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Register Your Vehicle

See the documents and forms you need to make your DMV visit a breeze!

How to Register a Vehicle

A vehicle’s registration proves you have registered it with the state and are legally allowed to drive it. You’ll need to register a vehicle if you buy it from a dealer or private seller, or move to a different state. Registrations must be renewed annually. Need to renew?

A complete Virginia registration gets you:

  • One front and one back license plate (one plate if your vehicle is a motorcycle, tractor truck, semitrailer or trailer)
  • Decals displaying the registration’s expiration date
  • A registration card

Title vs. Registration

A title proves you own the vehicle. Registration proves the vehicle is authorized to be driven.

Requirements Before Registering Your Vehicle

  1. Have your car titled in Virginia
    • For used vehicles: Remember to complete the “Certification of Buyer” and “Application of Registration” sections on your Virginia title
  2. Complete an Application for Registration
  3. If your vehicle is garaged in the counties of Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William or Stafford, or in the cities of Alexandria, Fairfax, Falls Church, Manassas or Manassas Park:
    • Pass an emissions inspection (does not apply to motorcycles)

      Note: The emissions inspection station will electronically update your DMV vehicle record with the test results immediately. We will only ask you for emissions information if your vehicle failed the test or the information has not been received.

  4. Meet the minimum insurance coverage requirements or pay the uninsured motor vehicle fee.

    Note: For-hire vehicles require higher insurance limits and are subject to intrastate operating authority requirements.

    Note: If your vehicle's liability insurance coverage ends or is canceled during the registration period, you must reinsure the vehicle, pay the uninsured motor vehicle fee, temporarily deactivate your license plates or surrender the license plates to DMV.

  5. If you are applying for an original registration or are transferring an existing registration to a different vehicle, and:
    • You are using the vehicle to transport passengers or property for-hire, and
    • No intrastate operating authority has been issued under the name that the vehicle is being registered under, and
    • You are leasing the vehicle to a person or company that does hold intrastate operating authority

      (i.e., A limo or an Uber)

    You must complete the For-Hire Vehicles Registration Request and submit the form to Motor Carrier Services. They will let you know by the next business day whether you’ve received pre-authorization to complete the vehicle registration transaction, or if there are other items you must still provide.

Note: Additional information is required to title and register a vehicle if you are a new Virginia resident or if you lease your vehicle.

Safety Inspection

Your vehicle must pass an annual safety inspection and display a valid safety inspection sticker before it can be operated in Virginia. Driving without an inspection sticker may result in a ticket from law enforcement. A conviction for violating Virginia inspection laws could result in a fine and be posted to your driving record.

How To Register Your Vehicle

Once you’ve met all the registration requirements, submit the following to DMV:

  1. Completed Application for Registration
    • Remember to complete the “Insurance Certification” section
  2. Registration fee
  3. For-Hire Vehicles Registration Request, if applicable

There are two ways you can submit these items:

Schedule an Appointment Online

How To Renew Your Registration

After your first registration, DMV will send you renewal reminders before your registration’s expiration date. Sign up for E-Notifications to receive notifications by email or text message.

DMV sends email and text renewal reminders 30 days before your registration expires, and mails renewal reminders 90 days before your registration expires. Make sure DMV has your current address to receive your mailed reminders.

Renewal Options

  • Renew online or by phone

    You’ll receive a $1 discount. Delivery times may vary. Please allow 15 days to receive your new decals before contacting DMV.

  • Mail in your vehicle renewal reminder

    Delivery times may vary. Please allow 15 days to receive your decals before contacting DMV.

  • Renew In Person at a DMV Select

    Please bring the same documents you brought to register the first time, including the Application for Registration. Find the office closest to you.

How To Renew Your Registration Online

Renewal Fees and Multi-Year Discounts

Your renewal fee is determined by the type of vehicle and its empty weight or gross weight. Additional fees may occur based on:

  • The type of license plate you purchase. See Special License Plates.
  • Whether you register for more than one year.
  • Renewing your registration after it has expired.
  • If your vehicle is subject to a highway use fee.

If eligible, you can get the following multi-year discounts:

  • Two year renewal — $3 discount online or by phone; $2 discount by mail or in person.
  • Three-year renewal — $4 discount online or by phone; $3 discount by mail or in person

    Note: If by mail, you must send DMV the Application for Registration to get the discount.

  • Who is ineligible for multi-year renewal discounts?

    You’re ineligible for the two-year renewal if::

    • Your vehicle has a gross weight of 55,000 pounds or more;
    • Your vehicle is registered under the International Registration Plan;
    • You have paid the uninsured motor vehicle fee; or
    • You live in an emissions area and only have one year left on the emissions inspection.

    You're ineligible for the three-year registration if:

    • You are registering your vehicle for the first time;
    • You are renewing your registration by mail using the pre-printed renewal reminder. You must mail DMV an Application for Registration to receive the discount;
    • Your vehicle is garaged in Arlington, Fairfax City, Loudoun, Prince William, Stafford, Alexandria, Fairfax County, Falls Church, Manassas or Manassas Park, since vehicles in these localities are subject to an every-other-year emissions inspection;
    • Your vehicle has a gross weight of 55,000 pounds or more;
    • Your vehicle is registered under the International Registration Plan; or
    • You have paid the uninsured motor vehicle fee.

    Registration Refunds

    You may receive partial refunds if you cancel your registration before it expires. Discounts and certain fees are not prorated or refundable. These fees include one-time plate reservation fees, Virginia Road Tax for heavy trucks and any late fees.

    Additional Information

    Dealer Purchases and Leased Vehicles

    If you have recently purchased a vehicle from a dealer and that dealer is processing the work for you, it may take up to 30 days for the dealer to process your transaction and for the vehicle to appear in your DMV record. The dealer will provide you with a temporary plate transfer or temporary registration for the 30 day period to allow you to legally drive.

    Leased vehicles will not show up in your DMV record.

    Your License Plates, Decals and Registration Card

    Keep your registration card with you whenever you operate the vehicle.

    To deter theft of your decals, remove the previous year's decals from your license plates before putting on your new decals. The material will tear if removed from the metal plate but may not tear if it is removed from a decal. Once the decal is applied, you may also wish to gently cut an "x" into the decal with a razor blade, so that it will not come off in one piece if it is removed.

    It is illegal to mount colored glass, plastic or any other type of covering on your license plates that alters or obscures the letters, numbers, decals, the state where the vehicle is registered and when the registration expires.

    More Resources