Virginia vehicle registration is necessary if you want to legally drive your car or truck in the state. The process can be a bit confusing for some vehicle owners so we’ll help guide you through the procedures so you can get on the road (legally!) as quickly as possible. Whether you need to renew, transfer or change a title, we'll guide you through the process.
The First Step To Registering
Obtaining the proper title is the first thing you should do. The vast majority of cars and/or trucks will be located inside the state so you should possess in-state paperwork. The two parts of this paperwork that must be filled out are the “New Owner” and “Assignment” sections. Of course, other applicable information should also be provided, such as proof of address.
A copy of the “Virginia Certificate Of Title And Registration” will have to be shown. Among other needed details are the vehicle ownership, lien holder address and information, how you acquired the vehicle, odometer statement, purchase price and the type of license plates you want. We prefer the “scenic” plates, but actually, they all look very good! Out-of-state or imported vehicles may require additional documentation.
Don’t forget your safety inspection that must be done every 12 months. If you pass the inspection, you are given documentation that can be placed in the window. If you drive without this documentation, you do risk receiving a ticket. The penalty is more severe if you never completed the inspection. And of course, driving without coverage will create additional issues. Virginia car insurance prices are actually very competitive compared to most other areas of the US.
Do You Need An Emissions Inspection?
Probably not. There are only five counties and five cities that require this inspection (completed every two years at a licensed and approved station). The cities are Manassas Park, Manassas, Fairfax, Alexandria and Falls Church. The counties are Stafford, Fairfax, Prince William, Arlington and Loudon. If you don’t live in these areas, you just saved yourself some time and money.
If you do live in one of those areas (and your car is kept there), you will need to complete the test before you begin the registration process. In some instances, a waiver is given. For example, motorcycles or vehicles that are more than 25 years old are given an exception, as are diesel-powered vehicles.
Once the inspection is successfully completed by a station that is certified, you can wait two years before going through the process again. Visiting a certified emissions station will qualify for an improved inspoection. The second option is to drive by a RAPIDPASS emissions testing location. The test takes about one second, although you must drive by the station at least 120 days before your registration expires. You may drive through a qualified location multiple times. Verification can be checked online.
The Bureau Of Motor Vehicles receives results within 24-48 hours. Also, If you are moving to Va. from one of 22 states (list available upon request), and your emissions certificate is current, you can register without getting a new inspection. Motorcylcles and cars more than 25 years old are also exempt.
Is Your Vehicle Electric?
If it is, there is an additional tax of $50 that you pay whenever your registration is renewed. This tax applies if 100% of the power is electric. Unique "Clean Fuel" license plates can be proudly displayed and you will receive a partial exemption to high-occupancy lanes in many areas of the state. Electric mopeds are treated a bit differently although there are still safety requirements. Department of Transportation-approved helmets are always a good idea, and will drastically reduce the impact of head injuries.
Are You Satisfying The Required Liability Limits?
If you aren’t, then you can’t drive. And it’s not worth the risk of causing damage that won’t be covered and stiff penalties that you will face. The necessary liability coverage in Virginia that you must have is $25,000 per person and $50,000 for two or more persons. Separately, you must also have $20,000 of property damage. If you fail to meet the requirements, you may have to pay a $500 fee and carry an SR-22 Bond for three years.
These limits are required by law but they are not guidelines. You should have twice or three times the minimum limits to feel somewhat protected in case you were involved in an accident or caused damage to property. Otherwise, you could find yourself severely underinsured and potentially in debt for many years. Slowly raising coverage every five years is a simple method that won't cause too much financial pain.
Do You Have To Renew Your Virginia Registration In Person Every Year?
No. Your bill for the second year will be sent to you in the mail about 30-60 days before the due date. You don’t have to pay it in person. You can return the form in the mail. If you prefer, you can also handle the paperwork by phone or through the “DMV NOW” website.
The online method will cost $1 less than other renewal options. You’ll save more money if your renewal is for three years (unless you are required to have emissions testing). Of course, you’ll need your credit card when you are paying online. Most major credit cards are accepted. We recommend you complete the process at least 20-25 days before the due date to allow ample time for the hard copy of the registration paperwork to arrive.
How Much Will It Cost?
Most cars and light trucks cost $40.75 per year. Heavier cars and trucks cost $45.75 while the heaviest pickup trucks cost $51.75. Of course, motorcycles cost much less ($28.75) and trailers range from $18 to $40. If you lose your registration certificate, you can order replacement materials for about $2. Replacing a lost title will cost more…about $5 if there are no alterations.
Registration fees for motor vehicles in Virginia may be increasing. Senate Bill 754, if passed, an extra charge of $1.25 per vehicle would begin in July, eventually increasing to $12.50 by 2024. The extra revenue is expected to help the State Police budget, which appears to be underfunded.
Currently, there are about 2,000 State troopers in the state, and more are needed. Response times to accidents would be greatlu improved with more revenue, and facility and equipment upgrades will also be possible if the legislation is passed.
Edward Harris is the owner and founder of this website. Since 1980, he has been helping individuals and families with their car insurance needs. During that time, he has handled more than 10,000 applications and continues to provide service for thousands of clients.
Ed is married with two children and enjoys tennis, golf, and international politics. Reluctantly, he bowls once every 10 years.