To apply for a Texas car registration, residents must first purchase insurance, have their vehicles inspected and pay the appropriate fees to their County Assessor-Controllers. Texas does not issue vehicle registration documents to non-residents, except in the case of military servicemembers for whom it is the listed home of record. Some registration requirements and fees vary depending on the type of vehicle being registered. For example, diesel vehicles and vehicles older than 24 are not subject to the same emissions testing as other cars.

The process of acquiring a DMV registration can also differ somewhat between newly manufactured vehicles, used vehicles and previously-registered vehicles being transferred in from out of state. In all cases, however, initial registrations must be applied for in person. Motorists can only complete car registration online when renewing existing Texas registrations. Properly preparing the necessary paperwork and forms before applying can significantly reduce the time and expense associated with registering a car in Texas.

Texas Car Registration Requirements

Applicants have 30 days from the date of purchase to register a car in Texas. Motorists moving into the state from elsewhere similarly have 30 days to transfer their registrations. All applicants must:

  • Have proof of sufficient insurance or other satisfactory financial responsibility.
  • Get their vehicles inspected.
  • Have evidence of ownership (e.g. a vehicle title)
  • Pay car registration fees, as applicable.

Most vehicles are subject to a combined safety and emissions test, but some older vehicles are subject only to safety testing during inspection.

Car Insurance Requirements for Registering a Car in Texas

Before registering a car in Texas, residents must purchase state-mandated minimum insurance coverage. Applicants without proof of sufficient insurance, County Assessor-Collectors will not issue applicants vehicle registrations. To meet state car registration requirements, insurance policies must include:

  • Bodily Injury Coverage of no less than $30,000 for one person per accident and $60,000 for more than one injury or death per accident. Policies must have deductibles of no more than $250 for single injury or death accidents and no more than $500 in multiple injury or death accidents.
  • Property Damage Coverage of no less than $25,000 per accident, with a maximum deductible of $250.

Motorists who cannot or do not wish to purchase such insurance may alternatively meet Texas DMV registration financial responsibility requirements by filing bonds for that purpose worth $55,000 or depositing the same amount in cash or via cashier’s check with the State Comptroller.

Vehicle Inspection/Smog Inspection/VIN Inspection Requirements in Texas

Before registering a car in Texas, motorists must get their emissions tested if they are gasoline powered and between two and 24 years old. Vehicles which pass inspection will be issued passing certifications. In most cases, those certifications are also entered into a statewide DMV database for speedier processing.

Vehicles which fail inspection must be re-inspected and have their statuses updated, or receive a:

  • Passing Vehicle Inspection Report (VIR).
  • Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) waiver showing compliance.

Personal vehicles are exempt from car registration emissions testing if they are:

  • Diesel-powered.
  • Dual-powered vehicles unable to run on gasoline.
  • Antique autos.
  • Unable to operate at speeds higher than 25 MPH.

As per Texas car registration requirements, emissions and safety inspections are typically combined. Vehicles over 25 years old are exempt from emissions testing and subject only to safety inspections.

Registering a Vehicle in Texas

Motorists can get vehicle registration documents from the county in which they live or the county in which they purchase a vehicle. All registrants must provide acceptable photo ID in the form of:

  • Drivers licenses or DMV-issued non-driver IDs.
  • United States Military ID cards.
  • S. Citizenship and Immigration Services IDs.

Although more than one owning party may be listened on a car registration form, motorists only need to provide ID and documents for one party per registration. However, applicants registering vehicles for other people must be equipped with legally binding Power of Attorney documents when applying.

Applicants seeking a new car registration must apply in person. Vehicle registration renewal can be done in person, online or by mail.

How to Register a New Car in Texas

Most motorists who purchase new vehicles from a dealer do not have to worry about how to register a car in Texas. Dealers almost always provide car registration services as part of the sale process. Motorists can provide their licenses and insurance information to their dealers and have the entire process conveniently completed for them.

