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  • Car Registration in Colorado

    Summary: How to Register Your Vehicle in Colorado

    To register your Colorado vehicle for the first time, visit your local DMV office with your title, proof of ID, a VIN verification form if required, an emissions inspection form (if applicable to your county), and payment for your registration fee. Dealers will typically handle the registration on brand new cars.

    Vehicle registration is required for all Colorado car owners. Below you’ll find all the information you’ll need for registering with the CO Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

    NOTE: To register a special vehicle type, such as snowmobiles, ATVs, or trailers, please visit our Other Vehicle Registrations page.

    New to Colorado?

    If you recently established Colorado residency, you have 90 days to register your vehicle and obtain Colorado license plates.

    The state defines residency as:

    • You own or operate a business within Colorado.
    • You’ve resided in Colorado for 90 days.
    • You work in Colorado.

    If you do not register your vehicle within the required 90 days, the state will issue a late fee

    Once you establish residency, visit the DMV office in person in the county where you reside with:

    • Vehicle identification number (VIN) verification (Form DR 2698), if your vehicle was titled in another state.
      • This must be completed by a law enforcement officer, a licensed car dealer, or a licensed CO emissions testing station agent.
    • Either the car’s title or current vehicle registration certificate.
    • Secure and verifiable identification (e.g., U.S. passport, out-of-state photo driver’s license, or valid US military ID).
    • Proof of passing an emissions test, if applicable.
      • This will depend on the county you reside in. Please see “Colorado Vehicle Inspections” below.
    • Proof of car insurance.
    • Payment for your CO vehicle registration fees (see the “Colorado Vehicle Registration Fees” section below).

    Colorado vehicle registrations are valid for 1 year.

    Registering a Vehicle in Colorado

    After purchasing a vehicle – new or used – you have 60 days to register it with the DMV.

    Before registering, check if your vehicle requires a smog check. This will depend on the age of your vehicle and your county of residence. Get the whole scoop on our Smog & Emission Checks page.

    Vehicles Purchased from a Dealership

    If you purchase from a dealer, in most cases the dealership agent will submit your Colorado car registration papers for you. Confirm this before leaving.

    Vehicles Purchased or Transferred from a Private Party

    To register a vehicle purchased or gifted from an individual other than a dealer, visit your county’s local  Division of Motor Vehiclesoffice with:

    • Vehicle identification number (VIN) verification (Form DR 2698), if your vehicle was titled in another state.
      • This must be completed by a law enforcement officer, a licensed car dealer, or a licensed CO emissions testing station agent.
    • Either the car’s title or current vehicle registration certificate.
    • Secure and verifiable identification (e.g., U.S. passport, valid driver’s license, or valid US military ID).
    • Proof of passing an emissions test, if applicable. This will depend on the county you reside in (please see “Colorado Vehicle Inspections” below).
    • Proof of auto insurance.
    • Payment for your CO vehicle registration fees (please see “CO Vehicle Registration Fees” below).

    Colorado registration certificates are valid for 1 year.

    Military Vehicle Registration in Colorado

    Non-Residents Stationed in CO

    If you’re an active, out-of-state military member stationed in Colorado, you have two options:

    • You may keep your current registration with your home state.
      OR
    • You may choose to register your vehicle in Colorado if you’re going to be in the state for an extended period of time.

    If you DO choose to register your vehicle in the state as an active military member, you’ll need to comply with all Colorado emissions laws and requirements, but you’re exempt from paying the state’s Specific Ownership Tax. To qualify for this waiver, bring to the DMV office in your county (in addition to the documents described above):

    Resident Colorado Military Personnel

    If you are a Colorado resident currently serving in-state in the military, simply follow the same process outlined above for vehicle registration.

    If you are stationed out of state and wish to register a purchased car in Colorado, the easiest way to do so is by calling the Colorado DMV. They will help walk you through specific steps to register your vehicle.

    You may contact them at (303) 205-5600.

    Vehicle Registration Fees

    Three fees factor into Colorado car registration fees:

    • License fee – Based upon your vehicle’s weight, purchase date and taxable value.
    • Sales tax – Based on your vehicle’s net purchase price.
    • Ownership tax – This is a personal property tax based on the worth of your vehicle when it was brand new.

    Depending on your county, the Colorado DMV may have a vehicle registration fee estimator on its website (you can find your county website by visiting the DOR's county list). Otherwise, you’ll need to visit your county’s DMV office in person to obtain the exact fee.

    All Colorado Division of Motor Vehicle offices accept cash. Some county offices do accept MasterCard, VISA, and Discover.

    Colorado Vehicle Inspections

    The following counties require mandatory smog checks for all residents:

    • Boulder.
    • Broomfield.
    • Denver.
    • Douglas.
    • Jefferson.

    Only certain sections of the following counties require emission tests:

    • Adams.
    • Arapahoe.
    • El Paso.
    • Larimer.
    • Weld.

    If you’re unsure if a smog check is required, call your respective county office. We also have more detailed information, including the types of inspections and exemptions for each county, on our Colorado Smog and Emissions Check page.

    Colorado License Plates

    When applying for vehicle registration, the Colorado Division of Motor Vehicles gives you plenty of license plate options. You can opt for standard plates at no additional cost, or order specialized plates for an additional fee promoting your college or favorite Colorado sports team.

    Learn more about all of your specialized license plate options on our License Plates & Placards page.

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