Residents can submit Virginia car registration applications at Department of Motor Vehicles Customer Service Centers, DMV Select offices or any mobile DMV location. Before motorists can request a vehicle registration, however, they must have their vehicles inspected for safety and emissions compliance. They must also prove that they carry appropriate insurance to avoid paying Uninsured Motorist fees.

While the process of registering a car in Virginia is relatively straightforward, there are a number of factors which can serve to complicate it for some motorists. For example, leased vehicles can need additional documents at the time of registration. Vehicles with prohibited modifications or equipment may fail to pass safety inspections and need corrective action to make them eligible for DMV registration. Finally, some localities within Virginia have their own registration requirements that do not apply statewide. As a result, motorists benefit from thoroughly reviewing the process and requirements before attempting to register their vehicles.

Virginia Car Registration Requirements

Residents cannot apply for a Virginia car registration online. While vehicle registration renewal is available online, motorists must apply for all first time registrations in person. Vehicle owners new to the state have 30 days to apply for registration.

In addition to a completed Application for Registration form, to register a car applicants will need:

  • Proof of vehicle ownership (e.g. titles) and residency (e.g. a valid drivers license).
  • Passing safety inspection stickers.
  • Passing emissions inspection (as applicable).
  • To pay applicable car registration fees, including taxes where applicable.

Vehicles with unauthorized equipment or modifications such as excessive window tinting or unapproved lights will not pass safety inspections. Leased vehicles may require additional documentation from the lessor authorizing the lessee to register the vehicle. Applicants registering vehicles on behalf of others will need legal Power of Attorney documents authoring them to do so.

Car Insurance Requirements for Registering a Car in Virginia

Carrying appropriate insurance is one of the key car registration requirements in Virginia. State law mandates that motorists have at least:

  • $25,000 in bodily injury and death coverage for a single person per accident.
  • $50,000 in bodily injury and death coverage for two or more persons per accident.
  • $20,000 in property damage coverage per accident.

The state partners with insurance industry leaders to electronically track the auto insurance status of all vehicles registered in Virginia. Motorists whose insurers do not participate in the program will need to provide hard copies of their policies as verification.

Uninsured motorists may register a car if they pay the Virginia Uninsured Motor Vehicle (UMV) fee at the time of registration. The UMV fee is not a substitute for insurance and is charged annually at vehicle registration renewal.

Vehicle Inspection/Smog Inspection/VIN Inspection Requirements in Virginia

To qualify for Virginia new car registration, all vehicles must pass the state’s standard safety inspection.

Emissions inspections are not universally required to get a vehicle registration. However, motorists who live or will garage their vehicles in any of the following localities are required to pass an emissions test to register their vehicles:

  • In the Counties of Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William and Stafford
  • In the Cities of Alexandria, Fairfax, Falls Church, Manassas or Manassas Park

Vehicles being transferred into Virginia that have passed emissions inspections within the previous 12 months are not required to get re-inspected for DMV registration. Motorists with questions may contact the state Department of Environment Quality toll free at 1-800-275-3844.

VIN inspections are not generally necessary in Virginia.

Registering a Vehicle in Virginia

Residents exploring how to register a car in Virginia will find that the process varies depending on the types of vehicles and registrations needed. Newly manufactured vehicles generally do not require inspections and are typically registered by the dealers selling them.

Used vehicles must be registered by their owners and pass one or more inspections. Vehicles previously titled in other states can often simply be transferred in.

How to Register a New Car in Virginia

Residents rarely, if ever, need to worry about registering a car in Virginia. It is industry standard for dealers to offer car registration services at the time of sale. Buyers simply need to provide their IDs and insurance information to their dealers, who will handle the rest.

Registering a Used Car in Virginia

Virginia used vehicle registration requires motorists to complete a series of steps, as follows. Not all steps will apply to all motorists, depending on where they live and their vehicle ownership status.

