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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 are required to obtain a vehicle title and car registration in Pennsylvania if they want to operate a motor vehicle legally on public roads within the state. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) issues vehicle registration documents for all types of motor vehicles. However, prior to registering in PA, motorists will have to satisfy certain eligibility criteria and requirements.

The car registration requirements in Pennsylvania include preparation of the mandatory documentation and payment for the applicable fees. Moreover, the requirements may also mandate motorists to provide proof of car insurance and to inspect their vehicles before driving them. Therefore, drivers are encouraged to learn more information about registrations prior to beginning the application procedure. To discover more details about this process, continue reading the sections below.

Pennsylvania Car Registration Requirements

When registering a car in Pennsylvania, motorists will have to prepare certain documents and satisfy several requirements. For instance, you cannot register without getting car insurance first. Moreover, to register a used car, motorists will have to get it inspected first.

Car Insurance Requirements for Registering a Car in Pennsylvania

Part of the car registration requirements in Pennsylvania includes providing current insurance identification card as proof of automobile insurance. Motorists need to obtain a minimum liability coverage before registering in the state. The minimum required insurance coverage for operating and owning a motor vehicle is the following:

  • $5,000 for medical benefits
  • $15,000 for bodily injury to one person
  • $30,000 for bodily injury in one accident
  • $5,000 for property damage

Vehicle Inspection/Smog Inspection/VIN Inspection Requirements in Pennsylvania

Prior to performing an application procedure for used a car registration in Pennsylvania, motorists are required to inspect their vehicles within 10 days of the purchase. This requirement is not needed when a valid inspection sticker is displayed on the vehicle. The purchasers of the motor vehicles will have to have their vehicles inspected at a PA certified inspection station. Vehicles may be also required to have an emissions inspection if they are registered in an area of the commonwealth participating in the Emissions Inspection Program.

Registering a Vehicle in Pennsylvania

The Pennsylvania car registration procedure may vary based on whether the vehicle being registered and titled is new or used. Motorists are required to provide many of the same documents for both new and used vehicles. However, some of the requirements may vary.

Note: The PennDOT issues either a one-year or two-year DMV registration, and after that period motorists will have to perform the corresponding registration renewal procedure.

How to Register a New Car in Pennsylvania

When getting a new car registration in Pennsylvania, motorists need to first satisfy certain criteria. To title and register car which is from 2008 or newer, has a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 8,500 pounds or less, and has less than 7,500 miles on the odometer, it must be certified by the California Air Resources Board (CARB). The state of Pennsylvania partners with this California agency to certify clean fuel vehicles.

After the certification, motorists may have the auto dealership submit the necessary vehicle registration documents to the PennDOT. The dealer where motorists have purchased the new vehicle will send the following paperwork to the PennDOT:

  • Application for Certificate of Title (form MV-1)
  • Manufacturer’s Certificate of Origin (MCO) or Manufacturer’s Statement of Origin (MSO)
  • Copy of PA drivers license or photo ID card
  • Copy of current insurance identification card
  • Payment for the applicable taxes and car registration fees

Registering a Used Car in Pennsylvania

When registering a used car in Pennsylvania, motorists may have to provide the vehicle title along with the appropriate application form. Depending on where the vehicle had been titled before, motorists will have to submit either a PA title or an out-of-state title. Each title requires drivers to submit a different application form. Therefore, motorists will have to provide the following DMV registration documents:

  • PA certificate of title with a Vehicle Sales and Use Tax Return/Application for Registration (form MV-4ST) for used vehicles with a PA title
  • Out-of-state car title with an Application for Certificate of Title (form MV-1) for used vehicles with an out-of-state title
  • Copy of current PA driver’s license or photo ID card
  • Copy of current insurance identification card
  • Completed Affidavit of Gift (form MV-13ST) if the vehicle was a gift
  • VIN verification for out-of-state vehicles
  • Payment for the applicable taxes and car registration fees

How to Register a Car in Pennsylvania as a New Resident

New PA residents need to apply for a vehicle registration in Pennsylvania within 20 days of their move to the state. The new car registration procedure for them is the same as for a regular PA resident. New residents must surrender their out-of-state titles to the PennDOT and apply for a PA vehicle title.

Note: If registering a leased vehicle, motorists will have to complete an Application for Lessee Information (form MV-1L) and a Power of Attorney from the leasing company.

Vehicle Registration for Military Members in Pennsylvania

Military members may also apply for a car registration in Pennsylvania, depending on whether they want to maintain their PA registrations or to register their vehicles in the jurisdiction where they are stationed. When they decide to keep their PA vehicle registrations, members of the military only need to complete the following steps:

  • Maintain car registration and be eligible to renew their registrations after one or two years.
  • Print a permanent registration credential after renewing online.
  • Maintain valid and current registration and present the registration card to law enforcement, if needed.
  • Have the vehicle inspected within 10 days of returning to Pennsylvania.

Active duty service members will have to satisfy different requirements depending on whether they are stationed in PA or out of the state and whether they are PA residents or not.

Pennsylvania License Plates

At the end of the Pennsylvania vehicle registration application procedure, the PennDOT will issue license plates to motorists so that they can place them on their motor vehicles. The PennDOT issues standard car registration license plates as well as Special Fund, Military and Special Organization registration plates. Most of the license plates may be personalized, according to the driver’s needs. Prior to applying for a personalized license plate, make sure to check the availability of the plates online.

Pennsylvania Car Registration Fees

Vehicle owners need to pay a mandatory car registration fee, which may vary based on the length of the registration. These fees include the following:

  • $37 for a one-year passenger car registration
  • $74 for a two-year passenger car registration
Last updated on Monday, December 10 2018.

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