How to Change Your Car Registration When You Move

Posted on
3 min to read


Moving to a new state is an exciting experience filled with the anticipation of new places, people and adventures. It also comes with a laundry list of to-dos, from finding a new home; to packing; to researching local schools, healthcare providers and more. 

And in the midst of all this, it’s easy to overlook essential tasks, like registering your car. It’s a requirement to register a vehicle in all 50 states. This guide will walk you through the step-by-step process of registering your car in a new state, ensuring a smooth transition. 

Requirements by state

Before hitting the road, make sure you’re prepared to navigate the maze of requirements specific to your destination. Follow these steps to understand how to change your car registration when moving out of state.

  1. Research: Each state has its own set of registration rules and regulations, so it’s crucial to be well-informed in advance. This will save you time and hassle once you get settled in.
  2. Timing is key: One vital aspect to note is how soon you must register your vehicle after moving. This varies from state to state, so it’s important to know this well ahead of time to avoid any potential penalties or fines. 
  3. Emissions tests and inspections: Some states require emissions tests or VIN/engine inspections as part of the registration process. Be sure to check if your new state mandates these and prepare accordingly.
  4. Visit the DMV website or office: Visit the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) website or make a trip to the nearest office to find detailed information about required documents for registration and title fees, taxes or other charges.

Steps for changing your car registration

  1. Gather documentation

Having the right documents is key to a seamless registration process. Start with materials from your previous state, including:

  • Registration certificate, which serves as proof that your vehicle was legally registered in your previous state.
  • Vehicle title, which acts as proof of ownership and is necessary for registering your car in the new state.
  • Auto insurance coverage documentation is crucial for complying with registration requirements.

If you’re using professional movers to relocate, keep a copy of the Bill of Lading handy. While not always necessary, it shows proof of your recent move and may be requested during the registration process.

Next, you’ll need to change the address on your car registration by proving your residency in the new state. This can be done with a valid license or state ID card along with a utility bill or lease agreement. Check with the local DMV to ensure you have enough proof to meet their requirements.

Finally, remember to get proper insurance coverage in the new state. Depending on state laws, you may need to register your car before obtaining insurance. Don’t cancel your current policy before securing coverage in the new state, since driving without insurance is illegal and can result in hefty fines or more financial losses if you’re involved in an accident.

  1. Complete necessary paperwork

Begin with the registration application form, which may be available to fill out online or in person at a local DMV office. Make sure you fill out the application completely and accurately to avoid any delays or complications in the registration process. 

When submitting the application, you’ll likely be required to do so in person at a DMV office along with physical copies of the documents listed in the previous section. Original documents or certified copies are usually needed, so make sure to have them on hand to avoid any unnecessary trips back and forth.

You’ll also need to pay fees associated with registering your vehicle in the new state. These typically include a registration fee and sales tax, depending on state regulations. Before going to the DMV, know whether you can pay with a credit or debit card or if you’ll need cash or a check to complete the transaction and process your application.

  1. Receive registration and license plates

The final step in changing your car registration is playing the waiting game until your registration and license plates arrive. This can take up to a month, but the timeframe may vary based on where you live and the volume of registrations being processed. Keep in mind that in busier seasons like summer, wait times may be longer.

Some states offer temporary registration and plates while you wait for the permanent ones to arrive. If this is the case, follow the guidelines provided to make sure you’re legally allowed to drive your vehicle in the state. And if you feel like it’s taking too long, contact the appropriate authorities to see if everything is in order.


With the right knowledge and preparation, changing your car registration when moving to a new state can be an easy transition. Take your time, stay organized and you can navigate the process quickly so you can stay focused on other aspects of the move. 

Whether you’re moving for better opportunities or a change of scenery, you’re not alone. Discover why people are flocking to certain states (Florida and Texas) and fleeing others (California and Illinois).

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