Registering a Used Car in Texas

To register a used car in Texas you need to:

  1. Purchase adequate vehicle insurance per state minimums. Take your insurance card, a copy of your policy or a statement from your insurance company verifying your coverage with you when registering.
  2. Get your vehicle inspected. Most motorists will need a combined safety and emissions test. However, some cars may qualify to get a vehicle registration with safety-only or emissions-only testing.
  3. Gather your documents, including your title and bill of sale. The bill of sale should include both the sale price and the vehicle’s current odometer reading. You will also need photo ID.
  4. Complete an Application for Texas Title and/or Registration. The application will ask for your personal information, as well as detailed information about the vehicle, including VIN number, make, model, year, color(s), weight and carrying capacity.
  5. Take all of your documents and the application to your County Assessor-Collector’s Office. It is not necessary to make an appointment, but you may wish to verify hours and accepted forms of payment in advance as these vary.
  6. Pay the required fees. Texas car registration cost varies, but generally costs at least $65 in base state and county fees at the time of application.

How to Register a Car in Texas as a New Resident

Texas car registration requirements for motorists transferring prior registrations into the state are largely the same as those for residents registering a used vehicle. Owners must:

  1. Complete an Application for Texas Title and/or Registration.
  2. Have title or other acceptable proof of ownership for their vehicles.
  3. Get their vehicles safety and/or emissions inspected, as required by the vehicle type.
  4. Ensure that their vehicle insurance policies meet state minimum standards and alter or replace them if they do not.
  5. Take the application and supporting documents, including photo ID, to their County Assessor-Collector’s Office and pay the relevant car registration fees.

Vehicle Registration for Military Members in Texas

United States Armed Forces servicemembers applying for a DMV registration in Texas can follow all of the same steps as any other residents attempting to register newly purchased vehicles or to transfer registrations into the state. However, they should take copies of their most recent Leave and Earnings Statements (LES) or other proof of military service with their other documents, as they may qualify for discounted fees or other benefits at the time of registration.

The Texas DMV offers a Military Packet to assist servicemembers in navigating the paperwork associated with registering a car in Texas, as well.

Temporary DMV Registration in Texas

Texas offers several types of temporary vehicle registrations. These include:

  • 72-hour and 144-hour Permits are available only for commercial vehicles.
  • Transit Permits allow motorists who purchase a vehicle in Texas that does not have plates to safely and legally drive the vehicle home or to the County Assessor-Collector’s Office for registration.
  • One-Trip Permits may be used for otherwise unregistered personal vehicles traveling between two points selected in advance and clearly listed on the application. Permits are valid for a maximum of 15 days. These temporary registration tags can be ordered from County Tax Assessor-Collector Offices or TxDMV Regional Service Centers. Insurance is required and limits apply.
  • 30-Day Permits are available for both personal and commercial vehicles. Permits cannot be stacked. Only one 30-day permit will be issued per vehicle. Like one-trip permits, 30-day permits are available from County Tax Assessor-Collector Offices or TxDMV Regional Service Centers, require adequate proof of insurance. Other limits may apply.

Note: No temporary permits may be used to operate vehicles with expired registrations or which have been determined salvage or otherwise unsafe for operation.

Texas License Plates

Motorists will be issued front and rear license plates with their successful Texas DMV registrations. Specialty plates are available and may require separate or additional applications or transactions.

Texas Car Registration Fees

Texas car registration fees differ between counties. They are also influenced by vehicle type and age. In general, motorists can expect to pay the following state-wide fees, with or without additional county-level charges:

  • Safety-only Inspection $7.50
  • Two-year Safety-only Inspections $16.75
  • Combination Safety and Emissions Inspections $8.25 – $14.25
  • Emissions-only test $2.75
  • State registration fee $51.75
  • Local registration fees $10.00
  • Processing and handling fee $4.75
  • One-trip permits $5
  • 30-day permits. $25

Additional fees apply for specialty plates.

Last updated on Monday, March 9 2020.