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Introduction to Virginia Vehicle Registration
Before you can legally drive in Virginia, you must register and title your car with the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Both are completed at the same time, which keeps the process simple and saves you an extra trip to the VA DMV.
This page is specific to the registration process and documents required. For detailed information on the titling process, please visit our guide on titling your vehicle in Virginia.
Once you establish residency in the state, you will have 30 days to complete your vehicle registration and titling with the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
Before you can register your vehicle as a new Virginia resident, you must do the following:
- Get auto insurance on your vehicle by a licensed Virginia carrier, or plan to pay the uninsured motorist fee (see “Virginia Auto Insurance Requirements” below).
- Complete a vehicle safety inspection and a smog and emissions check, if required.
- NOTE: If your vehicle has a current valid emissions sticker from any of Virginia’s list of eligible exemptions, you do not have to have an emissions inspection upon registering in Virginia. You will need to get one when your out-of-state sticker expires if you live in an applicable emissions inspection county (see “Safety & Emissions Inspections” below).
- Transfer your title to Virginia (this may be done at the same time as you register).
To register your vehicle with the state of Virginia, you must appear in person at your county Virginia DMV office and be ready to present the following:
- A completed Application for Registration (Form VSA 14).
- Proof of identity and address.
- Your vehicle’s inspection certificate (see “Safety & Emissions Inspections” below).
- Proof of insurance OR payment for the $500 uninsured motorist fee (see “Insurance Requirements” below).
- Payment for your registration fees. (Registration fees vary based on your vehicle; see “Fees” below.)
- Documentation and payment for titling your vehicle. (* Note: Required only if you haven’t previously titled your vehicle with the VA DMV. See our page on Title Transfers for titling information.)
Once you complete your registration, you will be given a Virginia registration card, which must be kept in your vehicle at all times, and Virginia license plates. You will need to renew your vehicle registration either every year or every 2 years, depending on which option you choose.
If you have additional questions about registration procedures, call the VA DMV help desk at (804) 497-7100 or contact your local Virginia DMV office.
Leased Vehicle Registration
You may register a leased vehicle in your name with the Virginia DMV as long as the lessor (owner) of your vehicle permits the DMV to add your name and address to both the registration and the title of the vehicle.
- If your name and address appears on the title, you may register your vehicle according to the steps described above, as well as complete all other registration transactions, like ordering specialty plates.
- If your name and address does not appear on the title, you must get a power of attorney from the lessor of your vehicle before you may complete any transactions with the Virginia DMV.
Please note that if you keep the vehicle after your lease is up, you will need to re-title it in your name and without your lessor’s information on it.
If you need to move an unregistered vehicle, perhaps to bring it to the DMV to register it or to an inspection station for its vehicle inspection, you may apply for a trip permit. This permit is valid for 3 days, and the vehicle must be insured before being driven.
- Proof of ownership, such as a valid, assignable title or bill of sale.
- If you don’t currently own the vehicle but plan to purchase it within 15 days, you only need to document the vehicle’s year, make, model.
- Information listing your vehicle’s current location (e.g. address) and the location where you will be moving it.
- Dates when the vehicle will be moved.
- Either proof of vehicle insurance or payment for 1/12 of the $500 uninsured motorist fee.
- $5 permit fee.
VA car registration fees are based on the following factors:
- The gross (empty) weight of your vehicle.
- The type of license plate you purchase (e.g. standard vs. specialty plates).
- The length of time you choose to register your vehicle (e.g. annually or 2 years).
If you choose to register your car for 2 years, then your registration fees will be doubled, since you are paying for a longer period of time. Please visit the Virginia DMV’s fee chart to calculate the exact amount you’ll be expected to pay.
Virginia Military Residents
As vehicle registrations are required to occur in person in Virginia, military residents who are stationed outside of the state will need to register any newly purchased vehicle in their current state of service or residency. You may transfer your title and registration upon your return to Virginia.
If you are a Virginia military resident stationed in VA, simply follow the same steps listed above.
Non-Resident Military Stationed in Virginia
If you are an out-of-state resident who is stationed in Virginia, you do not have to title and register your vehicle with the VA DMV as long as:
- Your out-of-state registration remains valid.
- You are the sole owner of the vehicle, or all co-owners are active duty military.
HOWEVER, if any co-owner is not also in the military, then the registration exemption does not apply, and the vehicle MUST be registered in Virginia (e.g. if your spouse is not also a military member, then a co-owned vehicle must be registered in Virginia, regardless of where your home state is).
Other registration options:
- If you purchase a car while you’re stationed in Virginia, then you may choose to title and register it in Virginia or register it in your home state.
- If you want to register your car in Virginia, follow the steps described above for first titling and then registering your car.
Before you can register your vehicle, you will need to have your vehicle inspected for safety, and you may also have to successfully pass an emissions inspection.
Safety inspections are required for all vehicles in the state, while smog and emissions checks are currently required for vehicles being registered in the following counties and cities:
- Prince William.
- Falls Church.
- Manassas Park.
For additional information about vehicle inspections, including fees, testing locations, and exemptions, check our Virginia Vehicle Inspection guide.
Vehicles registered in Virginia must be covered by adequate liability insurance at all times, and you will be required to buy insurance before you can register your vehicle.
Uninsured Motorist Fee
If you are unable to purchase insurance before registering your vehicle, you may pay a $500 uninsured motorist fee, which will allow you to register and operate your vehicle for 1 year. Please note that the uninsured fee is not an insurance policy; you will be held liable for any accidents or damages to your vehicle or to others.
For additional information regarding VA liability insurance requirements, feel free to visit our guide to Virginia car insurance.
After registering your vehicle, you will be issued standard Virginia license plates and registration stickers with your registration expiration date printed on them. Make sure that your sticker is firmly affixed to your license plate and is clearly visible.
You may also have the option of purchasing specialized plates, such as military or veteran plates, vanity or personalized plates, collegiate plates, or license plates supporting various social causes. Find out more by visiting our page on License Plates in Virginia.
Motorcycles, mopeds, electric vehicles, and other vehicles such as trailers, ATVs, snowmobiles, and motorhomes all have their own registration processes. If you are looking to register a motorcycle or special vehicle in Virginia, please visit any of the following pages:
Virginia Motorcycle Registration
Scooters, Mopeds, Etc.
Custom-Built Car Registration
RV and Motorhome Registration
Boat Registration and Licenses
Salvaged Vehicles in Virginia
Special Vehicles in VirginiaOther Topics in This Section
Organ Donation Survey
- 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
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