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Tips to Register a Car in Pennsylvania

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June 24, 2021

Registering your car in Pennsylvania begins with a visit to one of the commonwealth's Department of Motor Vehicles locations or a visit online to the official DMV website

The DMV is run by the Department of Transportation, and it handles a variety of tasks like driver licensing, registrations, license plates, and registration renewals. 

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How much is it to register a car in Pennsylvania?

Registering a passenger car in Pennsylvania costs $38. Getting new vehicle plates for your car or truck in Pennsylvania because the vehicle is new or because you just moved to the commonwealth costs nothing because the cost of a plate is included with the initial registration fee. 

Specialty plates and special fund registration plates come with an additional fee, and replacing plates also requires a fee that can range from $9 to $207.

Pennsylvania DMV registration fees

The Payments and Fees page on the Pennsylvania Department of Motor Vehicles website lists the different fees for the various services the department provides. Here are the registration fees for different types of vehicles.

  • Farm equipment: $28
  • Motorhomes 8,000 pounds or less: $70
  • Motorhomes 8,001 to 11,000 pounds: $97
  • Motorhomes 11,001 or more: $125
  • Motorcycles: $20
  • Passenger vehicles: $38
  • School buses and school vehicles: $36
  • Taxis (eight passengers or fewer): $83

There are variable registration fees for vehicles like recreational trailers, semi-trailers, and commercial trailers, as well as special registration fees for vanity plates. 

Vanity plates that feature organizations and topics like teen drivers, antique vehicles, and members of the legislature are also available.

Specialty plate registration fees vary from $11 to $81. The commonwealth also offers military plates for individuals who have earned various distinctions while serving in the armed forces. The fees for those plates range from $10 to $22.

Requirements to register your car in Pennsylvania

New residents must apply for a Pennsylvania title and registration for their vehicle within 20 days of claiming residency in the commonwealth. To obtain a title and registration, residents must have a Pennsylvania driver's license.

In its information page for registering and titling a vehicle, the Pennsylvania DMV recommends that future residents apply for a Pennsylvania driver's license before they move or arrive, so they will have the appropriate Pennsylvania identification available to register their vehicle. 

In addition to a Pennsylvania driver's license, acceptable forms of identification include temporary licenses and photo identification cards.

Here are the items you'll need to get a new Pennsylvania title for your out-of-state car.

  1. Valid title issued in your name and from your previous state
  2. Proof of insurance valid in Pennsylvania
  3. Vehicle identification number (VIN)
  4. Proof of having paid appropriate sales tax
  5. Form MV-1L (for leased vehicles)
  6. Pennsylvania will confirm your vehicle identification number with a VIN tracing if you are registering a truck or tractor-trailer, a motorhome, or a vehicle originally titled in another state. 

If you're registering a truck or trailer, the VIN tracing should include the complete vehicle identification number, gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR), and the gross axle weight rating (GAWR).

Renewing your Pennsylvania vehicle registration

Pennsylvania requires six pieces of information and documentation during the vehicle registration renewal process. Vehicle owners who have all of their information and documentation available may renew their registration online. 

In addition to offering renewals online, the commonwealth allows users to update their address, change their emergency contact information, and obtain a duplicate registration card.

To complete a vehicle registration renewal online, users must have the following pieces of information available.

  • First eight digits of the vehicle title number
  • The vehicle's license plate number
  • Updated insurance information
  • The vehicle's odometer reading
  • The owner's driver's license number
  • Valid credit card or debit card

Pennsylvania requires that its users print out their new registration, so it's important to have a printer at the ready when completing online registration renewals for your Pennsylvania car or truck.

Replacing a lost Pennsylvania car registration

If you lose your registration card and need a replacement, you can obtain one for free by using the official PennDOT website. All residents receive a new registration card when they renew their registration online, but the commonwealth also offers duplicate registration cards for those that have been lost.

There is no fee for requesting a new registration card if you had a malfunction during the online registration or renewal process and were unable to print your initial registration cards. 

In addition to offering duplicate registration cards, drivers may also order duplicate or replacement registration cards or license plates for a small fee and completion of form MV-44, which is the Application for Duplicate Registration Card form.

Registering specialty license plates in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania allows personalized license plates for commercial vehicles, vehicle dealerships, members of the military, and several organizations and funds, as well as on the commonwealth's standard license plates. The Department of Transportation in Pennsylvania has a helpful online tool for determining whether your desired plate is available.

Personalized plates are offered for buses, mopeds, motor homes, motorcycles, passenger cars, trailers, and trucks. The commonwealth doesn't reserve personalized plates until they have received payment for the special plate and the completed application. 

The commonwealth must also approve the requested plate configuration. Standard personalized plates may be any combination of seven letters and numbers that is not already in use on a vehicle in the commonwealth.

Before renewing your Pennsylvania car registration or getting your car registered for the first time, consider searching for new car insurance. Insurance rates tend to change every year, and a quick search to compare rates might allow you to find a much more affordable auto insurance company than the one you have now.