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Vehicle Registration Information

It's Required

Before you can get on the road with your motor vehicle, motorcycle, tractor truck, trailer or semitrailer, (Va. Code 46.2-600) you're required to title and register it at one of our customer service centers (CSCs) or a DMV Select office.

You will need additional information to title and register a vehicle if you are a new Virginia resident or if you lease your vehicle.

Your vehicle must pass an annual safety inspection and display a valid safety inspection sticker before it can be operated in Virginia. Be warned: if you drive your vehicle without an inspection sticker, you may be ticketed by law enforcement. A conviction for violating Virginia inspection laws could result in a fine and be posted to your driving record.

Before Registering Your Vehicle, You Must....

  • Have your car titled in Virginia.
  • Complete an "Application for Registration" (form VSA 14).
  • Have an emissions inspection on your vehicle if it is garaged in the counties of Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William, or Stafford, or in the cities of Alexandria, Fairfax, Falls Church, Manassas, or Manassas Park. Motorcycles are not required to have an emissions inspection. Important: When you have your vehicle's emissions system inspected, the emissions inspection station will electronically update your DMV vehicle record with the test results immediately. When registering your vehicle, DMV will not ask you for emissions information unless your vehicle failed the test or this information has not been received from the inspection station.
  • Certify that the vehicle is covered by the minimum insurance requirements or pay the uninsured motor vehicle fee. Your insurance carrier must be authorized to conduct business in Virginia. Higher insurance limits are required of vehicles operated for-hire and subject to intrastate operating authority requirements. Virginia requires the following minimum coverage:
    • Bodily injury/death of one person: $25,000
    • Bodily injury/death of two or more persons: $50,000
    • Property damage: $20,000
    Note: Severe penalties are imposed for not complying with insurance requirements. If liability insurance coverage on a vehicle terminates or cancels during the registration period, you must reinsure the vehicle, pay the uninsured motor vehicle fee, temporarily deactivate your license plates, or surrender the license plates to DMV.
  • If you are applying for an original registration or are transferring an existing registration to a different vehicle, and:

    1. You are using the vehicle to transport passengers or property for-hire, and
    2. No intrastate operating authority has been issued under the name that the vehicle is being registered under, and
    3. You are leasing the vehicle to a person or company that does hold intrastate operating authority;
    then you must complete the For-Hire Vehicles Registration Request (form MCS 115) and submit the form to Motor Carrier Services at DMV Headquarters for processing. By the next business day, you will be contacted by Motor Carrier Services and advised that either you have received pre-authorization to complete the vehicle registration transaction at your preferred DMV service outlet, or that there are other items that must be completed and/or provided in order to qualify for for-hire vehicle registration.

Registration Renewal

After your first registration, DMV will alert you about your upcoming renewal. You can receive these notifications by mail; otherwise, you can opt for the convenience of receiving notices by email, phone, or text message by signing up for E-Notifications.

  • You can save money and time by renewing your vehicle registrations (decals) online, by by telephone, or through the mail.
  • You can also renew your registration at any DMV Select or customer service center. However, if you renew in person at a customer service center, you will pay an additional $5 fee for each vehicle registration renewal transaction.
  • If your registration is renewed after its expiration, a $10 late fee will be assessed.
  • You will receive a discount if you renew your vehicle registration for two years or three years; however, these discounts are not available in all cases. Please refer to the "Renewal Fees and Multi-Year Discounts" section below for more information.
  • Here are your registration renewal service options:
    • Internet. Renew online, receive a $1 discount, and avoid the $5 fee. If you are eligible to receive a multi-year renewal fee discount, renew for two years and receive an additional $2 discount (for a total discount of $3) or renew for three years and receive an additional $3 discount (for a total discount of $4).
    • Telephone. Renew by using the DMV automated service (1-888-337-4782) to avoid the $5 fee. Additionally, when you renew for one, two or three years you will receive a discount of $1 for each year.
    • Mail. Avoid the $5 fee by mailing in the vehicle renewal notice. Most customers receive their vehicle registration materials within 5 days, but U.S. mail delivery times vary. Please allow 15 days to receive your decals before contacting DMV.
    • DMV Select. Visit one of the 57 DMV Select offices in Virginia to avoid the $5 fee. Refer to DMV Select Locations by District to find the DMV Select office that is closest to you.
    • Customer Service Center. You will pay an additional $5 fee if you renew your vehicle registration in a customer service center (CSC). The fee will not apply if your registration renewal is conducted with another transaction for you, and the second transaction cannot be completed by alternate methods (i.e., online, by mail, by telephone or at a DMV Select location).

