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Registration is a must for any vehicle. It allows states to have a database of vehicle owners and provide data when tracking a criminal or assessing taxes. It also allows the state to regularly check if a vehicle is complying with its safety standards since a vehicle would need to be registered every year. Vehicle registration processes and wait times vary depending on whether you purchased the vehicle brand new from a dealership or used from a private seller.

Car Registration Process When Car Is Brand New

Dealerships typically handle vehicle registration when you purchase a brand-new vehicle. Once you drive your vehicle out, they’ll give you a temporary operating permit, which allows you to operate the vehicle when all registration fees have been paid but license plates and/or registration stickers haven’t been issued. The license plates will typically arrive at your address anywhere between four to six weeks after registration.

2023 car registration sticker
For brand new cars, you’ll be given a temporary operating permit after purchasing while you wait for the license plate to arrive 4-6 weeks after registration.

Car Registration Process If Car Is Used

If you bought the vehicle from a private seller or if you’re registering your vehicle because you moved, you must go to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) in your state and apply for registration. In some states, this is sometimes handled in the local town or city clerk’s office. This is also the case if ever the dealership didn’t register the vehicle for you. It’s best to register your vehicle as soon as you move to avoid being pulled over and being seen driving a vehicle that’s registered in a different state or to a different owner.

Requirements vary slightly from state to state but you generally need to bring your vehicle’s title. You’ll also need a bill of sale from the person whose name appears on the title. Make sure your seller has this document if the seller is not the original owner. Several states also need proof that the vehicle has recently passed an emissions test.

Once you’ve passed all the necessary documents, it might take several days or weeks before your information is reflected in the system. During this period, you will be given a temporary registration sticker that shows your vehicle has valid registration. Registration stickers are typically issued immediately at the DMV or local municipal office. If not, an official registration sticker will arrive in the mail within 30 days. If you moved to a state that’s different from where the car was registered, you will be issued a new license plate.

About The Authors
Written By Automotive and Tech Writers

The Research Team is composed of experienced automotive and tech writers working with (ASE)-certified automobile technicians and automotive journalists to bring up-to-date, helpful information to car owners in the US. Guided by's thorough editorial process, our team strives to produce guides and resources DIYers and casual car owners can trust.

Reviewed By Automotive Features Reviewer at

Lisa Conant grew up in Canada around a solid contingency of gear heads and DIY motor enthusiasts. She is an eclectic writer with a varied repertoire in the automotive industry, including research pieces with a focus on daily drivers and recreational vehicles. Lisa has written for Car Bibles and The Drive.

Any information provided on this Website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace consultation with a professional mechanic. The accuracy and timeliness of the information may change from the time of publication.

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