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Vehicle registrations need to be renewed regularly. Many states require vehicle owners to renew their registrations every year, although some states offer the option to purchase registrations that last for two years or longer. Most states allow you to quickly renew your car registration online, but you should be aware of the information you will need to provide, the necessary fees and the acceptable methods of payment to ensure a smooth transaction. Our online guide can help you prepare all the required documents and fees so that you can renew your vehicle registration as smoothly and quickly as possible. In it, you will also discover all the steps needed to replace a lost registration and to update your name or address with the DMV.

2. By Mail

Some vehicle owners may prefer to renew their auto registrations through the mail. Certain states will allow their residents to apply by mail, but vehicle owners may need to meet certain eligibility requirements to submit their request. Additionally, the ways in which you may pay your renewal fee are limited to check or money order, and you may experience processing delays due to the time it takes the postal service to deliver your application. Furthermore, you may risk losing your application or registration tags in the mail, adding to the wait time.

3. In Person at a DMV Office

Renewing your vehicle registration in person at a DMV office is an option if you cannot or prefer not to apply by mail or online. Typically, the DMV will issue your new registration credentials after receiving payment. However, certain states may require you to wait to receive your renewed registration documents in the mail. While visiting a DMV office in person may provide you with more personalized attention, it often involves long waits. Additionally, the office hours of many DMV locations can interfere with your work schedule.


Virginia’s car registration renewal system allows residents to apply for new decals online, by mail or in person. An alert is sent to all participating residents by mail, email or text message. Applicants may sign up for alerts using the state’s online notification center. Renewal applications must be submitted before the expiration date to avoid any late fees.

If you submit a DMV registration renewal online, you may receive a discount and avoid paying additional fees. In-person renewals can be completed at DMV offices, customer service centers and mobile offices. Depending on the location, an additional $5 processing fee will be charged. To learn more about the renewal process, continue reading the sections below.

Requirements for Car Registration Renewal in Virginia

Before a car registration renewal can be issued, applicants must meet certain state requirements. In all cases, your address must be current to be eligible for an online renewal. If your address is incorrect, you must update it before submitting a renewal. If your vehicle is based in northern Virginia, you may need to complete an emissions test before applying for a renewal. Once completed, the results are posted to the state’s online system and a renewal may be processed.

A DMV car registration renewal application may be denied if you have outstanding fines or fees tied to your name. The VA DMV requires all outstanding property taxes, parking citations and toll violations to be paid in full before an application is submitted.

In some cases, residents are allowed to renew car registration decals for two or three years. Not all applicants are eligible for multi-year renewals. Applicants are only eligible for two-year registrations if:

  • The vehicle weighs less than 55,000 pounds;
  • The vehicle has not been registered under the International Registration Plan;
  • They have not paid the uninsured motor vehicle fee.
  • The vehicle is not garaged in an emissions area.

Three-year car registration renewals follow the same guidelines listed above, as well as additional requirements.  A three-year registration cannot be applied for if you are registering a vehicle for the first time or renewing by mail. In addition, your car cannot be garaged in Arlington, Fairfax City, Loudoun, Prince William, Stafford, Alexandria, Fairfax County, Falls Church, Manassas or Manassas Park.

What do you need to renew your car registration in Virginia?

While a vehicle registration renewal notice is not required to complete an application, information found on the notice may be used during the process. In addition to the notice, you may be required to submit information about your vehicle, such as the license plate number or VIN. Your current registration card may also be required to renew an application as it contains some of the necessary information needed to identify your vehicle’s records.

Acceptable forms of payment may differ between renewal methods. If you renew a car registration online, you may use credit cards, debit cards and bank transfers. Acceptable payment methods for in-person application may differ between offices.

Virginia Vehicle Registration Renewal Notice

A vehicle registration renewal notice is sent to all eligible VA residents. In addition, applicants may opt for an electronic notification. If selected, the VA DMV will send an email or text message alerting owners of their upcoming registration renewal. A leased car registration renewal is not eligible for electronic notifications.

