Out-of-State Car Registration: A Complete How-To Guide

Claire Grulick
| October 5, 2023 | 4 Minute Read
Illustration of checklist for car registration renewal

Moving to a new state can be an exciting adventure, but it also comes with a long list of to-do’s. One of the most important tasks to tackle when you relocate is managing your car registration to ensure legal compliance and uninterrupted driving privileges in your new location.

Registering your vehicle in a new state involves several steps, including gathering the necessary paperwork, the initial car registration and registration renewal. Understanding the car registration process, fees and online options is essential for a smooth transition.

illustrated gif of documents and paperwork for checklist


Pre-registration process

Before starting the new car registration process, there are some tasks to be completed first:

  1. Check state requirements: Research the specific car registration fee and new car registration requirements in your new state. Different states have varying regulations, and it’s important to understand the costs.
  2. Establish residency: Often, vehicle registration requires proof of residency. Your residency can be established with the possession of a driver’s license or after living in the new state for 183 days.  
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Gather documents

To complete your car registration, you'll need to gather important documents:

  1. Proof of identity: A valid driver's license or state ID card is usually required. If you do not have a driver’s license in your new state, you will need to acquire one before continuing with the remainder of the car registration process. 
  2. Proof of residency: Documents like utility bills, rental agreements or mortgage statements can serve as evidence of your new address.
  3. Vehicle title: Bring the original title of your vehicle, proving your ownership.
  4. Vehicle inspection certificate: Some states mandate a safety or emissions inspection before a new car registration. These emissions tests can be performed at service stations and usually cost around $20. 
Illustration of car and car insurance paperwork

Obtain car insurance

Most states require proof of car insurance during car registration:

  1. Verify your current insurance: Find out if your current insurance can continue to insure you in your new state.
  2. Update insurance information: Inform your chosen provider about your new address and update your policy information. Have the insurance company upload your policy to the online database of your new state.
Checklist of needed items to register or renew car registration

Register your vehicle

With the necessary documents and insurance in hand, follow these steps to complete your registration:

  1. Visit the DMV: Schedule a visit to your state's Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) or its equivalent agency to start the registration process.
  2. Submit documents: Present the necessary documents, including identification, residency proof, vehicle title and insurance information.
  3. Pay fees: Be prepared to pay the car registration fee, which varies by state and may include taxes and additional charges.
Illustration of a license plate

Get your plates

Finally, you'll receive your new license plate(s):

  1. Receive temporary tags: In some cases, you might receive temporary tags to use until your official plates arrive.
  2. Install new plates: Once you receive your official license plates, install them on your vehicle as instructed. Tip: Bring the necessary tools with you to the registration office to swap out your tags right in the parking lot. You may be given a temporary tag until your new one arrives in the mail.


Inform the state where your car was previously registered that you have moved and updated the vehicle’s registration. This ensures your vehicle never has a lapse of registration coverage, which is illegal in most states.

  1. Return old plates: Be sure to return your old license plate(s) to the original state’s DMV. Some states will require you to fill out an additional form.
  2. File your documents: After you receive your new car title and registration—they may give it to you the same day, it may arrive later in the mail, or it be available digitally—be sure that you have all your new paperwork and any copies of the original together in a safe place.

Car registration renewal

Understanding how to renew a car registration is crucial to maintaining legal driving status:

  1. Renewal process: Familiarize yourself with the annual car registration renewal process in your new state to avoid penalties for late renewal.
  2. Renew online: Many states offer online car registration renewal options for added convenience.

Address changes & additional questions

If you need to change your car registration address or have queries about documents like a copy of your car registration, reach out to the DMV for guidance:

  1. Change car registration address: If your address changes after initial registration, you may have to set up an online account or go to the DMV in person to update your records.
  2. Copy of car registration: If you require a duplicate or need to know what a car registration looks like, contact the DMV for assistance.
Illustration of woman registering for renewal online for

Taking care of your car registration when moving to a new state is a must. From initial registration to renewals and address updates, it's all about keeping things legal and hassle-free. By being prepared, understanding fees and staying informed, you can transition smoothly and hit the road with confidence.

This information is being provided for general informational purposes only. The Auto Club Group does not assume any liability in connection with providing this information.

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