      Only a few transactions, such as applying for an original driver's license, are required to be completed at a CSC.
  • You may be denied your registration renewal (decals) if you have delinquent local personal property taxes, parking citations, toll violations, or other fees. DMV will notify you by mail if it has received notification from another entity that you have outstanding payments due. You will be required to make the payments before you can renew your decals.

Renewal Fees and Multi-Year Discounts

Your registration fee is determined by the type of vehicle and the empty weight or gross weight of your vehicle. The type of license plate you purchase, whether you register for more than one year, and renewing your registration after it has expired may result in additional fees.

If you are eligible to receive a multi-year fee discount and renew your vehicle registration for two years, you will receive a $2 discount. You can save even more by renewing your registration online or over the phone for three years and receiving a $3 discount. If you renew your registration online for one, two, or three years, you will receive an additional $1 discount for using the internet.

The discounts for Internet and two-year or three-year renewals are not pro-rated and not refundable if the registration is canceled before it expires.

Multi-Year Fee Discount Exceptions:

Multi-year discounts are not available in all cases. Please see below for a list of exceptions.

  • The two-year registration is not available:
    • if your vehicle has a gross weight of 55,000 pounds or more;
    • if your vehicle is registered under the International Registration Plan;
    • if you have paid the uninsured motor vehicle fee;
    • if you live in an emissions area and only have one year left on the emissions inspection.
  • The three-year registration is not available:
    • when you initially register your vehicle;
    • if you are renewing your registration by mail;
    • if your vehicle is garaged in Arlington, Fairfax City, Loudon, Prince William, Stafford, Alexandria, Fairfax County, Falls Church, Manassas or Manassas Park, since vehicles in these localities are subject to an every other year emissions inspection;
    • if your vehicle has a gross weight of 55,000 pounds or more;
    • if your vehicle is registered under the International Registration Plan;
    • if you have paid the uninsured motor vehicle fee.

Your License Plates

DMV will issue you two license plates, decals showing the expiration date, and a registration card. Place the plates on the front and rear of your vehicle so that they are securely fastened and clearly visible, and place the decals on the plates. If your vehicle is a motorcycle, tractor truck, semitrailer or trailer, DMV will issue you one license plate for the vehicle.

It is illegal to mount colored glass, plastic, or any other type of covering on your license plates that alters or obscures the letters, numbers, decals or the state where the vehicle is registered and when the registration expires (Va. Code 46.2-716). Keep the registration card with you whenever you operate the vehicle.

Military, Diplomatic Service and Civilian Employees Returning From Outside the United States

Any of the following persons stationed or serving outside of the United States and return to the Commonwealth are allowed 72 hours to obtain a current vehicle inspection sticker, and granted a 90-day grace period from the date they return to the United States to renew their vehicle registration:

  • Active duty United States military service members,
  • Members of the diplomatic service of the United States,
  • Civilian employees of the United States government or any agency or contractor thereof,
  • Spouses and Dependents of those listed above.

To receive a 90-day grace period, the vehicle must:

  • Be owned or leased by a person or persons, spouses or dependents, serving outside of the United States;
  • Have had a valid registration issued by DMV at the time the owner began service or civilian employment outside of the United States;
  • Be properly insured at the time of renewal;
  • Display the latest license plates and decals issued by DMV;
  • Be operated only by persons who are civilian employees, members of diplomatic service, or active duty military and their spouses and dependents serving outside of the United States who possess the latest registration card issued by DMV for the vehicle and the following documents:

    TYPE OF SERVICE DOCUMENTS REQUIRED
    Active Duty Military Orders or other military documentation demonstrating that the applicant is entitled to the grace period. (military member, spouses and dependents)
    Diplomatic Service
    1. Present either of the documents below:
      • Current diplomatic orders, OR
      • A certification letter written on U.S. government letterhead stating the applicant is serving in a diplomatic capacity, or accompanying a diplomat (spouses and dependents), outside of the United States. This letter must include 1.) the applicant's name, and 2.) a signiture by the applicant's supervisor.
    2. Copy of applicant's passport or U.S. passport card indicating diplomatic status OR a copy of their employee ID card.
    Civilian Employee
    1. Present a copy of either:
      • the U.S. Military Civilian Employee or Government Employee Identification Card, OR
      • the U. S. Military or Department of Defense Contractor Identification Card
    2. A copy of the travel orders or a certification letter, on U. S. government letterhead (for civilian employees, spouses, and dependents) or on contractor's letterhead, signed by the commanding officer/supervisor.

If possible, you may renew your qualifying vehicle registration prior to returning to Virginia. You do not have to wait until you are in the grace period to renew.

State Agencies:

Refer to state-owned vehicles for additional information.

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