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  • Car Registration in Pennsylvania

    Registering a car?

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    General Requirements

    Registration Renewal

    Please visit our section on renewals for information on that matter, as this article only covers first-time registrations.

    First-Time Registration

    You'll need to register you car if you recently:

    • Moved to the state
    • Bought a vehicle
    • Received a vehicle as a gift

    You're required to register your vehicle within 20 days of moving to the state. The registration process is closely connected with the titling process, and you can handle both matters at a Driver and Vehicle Service Center location.

    Get Insurance

    When you register your vehicle, you must provide proof of insurance coverage. The easiest way to do this is to obtain auto liability insurance coverage. If you're looking for a provider, check out our Insurance Center, and do a little shopping to find the best rates.

    Prepare the Paperwork

    If you purchased your vehicle from a dealer, the dealer should automatically submit all the proper paperwork to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) for you. In these cases, you'll simply need to go to a Driver and Vehicle Service Center with proof of insurance and a check or money order for the $36 fee to finish the registration paperwork.

    For other registration situations, you'll need to gather the following:

    1. Vehicle title (see our Title Transfers or Replacing a Lost Title pages for more information).
    2. Proof of insurance.
    3. Completed Form MV-1.
    4. Completed Form MV-4ST (if registering a used vehicle from Pennsylvania).
    5. Form MV-904 (if you want personalized plates).
    6. Vehicle identification number (VIN) inspection certificate (out-of-state vehicles only).

    Keep in mind PennDOT will notify you when your vehicle must undergo an emissions inspection. Refer to Smog & Emission Checks to learn more about Drive Clean Pennsylvania.

    If you haven't finalized your purchase yet, it's smart to obtain a vehicle history report first to give you a better understanding of exactly what you're buying.

    Calculate the Fees

    It costs $36 to register your vehicle. However, if you are retired (regardless of age) and meet certain qualifications, you may be entitled to the registration rate for retirees; that cost is $10.

    Additional Fees

    Need to replace your registration, plates, or stickers? You'll have to pay a fee to do so.

    Go to a PennDOT Location

    After you've collected the necessary paperwork, you'll need to visit a Driver and Vehicle Services office location to complete the registration process.

    License Plates

    If a standard plate suits your taste, you'll receive your plate on the spot in most circumstances. If you want to personalize the plate, though, it will cost an extra $76, and you'll receive the plates in the mail within 10 weeks.

    Learn more about this process―as well as about the different plate styles available―when you visit our license plate section. Also, you can highlight your license plate by purchasing some nifty frames.

    Affix Your Stickers

    After you receive your stickers, be sure to follow the provided instructions to place them in the proper spot.

    Get a Tax Deduction

    Although you can qualify for a federal tax deduction with your annual registration fee in some states due to paying an excise or property tax every year based on your vehicle's estimated value, this doesn't apply in Pennsylvania.

    For more information on this matter consider consulting a tax attorney.

    Safely Get on Your Way

    You may have taken care of your paperwork requirements, but don't forget to take some extra steps to help make your driving experience as safe as possible.

    Start with a roadside assistance program and a car emergency kit. Both are invaluable when dealing with a variety of hazardous situations you may encounter.

    Of course, child passengers need an added layer of protection, so be sure to purchase approved child safety seats to help keep them safe.

    If you're a cell phone user, consider buying a hands-free headset so that you can keep your hands where they belong―on the steering wheel.

    And, don't neglect your car itself. Investing in an after-market warranty and finding a quality, dependable mechanic are two ways of helping promote safety while extending the life of your vehicle.

    Custom-Built Vehicles

    If you have a custom-built vehicle in Pennsylvania, you'll need to have it inspected by a qualified vehicle safety inspector before you can have it registered.

    Once you pass the inspection, you will be given an Application for Reconstructed, Specially Constructed, Collectible, Modified, Flood, Recovered Theft Vehicles and Street (Form MV-426B), partially completed by the inspection officer.

    Mail the following documents to PennDOT at the address listed on the form:

    NOTE: Remember to include payment for the required fees.

    For more information, refer to the application form or read the fact sheet for street rod vehicles.