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How to Register a Car in the United States


Before you can start driving your car you need to have it registered with your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles.

Drivers in the United States are required to register their car with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). The requirements for registering your vehicle will vary depending on the state in which you live. You are required to provide specific documents for identification and residency that may include a valid U.S. driver’s license, international or home country driver’s license, and/or Social Security card. You will also be asked to show proof that your car is insured.

Sales Tax

When you purchase a car in the United States, the sales tax (if required by your state) is not included in the original selling price of the vehicle. You will pay your sales tax when you register your vehicle. If you are leasing a vehicle, the sales tax will be included in the monthly payment.

Registering at a Dealership

If you purchase a vehicle through a dealership, the registration process will be completed for you on location. The dealer will collect your license plate and registration fees, and your sales tax. You will then be given your license plates at the dealership. This will save you from making a trip to the DMV which has a reputation in the U.S. for long lines and unnecessary frustration.

Registering at the DMV

If you buy your car from a private party, you will have to go to your local Department of Motor Vehicles to register your car. When you register at the DMV remember to bring the following paperwork with you:

  1. Title for the vehicle (provided by the seller)
  2. Bill of Sale, or letter from the seller including the vehicle type (year, make, model), selling price and vehicle identification number (VIN)
  3. Proof of your auto insurance
  4. U.S driver’s license, or the specific state requirements for those without a U.S. driver’s license

Whether you register at the dealership or the DMV, you will receive a temporary registration sticker that shows your vehicle has valid registration. An official registration sticker will arrive in the mail typically within 30 days.

Helpful Resources

The registration requirements and tax percentages are different in each state. International AutoSource, a partner of RelocateUSA, offers Expats a helpful guide to learning more about the registration requirements in each state. To learn more about registering your vehicle, visit www.intlauto.com

Are you interested in financing or leasing a vehicle in the United States? Learn more about our partner International AutoSource who provides Expat car leasing and financing at affordable rates.

Source: blog.intlauto.com