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How to Obtain a New Car Registration in Virginia

Getting car registration in Virginia is completed at the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). The motor vehicle registration rules in the state require that you register any new vehicle you purchase and operate on the roads. Additionally, Virginia DMV car registration is required when you become a new resident of the state. In some cases, the registration of vehicle process is also required when you are not a permanent resident of Virginia. To get car registration documents, you must make a payment and submit an application. Learn more about the Virginia car registration process to get started.

When do I need to register my car in Virginia?

Obtaining new car registration in Virginia is required anytime you purchase a new vehicle. Without registering your vehicle with the DMV, you cannot legally drive your car on the roads. Similarly, getting Virginia car registration is required when you become a permanent resident of the state. You have 30 days to complete the process when you move to the state permanently.

You may be wondering “Is registering my car in Virginia required?” if you are an out-of- state resident who works in Virginia or is living in the state temporarily. For car registrations, be aware that Virginia has specific motor vehicle laws that determine when you are considered a “permanent resident” of the state. There are a few situations in which registering a car in Virginia is required, even if you are not technically a permanent resident of the state. As far as motor vehicle laws are concerned, you are considered a permanent state resident if you are a full-time student who is employed in Virginia. For example, a Virginia car registration may be required if your permanent address is in a neighboring state but you attend school and work in Virginia. As a student who is gainfully employed in Virginia, vehicle registration is required even if someone else owns the vehicle you drive. Getting car registration may also be required if you are living in Virginia temporarily for other reasons, but maintain a permanent, out-of- state address.

Virginia Car Registration Requirements

Before you can register a car in Virginia, you must complete a few steps and meet a few eligibility requirements. When registering a car in Virginia, your vehicle is required to:

  • Be titled in Virginia.
  • Have an emissions inspection in certain counties.
  • Be insured with a policy that meets the minimum car insurance requirements.
  • Undergo a safety inspection and display a safety inspection sticker.

The Virginia car registration process cannot be completed if you fail to meet one of these requirements. If your car is not insured when you get car registration, then note that you may instead choose to pay an uninsured motorist fee to the DMV in lieu of purchasing car insurance. To register a car, you either have to pay the uninsured motorist fee or show proof of car insurance. Be aware that Virginia has strict laws relating to car insurance compliance. When registering a car in VA, you will be fined and receive other penalties, such as a drivers license suspension, if you fail to either pay the uninsured motorist fee or provide proof of car insurance. If you falsely claim to have insurance, then you will receive the same penalties.

How to Get Car Registration in Virginia

When getting new car registration in Virginia, you will need to visit a DMV office in person. Obtaining your first car registration online is not an option in Virginia, due to the fact that you must present a variety of documents to the DMV. However, once your car registration is complete, you may complete renewals and other services online or through the mail. Start by completing an Application for Registration before visiting the DMV. When your application is filled out, complete the following steps:

  • Visit a DMV office to submit your application.
  • Verify that your car has undergone the necessary inspections.
  • Provide proof of insurance or pay the uninsured motorist fee.
  • Pay a car registration fee to the DMV.

Virginia car registration fees are determined by a variety of factors. The cost of your new car registration will be determined by the gross weight of your vehicle and whether you choose an annual period versus a two- or three-year registration period. Additionally, Virginia vehicle registration fees are based on the type of license plate you choose. Virginia offers many types of specialty license plates in addition to standard plates. Note that specialty car registration plates may increase the cost, due to the fact that fees from special interest plates usually support programs or causes in Virginia.

Registering a car in Virginia for the first time gives you the option to choose a one- or two-year registration renewal period in most cases. A two-year DMV car registration period is only an option if your vehicle has insurance and weighs less than 55,000 pounds. If your car does not meet the requirements for two-year car registrations, then you will only be eligible for an annual registration cycle. Note that choosing a two-year Virginia vehicle registration cycle means that your total renewal fee may be higher, as you make your renewal payment less frequently. When you renew your car registration for the first time, you may choose a different registration renewal period if you are eligible. You may even choose a three-year registration cycle. When registering your car for the first time, however, three-year registrations are not available. Additionally, three-year car registrations are not available if you live in a county that requires vehicle emissions testing.

Virginia Motor Vehicle Registration Credentials

When you register your car in Virginia, you receive two license plates, two registration decals and a registration card. When registering a motorcycle, however, you only receive one license plate. Your vehicle registration card should always be carried in your vehicle or be in your possession when you drive. DMV car registration cards may be requested when you are stopped by a law enforcement officer. When you receive your license plates, affix them to your vehicle and apply your registration decals. Note that vehicle registration credentials, such as your license plates and registration stickers, cannot be covered by anything that makes it difficult to read your plates.