What is Vehicle Registration?

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If you own a vehicle, you have probably heard the term “vehicle registration.” Do you know what it means, however? Many people wonder if vehicle registration refers to their license plates, registration sticker, inspection sticker, vehicle identification number or something else entirely.

By definition, vehicle registration means that your car and its unique license plate and VIN are on file with the government. No two vehicle registrations are alike, which makes it easy for the government to track who owns which vehicle, assess fees and deal with traffic infractions.

License plates, also known as vehicle tags, contain an alphanumeric sequence unique to your vehicle. A VIN is also specific to each vehicle, and is typically a much longer string of letters and numbers. Both are on file as part of your vehicle registration.

Where Do You Get Vehicle Registration?

After you buy a car, you are required to register it with your state. This can be accomplished at your local DMV office. In addition, some car dealerships have license plates and temporary registration stickers with vehicle identification numbers in-house and are able to file the appropriate paperwork for you.

In order to file a vehicle registration with your governing authority, you need to have a title in your name. This title, which you obtain when purchasing a car or receiving one as a gift, is proof that you own the vehicle. You also need to be covered by motor vehicle insurance and be able to provide proof of the same in order to register your vehicle. In some states, an inspection or emissions test is also required.

What is a Vehicle Registration Renewal Notice?

Your vehicle registration needs to be periodically renewed. In many states, this occurs every two years. Shortly before your registration is due for renewal, you will receive a notice in the mail informing you of such. You will need to submit your registration payment, which varies by state and vehicle type, along with a renewal form, to your local DMV. Your new vehicle registration will not impact your VIN or vehicle tag number (unless you request a change of tag number at an extra cost).

What is a Vehicle Registration Sticker?

To prove that your vehicle is registered, display a vehicle registration sticker on your license plate or on your windshield. Proper placement depends on the state in which you reside, so refer to your local DMV for full instructions. This sticker may contain your VIN and tag number, or it might just display the registration expiration information, depending on your state. Typically, your name and address will not be listed on the sticker, as it is visible to passers-by. Each time you renew your vehicle registration, you will be sent a new registration sticker to replace the previous one.

What is a Vehicle Registration Tag Number?

A vehicle registration tag number is the alphanumeric sequence displayed on your license plates. Depending on your state, the length of the tag number will vary. These sequences are always unique in a given state, guaranteeing that no two vehicles bear the same set of license plates.

How Do I Check the Registration of a Car?

Usually, it is not possible for individuals to check the registration of someone else’s car. The DMV, other government agencies, and law enforcement are able to check vehicle registrations. In addition, insurance companies often have access to this information. Depending on your state, you may be able to create an account with the DMV and check your own registration online, but you won’t be able to see information about cars that don’t belong to you.

Read More: How to Find a Car Registration Address

Can You Register Your Car Online?

The ability to register your vehicle online is growing increasingly common. Many states, including California, New York, Florida, Oregon and Arizona permit online registration. In certain instances, you will need to make a trip to the DMV for the registration of a brand new car. Online registration is usually valid for cars that have already been registered in your name.


  • Vehicle registration includes a tag number and a vehicle identification number that are unique to your car. These numbers are filed with the Department of Motor Vehicles.

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