Register Car in Virginia
Compare Insurance Rates in 3 Easy Steps
1. Start Your Quote:
You can learn all about renewing your vehicle’s registration when you visit our Registration Renewals page.
If you answer “yes” to any of the following questions, you need to register your vehicle as a first-time registration:
- Did you just purchase a vehicle?
- Do you need to transfer a vehicle’s ownership to yourself?
- Have you just moved to Virginia?
Only new residents need to register their vehicles within a certain time frame―30 days after establishing residency, to be exact.
When you register your vehicle, you must either show proof of insurance or other financial responsibility, or pay the Uninsured Motor Vehicle (UMV) fee. The UMV fee is good for 12 months, but because it doesn’t actually provide coverage, you may want to start comparing affordable insurance rates instead.
Chances are your dealer handled both your vehicle’s title transfer and registration; however, if you’re dealing with another first-time registration (including an ownership transfer or a vehicle that’s new to the state), you’ll take care of it all yourself.
NOTE: Before you set out to register your vehicle, make sure you’ve handled the titling process, which includes a different set of paperwork and fees. Visit Title Transfers for details.
Once it’s time to prepare the registration paperwork:
- Locate your vehicle’s title.
- Obtain proof of insurance, or be prepared to pay the UMV fee.
- Have proof your vehicle has passed a safety inspection, if applicable (see below for details).
- Have proof your vehicle has passed an emissions inspection, if applicable (see below for details).
- Complete a Vehicle Registration Application.
Consider obtaining a Vehicle History Report (VHR) for any vehicle you’re interested in purchasing. A VHR will help prevent you from purchasing a vehicle with a shady past―and potentially expensive future.
NOTE: If you need to move your vehicle before you register it, you may need to obtain a trip permit.
Registration fees depend on various factors, including your vehicle’s weight, the length of the registration period, and even your license plates. Visit DMV Fees to begin determining your registration fees.
First-time registration fees can pack a punch, especially when you factor in titling fees and other additional costs. Prepare yourself before heading to the DMV and determine your exact fees.
Additional registration fees may pop up if your vehicle continues to fail the emissions inspection, you opt to pay the UMV fee rather than obtain insurance, or you decide to order specialty plates.
You may also pay additional fees during the registration period, such as those you must pay when you replace a lost license plate.
Visit your local DMV to register your vehicle in person.
There are two kinds of vehicle inspections for which you may need to prepare.
The first is the safety inspection, which is part of the Virginia Motor Vehicle Safety Inspection Program, and generally applies to all vehicles that aren’t brand new and straight off the car lot. Safety inspections for regular passenger vehicles cost $16.
If your vehicle fails the inspection, the examiner will affix a rejection sticker on the windshield. This sticker is good for 15 days, in which time you must make necessary repairs and get the vehicle reinspected.
The second is the emissions inspection. Not every vehicle must undergo an emissions inspection; only those that:
- Are registered in certain counties.
- Are of certain makes, models, and years (for example, motorcycles, hybrids, and antiques are exempt).
- Don’t run on clean fuel.
- Don’t have a Manufacturer’s Certification of Origin.
- Don’t already have valid emissions inspection certificates from several cooperating states.
The fee for an emissions inspection varies, but don’t expect to pay more than $28. The first retest―should your vehicle fail―is free.
NOTE: If you need a 30-day temporary registration in order to have your vehicle’s emissions inspected, you can apply for one―once―when you title your vehicle.
Learn more about emissions inspections at the state site.
Most passenger vehicles receive two license plates―one for the front of the vehicle, and one for the back―and whether you receive these plates in person or by mail depends on your situation.
Your decals show your registration’s expiration date, and the DMV will probably affix the first set to your license plates for you. If not, simply follow the included instructions, or contact your nearest DMV.
The best way to handle potential tax deductions related to any motor vehicle fees is to contact your DMV and a tax attorney; however, you can brush up on Chapter 22 of the IRS’s Publication 17 to get a working knowledge.
Additional Tax Information
You already know it’s safest to use a hands-free headset during necessary phone calls, and it’s the law to secure your child in an approved child safety seat, but how prepared are you for mechanical problems and other safety issues?
Having an experienced auto mechanic on your side is always beneficial, and you can increase your odds of a speedy and efficient repair job with an after-market auto warranty. Of course, when you’re in the throes of an emergency, car emergency kits and the help of a road-side assistance program are always handy.
Other Topics in This Section
- Register Car
- Registration Renewal
- Registration & Insurance
- Replacing a Lost Registration
- RV & Motorhome Registration
- Custom Built Car Registration
- Boat Registration and Licenses
- Title Transfers
- Replacing a Lost Title
- Salvaged Vehicles
- Special Vehicles
- Drivers with Disabilities
- License Plates & Placards
- Smog & Emission Checks
Your Opinion Matters To Us!Send Feedback
We put a lot of effort into making our content helpful & accurate. Please let us know if you see something that isn't clear or correct; we are here to ease any frustrations you may have while navigating DMV topics. We are not a government agency, please reach out to your local DMV, insurance agent, or respective professional for further assistance on specific situations.