Virginia Car Registration Renewal Notice Lost or Not Received

A vehicle registration renewal notice is not required to process an application. Therefore, residents do not need to replace a lost registration renewal notice or delay their renewals by requesting a duplicate.

Virginia Car Registration Renewal Options

Virginia offers residents three options or renew car registration decals in the state; online, by mail or in person. Depending on the method, the cost and application procedures may differ. DMV renewals must be submitted before the expiration date or a $10 late fee will be charged.

If you are submitting a motor vehicle registration renewal application within 15 days of the expiration date, you must carry the confirmation receipt with you when operating your vehicle. New decals are typically mailed within five days. The confirmation receipt extends your current registration for 15 days, allowing for any delays in the postal service.

How to Renew Your Car Registration Online

A vehicle registration renewal online application must be completed before the expiration date or within 90 days after the expiration has passed. Follow the below steps to renew online.

  1. Log in to the state’s online portal or enter your title number and last four digits of the VIN.
  2. Follow the online prompts and pay all applicable DMV registration renewal fees. A $1 discount is applied to all online renewals.
  3. Print the confirmation receipt and carry it with you in your car.

How to Renew Your Car Registration by Mail

Vehicle registration renewal applications may be submitted by mail. Applicants must have a vehicle registration renewal notice in their possession to be eligible for this method.  Follow the below steps to submit a renewal by mail.

  1. Complete the registration renewal notice
  2. Include payment for your renewal. Do not send cash in the mail.
  3. Send the above items to the below address.

Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles
Attn: Renewal Center
P.O. Box 27412
Richmond, VA 23269-0001

Typically, applicants will receive their new decals within five business days. However, please allow 15 days for your new registration to arrive.

Where to Renew Car Registration Decals in Person

The VA DMV allows applicants to submit car registration renewals at one of three locations; a DMV office, a customer service center or a mobile office. While the application procedures are similar for each location, renewals submitted to customer service centers and mobile offices may incur an additional third-party fee. Follow the below steps to apply in person at any of the above locations.

  1. Submit your car registration renewal notice, if available.
  2. Provide your current registration card.
  3. Pay the renewal fee.

Military & Out of State Vehicle Registration Renewal in Virginia

If your DMV registration renewal status has lapsed while on active duty, you may be eligible for an extension. The state offers a 90-day grace period for active duty military members, American diplomats and civilian employees of the United States government returning to Virginia. Spouses and dependents of the above-mentioned individuals are also granted a 90-day grace period. Eligible applicants must apply for a renewal within 90 days to avoid any penalties. Follow the below steps to renew an expired vehicle registration after returning to the state.

  1. Visit your local DMV office in person.
  2. Present your current registration card.
  3. Present official documents proving your eligibility to renew car registration decals after the expiration date, such as military orders, diplomatic orders, a United States certification letter or travel orders.
  4. Present official identification stating your employment. This is only required for diplomats and civilian employees. Acceptable forms of ID are as follows:
    1. United States passport or passport ID card indicating diplomatic employment.
    2. Diplomatic employee ID card.
    3. United States military civilian employee card or government employee ID card.
    4. United States military ID card or department of defense contractor ID card.
  5. Pay all applicable DMV registration renewal fees.

Virginia Vehicle Registration Renewal Fees

DMV registration renewal fees are based on the vehicle’s weight and the length of the renewal. Two-year renewals receive a $2 discount, while a three-year renewal receives a $3 discount. These discounts are in addition to the $1 discount applied to online renewals. See below for a breakdown of the state’s vehicle registration renewal costs.

  • Passenger Car and Pickup Truck Renewal (4,000 pounds or less): $40.75
  • Passenger Car and Pickup Truck Renewal (4,001 to 6,500 pounds): $45.75
  • Pickup Truck Renewal (6,501 to 10,000 pounds): $51.75
  • Late Renewal Fee: $10

An additional emissions fee of $2 may be taken if you need to renew car registration decals in the following counties: Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William, Stafford. The same fee is charged for a vehicle requiring an emissions test in the following cities:

  • Alexandria
  • Fairfax
  • Falls Church
  • Manassas
  • Manassas Park
Last updated on Wednesday, February 13 2019.

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