them proof of residency. That isn't necessary, but it's an alternative to consider if you have trouble with the mail.
If you are in Texas, expect to wait between one and three months for your new registration. According to their state DMV, new residents have to apply within 30 days of residency.
Next, you have to wait for an approval or denial letter and your new information. Like New York, Texas also has a yearly vehicle compliance check, which your car has to pass to drive legally.
Does Registering A Vehicle Cost Money?
Yes, when you register a vehicle in a new state, you will have to pay a fee. Usually, this fee falls into two categories: a flat registration fee or one based on your vehicle's price, model, etc.
For example, all drivers must pay a flat $46 fee in California. However, the state also charges a registration fee of .65% of the purchase price/value of a vehicle, so that's something to consider.
You can expect to pay $225 for your registration in Florida, regardless of what you drive. Furthermore, in some cases, if you transfer a title to a new vehicle in Florida, you may get the fee waived.
In New York, they follow a slightly different price chart, by how much a vehicle weighs. So you could spend anywhere from $32.50 to $140. Every state has a unique system.
If you're in Nevada, your fee falls at a flat rate of $33, making it one of the cheaper states to drive in. That $33 also covers motorcycles, so it's the same for everybody.
What If I Can't Afford To Register My Vehicle?
If money is tight and you can't afford to pay for your car registration, there are options. Generally, every state will offer some payment assistance or forgiveness for drivers.
You will often receive a voucher or rebate to cover the cost of registering, as many states want to encourage drivers to do this, regardless of finances.
Do You Have To Renew A Car's Registration?
Yes, you do have to renew a vehicle's registration every 12 months or so. Like fees and shipping times, this varies by state. Generally, you don't have to renew a car more than every year to ensure it is safe to drive on US roadways.
Luckily, most states offer online renewal options, saving you a trip to the DMV. In addition, you may have to pay a fee whenever you renew the registration documents, so this isn't always free.
For example, in Michigan, you need to register your vehicle each year or face a fee.
Fun fact: in Michigan, it's common for the DMV to time your license plate's expiration according to your birthday, making renewing it even easier.
A similar situation applies to those renewing in Georgia, as you can expect a renewal letter to arrive in the mail during your birth month.
Although this isn't the present you asked for, it makes keeping track of timelines easier.
Can You Drive With Expired Tags?
Considering that it's illegal to operate a vehicle without up-to-date registration, we don't recommend driving with expired tags. As we said earlier, if a police officer runs your plate and finds it is expired, you're likely to get in trouble.
Even if they stop you for another reason, an officer has every right to fine you for the expired plate/tags. Furthermore, the officer could think the vehicle was stolen, which is a lot of hassle over a late renewal.
In Arizona, an officer has the right to stop you for expired tags and even arrest you, so it's best to pay the renewal fee and keep things updated.
To Wrap Up
Whether you are moving or recently bought a new car, registering it is essential. We found that it will take between four and six weeks on average to register a vehicle.
With that said, this can vary by state, with some moving faster than others. Regardless, you want to apply for a new license and documents as soon as you claim residency in a new state.
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