Car Registration

Transportation and commuter driving is a complex system in the US and presents a lot of challenges. Considering that there are tens of millions of lives at stakes across the nation’s roads and highways,  the need for government regulation of motor vehicles and driving becomes very important. This is where the states’ departments of motor vehicles come in. In most states, the department regulating motor vehicles is called the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), though in some states, the department operates under a different name. A case in point is New Jersey, where the local department is called Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC). A DMV or an MVC or any other state department for regulation of motor vehicles

Basic Car Registration

Car registration in the US applies to both new and used cars, whether they are foreign or locally manufactured. The registration process is quite streamlined in the sense that if all the perquisites have been met, the relevant forms can be downloaded online and following their submission, your vehicle can be registered without you ever having to leave your place of residence. The following things have to be kept in mind though when applying for car registration:

        • Is there a new title under which you want your car to be registered?
        • Are there any emission standards or tests that need to be conducted on your vehicle?
        • Would you be required to prove that you have had your car insured?
        •  What particular state-by-state guidelines and laws apply in your case?

For instance, with regards to updating your car’s registration if you have newly moved into the state, many such as Washington, Texas and New York require that you do so within 30 days of entry. Others such as California mandate that this be done within 20 days. However, in the case that the car is a newly bought one or has been gifted to you, it is a must that you have it registered within 15 days of getting ownership.


Getting your car appropriately insured is an essential part of the registration process. This coverage is required if any financial liability arises when you are using your car or in the case when it is stolen or completely destroyed in an accident. The former could entail damage to someone else’s property or physical harm caused to a second or third party.

Even in the case of car insurance, the policies governing it differ from state to state. States such as Virginia, New Hampshire and Mississippi either do not require drivers to possess car insurance or allow them to post bonds or deposit cash amounts instead.

The car insurance amounts also vary according to states. These are typically proportioned with a three tiered formula that includes “Bodily Injury Limit” for each person involved in an accident as well as the limit for the total amount per accident and thirdly the limit of the amount that would be awarded for any property damage. For instance, states such as Alaska and Maine allow for “Body Injury Limit” amounts of up to $ 50,000, a total limit of $ 100,000 for every accident and a “Property Damage Limit” of up to $25,000. However, places such as District of Columbia and Florida bring this down to a $10,000 limit for personal bodily injuries, $ 20,000-25,000 overall and a $5,000-10,000 limit for property damage.

Similar to car registration, you have to apply for new car insurance as per the laws of whichever state you move into.


Paperwork with regards to car registration is extremely important. In the case of purchasing a new car, the necessary paperwork has most likely been filled out by your car dealer. Hence, it is when purchasing a used vehicle, an out-of-state or an imported automobile that you need to be mindful of certain aspects, such as title transfers and the safety and emission inspection certificates.


While searching on are you responsible when someone else is on your registration, DMV California requirements, I came across the Notice of Transfer and Release of Liability. Can you tell me more about it?
Whenever you sell a vehicle you will be considered responsible for notifying the DMV about the change of ownership. In California you must do so within five days from the date of sale by completing a Notice of Transfer and Release of Liability. Buyers must do so within ten days. Once the DMV has updated the information from the Notice of Transfer and Release of Liability, the seller will be cleared from future liability on the vehicle.

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