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If you have recently purchased a vehicle through a dealership or a private seller, you will need to apply for a car registration. All vehicles in your possession must be registered in your name to be driven legally in your state. You cannot typically apply for a new vehicle registration online or by mail. You must visit a DMV office in person to register a car. To make sure that you are fully prepared for the process, download our informative digital guide. Our guide contains everything you need to know to register your vehicle with ease. You will also learn how to replace or renew your car registration, and how to change your name or address.

2. By Mail

Some states allow residents to register cars by mail. However, these applicants must meet certain eligibility requirements, such as temporarily residing out of state or having purchased the vehicle out of state. To obtain your new car registration by mail, you will need to send your completed application and all necessary documents (such as proof of ID, a bill of sale, an insurance card, etc.) to your local DMV office. You will also need to send in a check or money order for the full payment amount. Due to mailing and processing times, delays are common with the mail-in application method. It may take several weeks for you to receive your new car registration.

3. In Person at a DMV Office

In most instances, you will be required to get your car registration in person at a local DMV office. You must submit a filled-out application, proof of your identity, evidence of the car purchase and proof of auto insurance coverage for the vehicle. Additionally, you need to provide payment for all applicable fees, such as registration fees, titling fees and state taxes. Because many car owners are not sure which forms are required or which fees must be paid, application delays are common at the DMV. Additionally, any mistakes on DMV forms will add to your potential wait time for receiving your new registration.


Motorists must apply for a new car registration in North Carolina when they obtain a motor vehicle, regardless of whether it has been used or is new. The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) of the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NC DOT) mandates vehicle owners to have their cars registered and titled before operating them on public state roads. As part of the procedure, motorists will have to satisfy certain requirements that may vary based on the driver’s specific situation.

Apart from submitting the mandatory vehicle registration documentation and payment for the applicable fees to the NC DMV, applicants may also have to get their vehicles inspected and to obtain a minimum liability insurance coverage. To discover more information about how to register a car in North Carolina, continue reading the following sections.

North Carolina Car Registration Requirements

Before and during the North Carolina car registration procedure, motorists may be mandated to satisfy certain requirements and eligibility criteria. The requirements consist of providing the mandatory documentation, paying the applicable fees and taxes, and having the vehicles inspected according to the NC criteria.

Car Insurance Requirements for Registering a Car in North Carolina

When registering a car in North Carolina, motorists will have to provide proof of car insurance, as part of the NC DMV requirements. According to NC law, motorists must have an insurance coverage for uninsured/underinsured motorists, as well as minimum bodily injury and property damage limits. Moreover, the NC DMV requires drivers to provide the following minimum liability coverage:

  • $30,000 – bodily injury of one person
  • $60,000 – bodily injury of two or more people
  • $25,000 – property damage

Failure to obtain the minimum liability insurance coverage may result in revocation of the license plates and civil penalties, late fees, interest and collections.

Vehicle Inspection/Smog Inspection/VIN Inspection Requirements in North Carolina

Motorists who want to perform a North Carolina new car registration procedure must first have their vehicles inspected. Drivers need to have their vehicles pass an annual safety inspection before registering or renewing their registrations. The safety inspection will examine the vehicle’s brakes, signals, headlights, steering, windows and tires. Moreover, vehicles that are registered in certain NC counties may also need to pass an emissions inspection. This inspection is conducted simultaneously with the safety inspection. Failing to have their vehicles inspected may block their registration procedures until the inspection is conducted.

Registering a Vehicle in North Carolina

When registering a car in North Carolina, motorists may have to perform both a registration procedure and a title procedure at the same time, regardless of whether their vehicle is new or used. A new car registration and title process is performed through the NC DMV and drivers need to provide the following documents:

  • Valid NC drivers license or ID card
  • Signed and notarized vehicle title
  • Proof of car insurance
  • Completed Title Application (form MVR-1)
  • Completed Damage Disclosure Statement (form MVR-181) for vehicles less than five years of age
  • Completed Odometer Disclosure Statement (form MVR-180) for cars less than 10 years of age
  • Lien release, if applicable
  • Payment for the applicable plate fee and state tax

When performing a vehicle registration for a new vehicle, motorists may have to provide the Manufacturer’s certificate of origin (MCO) as the official transfer document. However, if the procedure is performed by a new NC resident or by drivers who have purchased an already registered vehicle, then they will have to submit a certificate of title. After providing the mandatory documentation, the motor vehicle may have to be inspected in order to receive tags.