  1. Download, print and complete a Vehicle Registration Application.
  2. Get your vehicle safety inspected. Inspections can be performed by any DMV certified mechanic or garage. Vehicles which do not pass inspection must be repaired and re-inspected before DMV registration.
  3. Get your vehicle emissions tested. Vehicles registered to motorists living in certain cities and counties or which will be garaged in those places must pass emissions inspections to qualify for registration.
  4. Get lease permissions, if needed. Leased vehicles may be registered to their owners or the motorists leasing them. Motorists whose names appear on the titles of their leased vehicles may register them as usual. Motorists not listed on their vehicles’ titles must receive Power of Attorney from the owners of their vehicles in order to register them.
  5. Take your application and documents to the DMV for processing. No appointments are necessary.
  6. Pay car registration costs. Motorists must pay registration fees and, in some cases, taxes at the time of registry.

How to Register a Car in Virginia as a New Resident

Residents who are new to Virginia have 30 days to transfer their DMV registrations into the state. These motorists need to use the Application for Certificate of Title and Registration form instead of the standard Vehicle Registration form unless they already have Virginia titles for their vehicles. To register their vehicles, they must:

  1. Download and complete the Application for Certificate of Title and Registration form.
  2. Get vehicles inspected. Vehicles transferring in from states that do not require safety inspections may need to get safety inspections in Virginia. Motorists in cities or counties that require emissions testing will need to have their vehicles tested if they have not passed emissions inspections in the 12 months prior to application.
  3. Collect documents. Applicants will need completed car registration forms, photo ID, their vehicles’ titles (or Manufacturers’ Certificates of Origin), copies of their out of state registrations and, where applicable, Power of Attorney documents from their lessors.
  4. Take everything to the DMV. Applicants may apply at any type of DMV office without appointment.

Vehicle Registration for Military Members in Virginia

United States Armed Forced servicemembers who have been deployed or stationed outside the U.S. have a 90-day grace period from when they return to apply for Virginia vehicle registration renewal. Servicemembers must have military documents showing their deployment. Otherwise, military servicemembers are held to the same policies, fees and other requirements as civilians in Virginia.

Temporary DMV Registration in Virginia

Virginia offers temporary registration documents or trip permits to motorists who need to move an unregistered vehicle from one point to another.

Motorists can apply for $5 temporary registrations online through the DMV. Standard trip permits are valid for three days and only within Virginia. They can be “stacked” for longer trips. Motorists must be properly insured or pay a 1/12 of the Uninsured Motor Vehicle (UMV) fee when applying. Applicants must be prepared to list:

  • Where they going from and to.
  • The dates they wish the permits to cover.
  • Their insurance arrangements.

Alternatively, motorists may buy $5 Prospective Purchaser’s Trip Permits intended for newly purchased vehicles that will be titled and registered in the state. Tags are valid for three days and must be used within 15 days of receipt. To apply, motorists will need:

  • The prospective vehicles’ makes and years.
  • Bills of sale (to put the tag into effect).
  • Intended points of origin and destination.
  • Proof of insurance or an UMV fee.

Virginia License Plates

Upon completion of a new car registration application in Virginia, motorists receive two license plates, plate decals indicating their registrations’ expiration dates and a registration card. Cards must be kept with the vehicles when they are in operation. If motorists order specialty plates, temporary plates will be issued and the final plates will be mailed later.

Virginia Car Registration Fees

How much car registration costs in Virginia varies. Multi-year registrations are typically slightly discounted as compared to single year registrations. Not all motorists or vehicles will qualify for multi-year registrations.

  • Passenger vehicle registration $40.75 – $51.75 (by weight)
  • Antique vehicle registration $50.00 (one-time fee)
  • Trip permit $5.00
  • Late registration fees $10.00
  • Emissions inspections $2.00
  • Vehicle sales and use tax 15% of sales price (Minimum charge $75.00)
  • Electric vehicle supplemental vehicle registration fee $64

Local registration fees may also apply and will vary.

Last updated on Monday, March 9 2020.