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What Happens If You Don’t Renew Your Vehicle’s Registration

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Forget to renew your vehicle’s registration? You may be subject to severe fees, fines, and penalties. Read on to find out you can prevent that from happening

It’s a common oversight. You receive a courtesy notification — usually the same time every year — reminding you that your vehicle’s registration has to be renewed. Because it’s several months away, you place the notification in a safe location.

Eventually, however, it slips your mind. Next thing you know, your registration is expired. Is this the end of the world? Of course not. But you may face some hefty fees, fines, and penalties if you don’t renew your registration.

Grace Periods

Before you panic, check to see if your state has a grace period. This is simply a period of time you have to renew your registration before penalties incur. For example, in Colorado, Iowa, and Oklahoma, you have one month after your registration expires to get it renewed. In Texas, you have only five days for the renewal of an expired car tag.

At the same time, not every state has grace periods. Most states are like California and do not have a grace period. If you reside in a state with no grace period, you need to make sure that it’s renewed prior to the expiration date.

Here’s how you can find if your state offers a grace period:

● Check the registration renewal card you received in the mail.

● If you have one handy, go through your state’s driver handbook. If not, you can find your state’s handbook and manuals by visiting Drive Safely.

● Visit and search on your state’s DMV website.

Late Fees and Other Penalties for Late Registration Renewal

Let’s say that for whatever reason, you have not renewed your vehicle’s registration — even if your state has a grace period. What can you expect to happen?

For starters, you will get pulled over by the police. While there may be a chance that the officer gives you a warning, you’ll most likely be issued a citation where you must renew your license in a specific amount of time. If your registration has been expired for more than six months, not only will you receive a citation, but your vehicle could be towed and impounded on the spot. If this happens, you can’t get your vehicle back until all associated fines have been paid.

Also be aware that because not renewing your registration is a non-moving violation, you can still receive a citation if parked legally and unoccupied — as long as it’s not on private property.

If you have multiple citations over a limited amount of time, you may even land in jail — on top of more severe penalties.

As for late fees, that varies among the states. Typically, it can be anywhere from $4 to $30. However, some states also add a penalty. In California, you’re charged a $25 fee and a penalty that’s usually 4 to 5 times the fee. This means you could spend between $125 to $225 plus processing fees.

In other states, the fees are calculated by a percentage of your vehicle property tax.

Renewing Your Vehicle’s Registration

What’s the best way to avoid these late fees, fines, and penalties? Make sure that you renew your vehicle’s registration on time with your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), Secretary of State (SOS), Department of Revenue (DOR) or Motor Vehicle Division (MVD).

The good news is that you should receive a courtesy reminder in the mail. These notices are sent out a month, if not more, before your registration expires. Additionally, your registration is often renewed annually in the same month. For example, every September. Knowing this, you could mark it in your calendar.

Once you receive your reminder you’ll need at least the following items:

● Car registration renewal notice.

● Proof of car insurance.

● Driver license number, vehicle’s license plate number, and last four digits of a vehicle identification number (VIN).

● Some states, like Georgia, require your Social Security Number.

● Payment for the applicable fees.

Some states, such as Arizona and New York, require a smog check or emission test. And, in Texas, you must be current with your child support in order to register your vehicle.

After you have the following items in order, you can then submit the renewal notice and payment by mail or by visiting your local DMV branch.

Most states now allow you to renew your registration online as well. Not only is this convenient, it’s also much faster than going through the mail or spending hours at the DMV. As an added perk, you may not even have to have your renewal notice to renew your registration online.

To be honest, renewing your vehicle’s registration only takes a few minutes when renewing it online. And you automatically receive more than enough notice to renew it before the expiration date.

To avoid any headaches, and to keep your hard-earned money in your pocket, make sure to renew your resignation as soon as you receive the reminder in the mail.

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