How to register and title a vehicle

If you live in the United States, you must know that it is your obligation to register and title a vehicle that are issued by de Department of Motor Vehicles, the government’s agency that issues plates for own vehicles and vehicles owned by foreign diplomats. Each State of the U.S have its own laws, but they are almost the same.

How to register and title a vehicle

In this article, we will tell you all the information you have to know to register and title a vehicle and to obtain a license plate, that will have different colors, slogans or symbols, depending on each issuing jurisdiction, like California or New York.

What Is a Vehicle Registration?

If you are a car owner, you need to register your vehicle with their transportation department, or their state’s DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles). This proceeding is needed when the person buys a vehicle, needs to renew the registration or moves to another state.

Each state demands to the ownership to register and title a vehicle to provide information about assessing taxes and tracking criminals.

After you have your essential registration for driving, it must be on hand whenever you get behind the wheel, because the law enforcement officers will stop you to see your driver’s license at any time.

NOTE: You have to pay a fee to own the license plate and the registration certificate.

General payment and fees for registering and titling a vehicle


Depending on each State of the U.S, you have several means of payment for the registration and titling of a vehicle. Generally, these methods are the following:

  • Cash.
  • Credit card, pinless debit or prepaid card (MasterCard, VISA, American Express, Discover Card/Novus).
  • A money order or a personal check payable to “Commissioner of Motor Vehicles”.

IMPORTANT: You can pay half in cash, and the other half by check.


The fees you have to pay to register and title a vehicle, depend on the State you live in and the vehicle’s weight. If it is the first time you do this, the fees, generally, include:

  • A registration transfer fee or a vehicle plate.
  • A title certificate fee.
  • The sales taxes.
  • Vehicle use tax (in most counties).
  • A 1 or 2-year registration fee, according to the type of registration.

What Is a Car Title?

A car title is the way to show who owns the vehicle. This is like an identification card, that prove that the vehicle is legally under your name. The car title is issued, at the time the vehicle is sold, by each State DMV (Department of Motor Vehicle), or the Department of Transportation.

In case you have taken out a loan, the lender holds the title of the vehicle until the loan is repaid.

How to register and title a vehicle

How to register and title a vehicle

We have mentioned that the requirements vary by State, but, normally, to register and title a vehicle, you have to present the following documents at the DMV:

  • Title or lien: If you are the owner of the vehicle, you will have to show its title. On the other hand, you will have to show the lien agreement if the vehicle is financed.
  • Bill of sale: If you but a new vehicle at a dealership, you are issued a bill of sale, that you must present to register and title a vehicle.
  • Odometer reading: This is optional, since a DMV representative will ask you for the odometer reading at the time you register the vehicle. In some States, the owner is responsible of showing an insurance card when registering the car.
  • Proof of insurance: As we mentioned before, in most of the counties, it is required a car insurance that meets the state’s minimum liability requirements. You will have to show your insurance card at the time you register the car.
  • Identification: To register and title a vehicle, you must have a current driver’s license.
  • Payment: You have to pay for the registration, title o renewal fess, by the methods of payment mentioned above.

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the difference between a title and a registration?

In conclusion, the title certificate is used to transfer your vehicle to another owner, while the registration allows the owner to drive the vehicle legally, on a public road.

Vehicles to be titled and registered

Broadly speaking, and with some exceptions, every motor vehicle, trailer, semitrailer and pole trailer, and every off-highway motor vehicle need to be registered and certificated of title provisions of the Motor Vehicle Code. Let’s see some of these vehicles that need these certificates.

  • Buses.
  • Passenger vehicles.
  • Trucks.
  • Motorcycles.
  • Motorhomes.
  • Recreational vehicles.
  • Manufactured (mobile) homes.
  • Off-Highway Motor Vehicles, that includes:
  1. All-terrain vehicles.
  2. Off-highway motorcycles.
  3. All-terrain vehicles.
  4. Vehicles that are operated exclusively off the highways of the State where it was registered and titled, and that are not legally equipped to be used on the highways of the state.
  • Trailers, that includes:
  1. Fifth-wheel trailers.
  2. Camping trailers.
  3. Horse trailers.
  4. Freight trailers.
  5. Pole trailers.
  6. Utility trailers.
  7. Recreational travel trailers.
  8. Van trailers.

More information

If you want to know more about the DMV offices where you must go to register and title a vehicle, click on this link.

Also, you can find out about the steps you need to take to apply for your driver’s license by clicking here. On the other hand, if you need to learn about the requirements to own an identification card, this article will help you.