How to Register a Car in North Carolina as a New Resident

The North Carolina car registration procedure for new residents will be the same as for a regular resident, with that difference that motorists who have recently moved to NC may have to submit additional documentation. In most cases, new residents who are wondering how to register a car in North Carolina need to provide their out-of-state driver’s licenses, as well as a North Carolina Temporary Driving Certificate.

Apart from that, non-residents who are currently in North Carolina may need to submit the following paperwork:

  • Driver’s license
  • Military ID for active-duty military members
  • Student ID for drivers enrolled in an NC college or university
  • Completed Affidavit of Military/Dependent or Principally Garaged Vehicle (form MVR-614), if applicable
  • Court-ordered sale of the vehicle
  • Registration for a motor home

For more information about requirements that are closely connected to their specific situation, new residents may contact the NC DMV beforehand.

Vehicle Registration for Military Members in North Carolina

Military members who are wondering “How and where to register my car?” will have to satisfy the same registration requirements as a regular resident when titling and registering a motor vehicle. They will only need to collect the needed documentation and send it via mail to the NC DMV along with a copy of their driver’s licenses.

Military members who want to obtain a North Carolina DMV registration for their motor vehicles obtained overseas will have to provide the following documentation upon their return to NC:

  • Foreign vehicle title
  • Foreign vehicle registration
  • Military registration card
  • Bill of sale and inspection documents, completed in NC before registering
  • Payment for the following taxes:
    • Three percent of purchase price for vehicles bought from a dealer or online
    • Three percent of purchase price not exceeding $250 for vehicles bought by a military personnel with military registration
    • Three percent of bill of sale for vehicles bought overseas without a registration

However, when drivers who are not residents of North Carolina but are on active duty in the state want to register car in NC, they may have to satisfy additional requirements to those for NC residents. For instance, they will have to provide their own active-duty Military ID cards, as well as a completed Affidavit of Military/Dependent or Principally Garaged Vehicle (form MVR-614), a court-ordered sale of the vehicle and a motor-home registration.

Temporary DMV Registration in North Carolina

When registering a car in North Carolina, new residents need to provide their out-of-state driver’s licenses as well as a North Carolina Temporary Driving Certificate. This certificate may be used for driving purposes only and is valid for 60 days, during which period motorists are supposed to receive their licenses, permits or ID cards. The temporary driving certificate is needed when performing a car registration procedure along with an unexpired photo ID. For more information about the temporary driving certificate and DMV registration, motorists may always contact their local NC DMV office.

North Carolina License Plates

After titling and registering a car in North Carolina, motorists will obtain license plates, which they must place on their vehicles in order to legally operate them on public roads. Therefore, in order to get a license plate in NC, vehicle owners will have to first obtain car title and registration through the NC DMV and pass a safety inspection and an emissions testing, if needed.

After obtaining a DMV registration, drivers who are getting a license plate for the first time will be required to visit a local NC DMV license plate agency. The NC DMV issues standard license plate in two designs for private passenger cars and for private hauler vehicles. However, motorists may choose a specialty or personalized license plate type, according to their personal preference. Getting these plates require you to pay additional fees.

North Carolina Car Registration Fees

The North Carolina car registration cost may vary based on the license plate type that drivers decide to obtain at the end of the procedure. Apart from the registration fees, motorists may also need to pay taxes and vehicle registration renewal fees. Therefore, drivers need to submit payments for the following fees:

  • $36 – passenger license plates
  • $66 – U-Drive-It passenger car license plates
  • $52 – certificate of title
  • $8 – Regional Transit Authority Registration Tax
  • $7 – County Vehicle Registration Tax
Last updated on Tuesday, December 4 2018.

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