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How to Register a Car in Texas

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June 8, 2021

The Texas Department of Motor Vehicles is responsible for handling vehicle registrations in the state, and it's important to make sure your vehicle is properly registered before driving it on Texas roads.

The state allows its citizens to register vehicles in person or via the mail, and there are also opportunities to complete some registration activities online through the official Department of Motor Vehicles website.

Here are the steps you'll need to follow and the documents you'll need when registering a car in Texas or renewing your vehicle registration in Texas.

What are the items required to register a car in Texas?

To register your vehicle by mail, you'll need to provide the state with four items. 

  • Official state renewal notice
  • Copy of your official Vehicle Inspection Report (VIR)
  • Proof of a current liability insurance policy
  • Registration fees

If you choose to register your vehicle in person at one of the state's DMV offices, you'll need to provide the office with the same items you would if you mailed your registration. If you can't find your renewal notice or don't believe you received it, you can use the following three pieces of information to register your car in person.

  • License plate number
  • Vehicle identification number (VIN)
  • Registration receipt from a previous vehicle registration

In addition to the DMV offices located around the state, you may also find registration locations located within businesses like grocery stores.

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Texas car registration

The first step to registering a car in Texas is gathering the required documents. There are several items vehicle owners must bring with them when they first register a vehicle. 

  • Completed vehicle registration application
  • Proof of identity (such as a driver's license)
  • Proof of ownership of the vehicle
  • Proof of vehicle insurance
  • Vehicle safety inspection certificate

You will also pay a registration fee. Texas residents will head to a county office to submit their required documents and submit payment. 

New Texas license plates will be delivered to individuals who request or need them.

The state will also provide a registration sticker that the driver must adhere to the windshield of the vehicle. Some counties in the state also require emissions testing for certain vehicles, so it's a good idea to contact your county's DMV office to check.

How much does it cost to register a vehicle in Texas?

Vehicle registration fees required by the Texas DMV are based on the type of vehicle being registered. The fees range from $30 to $54 for the base registration fee. 

For example, the state charges $50.75 for light trucks and cars and charges $54 for pickup trucks. Trailers cost $45 to register, and mopeds and motorcycles cost $30 to register.

The registration fee for vehicles in Texas is sent to the State Highway Fund to help maintain and construct the state's roads. Some of the registration fees also go to the Insurance Verification Project.

Additional car registration fees 

In addition to the base registration fee, Texas drivers will pay the following fees.

  1. A local fee of $10.00 is sent to the county where you will house the vehicle. The fee goes toward paying for the construction and maintenance of local roads.
  2. An inspection fee of $7.50 helps pay for the official vehicle inspection that the state requires of all vehicles before registration may be completed.
  3. A processing fee of $4.75 helps cover the costs of processing a vehicle's registration. There are county and state services involved that are funded by this fee.

Steps to renew vehicle registration in Texas

The state encourages its citizens to register their vehicles online and offers a $1.00 discount on the cost of registration when a vehicle owner uses the official vehicle registration portal

Vehicle renewals online are available in the three months before the registration is due, as well as for nine months after the registration expiration date.

After registering a vehicle online, the state will take two days to process the payment and will print the official registration sticker shortly thereafter. It takes around three weeks to receive a sticker in the mail. 

The state provides a helpful online tool for tracking the printing and mailing of an official registration sticker.

Are there penalties for late car registration in Texas?

Texas allows only a short window for late registration before it charges a late fee of up to $200. Vehicles may be driven no more than five days after registration expiration. 

Anyone who drives an unregistered vehicle after five days will risk a citation. Late registration does not extend the date on which the vehicle must have its registration renewed the following year.

Registering special vehicles and plates in Texas

During regular vehicle registration, the state assigns a plate number through an automated system, and the plates are delivered to the vehicle owner shortly after registration. However, residents may choose a word, number, or combination of letters and numbers when they purchase a personalized plate. There are several guidelines and restrictions on registering personalized plates.

In addition to special plates, the state also offers its citizens the opportunity to donate to one of three charities when they register their car. Organizations that can receive donations include Donate Life, State Parks, and Support TX Veterans.

Other vehicle types in Texas must also have a title and be registered if they are an all-terrain vehicle (ATV), an off-highway motorcycle, a boat, motorhome, or moped. Most electric vehicles and mini scooters, on the other hand, do not need to be registered or have a title.

Before registering your car in Texas, you'll need to make sure your vehicle is covered by car insurance. Don't forget to compare auto insurance quotes before settling on a new insurance provider. Make your vehicle ownership experience as affordable as possible with some car insurance comparison shopping.

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