The Ultimate Guide to Register your Car in the USA

14 Feb 2022 - Category: Blog /
register car usa

If you’re planning on moving to the United States soon or if you’ve just completed your move, then you may be assessing the best way for you to commute to work and explore the city. Depending on where you live, commuting via public transport may not be the best option. If so, you may need to get a car or bring the car you already own to the USA.

Having your own car in the USA is definitely a great option if you can afford it. You will be able to move about as you please, do road trips across the many states and commute to work in the comfort of your own vehicle.

Cars don't come cheap in the USA, you may want to ship your old car and avoid buying a new one. Now that could turn out to be a tedious process, especially if you do not know where to start.

In this blog we’ll highlight how you can register your car in the USA and everything you need to know if you already have a car and you’ve just moved to the USA, including:

  • The basics
  • How to register a car in the USA
  • Additional information you may need
  • How to transfer money home

The basics

To drive in the United States you are required to register your car with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). The exact nature of your car registration will depend on the state in which you live. In general, you will be required to provide a specific set of documents for identification and residency such as a valid U.S. driver’s license, international or home country driver’s license, and/or a Social Security card. In most cases you will also be required to show proof that your car is insured.

How to register a car in the USA

There are two main ways to register a car in the United states, via a dealership or at the DMV. If you are bringing a car to the United States then the DMV route is the one for you. On the other hand, if you are buying from a U.S. dealership then you may find it easier to register your car then and there at the dealership.

Let’s take a look at the two routes:

Registering at the DMV

If you bring your car to the U.S. or if you buy a car from a private party based in the U.S. then you will have to go to your local DMV to register your car. You will need to bring the following documents with you when you register at the DMV:

  • Title for the vehicle (provided by the seller)
  • Proof of auto insurance
  • U.S. driver’s license, or the equivalent license required by whatever state you are based in
  • Bill of Sale, or letter from the seller. This letter must include the vehicle type (year, model and make), vehicle identification number (VIN) and selling price

When you register your car at the DMV you will receive a temporary registration sticker that indicates that your car has a valid registration certificate. You will receive an official registration sticker in the mail within 30 days.

Registering at a Dealership

When you purchase your car through a dealership in the U.S. the registration process will be completed for you at the dealership. It’s as easy as that!

The dealer will take all the information related to your car like your license plate, registration fees and sales tax and do all the registration work for you. For many people this is the ideal way to register a car because it saves you from making a trip to the DMV (a place that has a reputation in the U.S. for long lines and frustrating bureaucracy!)

When you register your car via a dealership you will also receive a temporary registration sticker that indicates that your car has valid registration.

Additional information you may need to know

As well as all the documents previously mentioned, you may also need:

  • Current registration card, if applicable;
  • Safety and emission inspection certificates, if applicable;
  • Completed vehicle registration application form;
  • The registration fee
  • Registration authorisation, if you aren’t the owner of the vehicle;
  • Proof of insurance or financial responsibility

The rules and fees for registration vary from state to state. The fee may be dependent on the car’s weight, value, age or a combination of the three factors. You will be issued with license plates but, in most states, for an additional fee you will be able to obtain personalized plates. All states will provide you with special plates for the disabled provided that you submit a medical certificate along with your other registration documents.

If you are making a permanent move from one state to another you will need to re-register your car. You can usually do this before entry although you may need to provide the DMV with a local address.

If you are importing your car into the US as a tourist you can drive it with foreign registration plates for up to one year from the date you arrived as long as the country of registration is part of the UN Convention on Road Traffic and the Convention of the Regulation of Inter-American Automotive Traffic. If your home country isn’t party to these conventions then you’ll have to get new registration plates from the state where the vehicle arrives.

More in depth information about imported vehicle registration can be found via the DMV’s website. For example, click these links to access the website of the California DMV and the New York DMV.

Use Small World

If you’ve just moved to the USA then you may need to send money back home to your family and friends. All this and more can be accomplished easily with Small World.

Small World is an international money transfer service that helps millions of people transfer money abroad every year. We have a number of money transfer services including mobile wallet, bank deposit, cash pickup and home delivery. Choose the service that suits your needs and start supporting your loved ones with Small World.

Your first transfer online is always free of fees!

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