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New to Colorado? Here’s How to Register Your Car

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June 3, 2021

The state of Colorado handles its car registrations through the Department of Revenue and its Division of Motor Vehicles. The state has a handful of registration requirements, as well as taxes and fees that must be paid when registering a vehicle. There are several county registration locations across the state where residents can register their vehicles, and there are also some options for online registration for people who qualify.

In addition to registering cars in Colorado, the Division of Motor Vehicles requires that low-power scooters and special mobile machinery are registered. Gas vehicles must also pass emissions tests, which require additional forms beyond those required for general car registrations. 

If you need to register a car in Colorado, here are all the details that will help you complete the process with as few hassles as possible.

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How much is it to register a car in Colorado?

According to the state’s Department of Revenue, the taxes and fees associated with registering a car in Colorado vary based on the type of vehicle being registered as well as its weight. Some counties in the state also charge an extra fee when citizens register a car in one of those counties. Additionally, the state charges extra fees for individuals who select a special license plate.

The tax paid during registration is not only based on the tax class but is also based on the age of the vehicle. For the first year of ownership, a vehicle in tax class B will require a tax payment of 2.10 percent of the taxable value. That percentage is reduced each year by a small amount until the car is ten years old and the tax becomes a flat $3.00.

Vehicle registration fees

Here are the most common fees you’ll encounter when registering a vehicle in Colorado.

Ownership taxes. These taxes are calculated based on when the vehicle was manufactured and its value when it was initially sold.

Age of vehicle. Vehicles that are fewer than seven years old will incur a $12 age tax, vehicles seven to nine years old will require a $10 tax, and vehicles older than 10 years will require a $7 age tax.

Clerk fees. All registration transactions in Colorado will require a $4 fee to be paid to the county clerk and the recorder.

County road and bridge fee. Each registration requires a $1.50 payment when the vehicle is at least 2,000 pounds. That fee increases to $2.50 for motorcycles and vehicles that weigh less than 2,000 pounds.

Area emissions fee. Each registration requires a $1.50 fee to be paid to the state’s AIR Account, which pays for implementation and enforcement of the emissions program run by the Dept. of Public Health and Environment.

County emissions fee. A $0.70 fee is paid to the citizen’s county of residence, and this fee is sent to the county clerk and the recorder.

State emissions fee. The state collects $0.50 for every registration, and the money is sent to the state whether the vehicle is subject to emissions laws or is an electric vehicle.

Residents may encounter other fees associated with their county of residence.

How to register a car in Colorado

Vehicle owners must provide several documents to the state when they register their vehicle in Colorado. Those registration documents include a copy of the title, personal identification, a copy of a successful Colorado Vehicle Emissions test, and proof of insurance. The state may deny a resident’s registration request if proof of insurance is not provided.

>>COMPARE: Get Colorado car insurance quotes

These are the circumstances when drivers must register their vehicles:

  1. Within 60 days of the original purchase.
  2. Within three months of moving to Colorado.
  3. Non-residents who operate a vehicle solely within the state.
  4. Non-residents who operate a business in Colorado and drive vehicles.
  5. Within 45 days of returning to Colorado from a foreign country.

How do you renew your car registration in Colorado?

Renewing car registration in Colorado is a simple process that vehicle owners may complete online. Drivers will visit the renewal portal for the Colorado DMV, look up their vehicle registration details by using their license plate number, and pay the fees owed. 

The state also allows registration renewals in person at its county sites.

What happens during late car registration in Colorado?

Colorado charges a late fee when residents fail to register their cars on time. The Colorado General Assembly determines the fees that residents will pay when they’re late with car registration. Residents are assessed a $25 fee each month that they’re late and will be charged up to $100 for late registration.

The state gives residents a one-month grace period and also offers some exemptions. For example, military personnel serving outside the state don’t need to pay a late fee when they don’t operate their vehicle and are stationed elsewhere. 

Further, commercial businesses don’t need to pay a late fee if their work vehicle was idle and unused for the duration of the registration period.

Colorado specialty license plates

Colorado offers several special license plate options that allow residents to personalize the plates on their vehicles. Some of the special license plate options celebrate shelter pets, aviation, breast cancer awareness, firefighters, girl scouts, and boy scouts.

Additional specialty plates include the following:

  • Denver Nuggets
  • Emergency Medical Services
  • Child Loss Awareness
  • American Indian Scholars
  • Wildlife Sporting
  • State Parks
  • Support the Troops

You may need to contact the State of Colorado to confirm the exact number and amount of fees that you’ll need to pay to register your vehicle. Don’t forget to compare insurance rates, too, so you can get a clear picture of how much you’ll need to pay to own and operate a vehicle in Colorado.