How to Register Your Car in a New State – All You Need to Know

April 25, 2018Car Tips and Tricks
Steven Rogers

Apart from sharing Captain America's name, our freelance writer Steven is also a big fan of moving, history, and geography.

One of the reasons why cross country moving is such a complex effort is all the paperwork that needs to be taken care of before you leave your home. The process of relocating includes a lot of things, and one of them is knowing how to register your car in a new state. We’re here to help by explaining the procedure in a step-by-step guide.

How to Register Your Car in a New State: The Rules

First things first: you need to acquire an insurance policy or basic liability coverage before registering your car in any US state except New Hampshire. Each one has different rules regarding the timeframe for getting all the paperwork in order. No matter if you are shipping the vehicle to Glendale, or Brooklyn, make sure you follow all the rules. Contact the Department of Motor Vehicles – DMV in your future place and get all the information about the exact procedure and the deadline for the registration. Have in mind that the DMV has different names in certain states like the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, Division of Vehicles, Registry of Motor Vehicles, and so on.

You’ll usually have thirty days after you relocate to register your vehicle, and most states ask for a fresh driver’s license. With all that being said, we can start explaining the procedure in more detail.

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You’re Going to Need Proof of Auto Insurance

Before you even begin the process of registering your vehicle, you’ll need proof of insurance. As you’ll need to transfer to the insurance policy for your future state – there’s a chance you might be able to stay with the same insurance company or you might have to switch. Most states ask for this in the first place and allow online renewals.

Other Documents You’ll Need

When you call the state’s DMV office or visit their website, you’ll see what the other requirements are. The most common one is proving your ownership of the car by showing the title certificate. If you bought a car online, be sure that you have proof of the purchase. What you usually need:
1. ID – driver’s license, passport, social security card
2. A certificate of transfer of personal property – especially if you just bought your car
3. Odometer and emissions disclosure statements – some states have standards for that
If the vehicle is not in your name, you can prove the ownership by showing the bill of sale. On the other hand, if you bought a new vehicle, make sure you have the Manufacturer’s Certificate of Origin (MCO). Still, if you purchased a used vehicle, you’ll need to have a transferable registration that was transferred to you from the previous owner.

Sales manager helping young couple to choose a new car
Millions of cars are sold every year in the US

Choosing Vehicle Insurance

Ask around or search on the web, but make sure you get the best policy. Call your insurer, and if they don’t cover the state you’re in after the move, shop around, ask for quotes and information to find the one that works for you best. Count in the potential differences in the cost of the insurer – the price might be higher or lower than the one you’re paying now.

Insurer in the New State: Get the Best One

No matter if you are shipping the car to Arlington or some bigger city know that the local companies often have the most affordable rates. After purchasing the new policy, call your former insurer and ask them to terminate the deal, so you don’t have any gaps between policies and your car remains covered.

Car insurance
The average cost of car insurance is almost $1,800 per year

Now You Can Finally Register Your Vehicle

Once you have the insurance coverage, you can get a license plate. Again, there are particular documents needed for registration, and they all differ from state to state. Go visit your local DMV and fill out the registration and title application forms. The most usual ones are:
1. An emission test or VIN (vehicle identification number) check
2. Identification – proof of your US citizenship
3. Proof of residency in the new state
4. Proof of insurance
5. Completed registration form
6. Proof of paid fees
7. Proof of ownership – title certificate
Don’t forget to return your old plates to your previous state, so you don’t get charged a fee. Contact the DMV office in the state you’re moving out from and check where to send it.

Vin car body
You can find your VIN at the front of the dashboard on the driver's side of the vehicle

The Final Step After Registration: Get a New Driver’s License

Different US states have different deadlines for updating a license after relocating. When you find your local DMV or the Registry of Motor Vehicles, you’ll see if you need to update the license immediately or if you have a specific timeframe. For a license, you’ll need to bring certain documents to the DMV to finish this process:
1. Your current driver’s license
2. Verification of your identity
3. Proof of residence at your updated address
4. Money for fees
You might also have to pass the vision test. Prepare yourself for some waiting time: it would be best not to have any other plans on that day because the wait can sometimes become lengthy.

Two fun young women driving in a car
In most cases, you won't have to take another driving test

Ship Your Car With a Reputable Auto Transport Company

If you’re shipping your car cross country and you can’t drive yourself and your things to the state you’re moving to, choose one of the best companies to provide you with auto shipping services. They can transport the car to Los Angeles, or even ship it to Santa Monica if needed. And keep in mind – excellent service doesn’t necessarily mean expensive. If you drive a costly oldtimer, we suggest an enclosed trailer, while an open trailer carrier is the most common and affordable option. Prepare your car for shipping and book your auto transport services.

Avoid Scams From Moving Companies

A lot of moving companies offer single-day pickup, and, in case there are no trucks, customers are the ones who have to pay for the consequences. No one can predict traffic and truck problems, so promising single-day pick up is irresponsible. Also, one more thing that scam companies use to make more money from a client is asking for a cash payment in advance. Sometimes they also ask for additional fees: like insurance or cancellation fee. You should always book a move with someone who offers a guaranteed price.

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