How to Register a Car in Texas

By Leslie Bloom - Updated April 17, 2018
man driving car from rear view

If you live in Texas and own a car, you’ll need to get it registered with the state's Department of Motor Vehicles. The Texas DMV has made this process as painless as possible by providing several options for registering your car in the state.

Tip

To register a car in Texas, you need to pass a vehicle inspection, show proof of current liability insurance and pay the necessary fees.

The first step to registering a car in Texas is to pass a vehicle inspection. This annual test ensures your car is compliant with current safety standards. Several counties in the state also require emissions testing to make sure the car meets federal clean-air requirements. You can do testing at an Official Vehicle Inspection Station.

Once your car passes the vehicle inspection, register it in Texas by one of three ways:

  1. By mail. Your annual registration renewal notice comes via mail. To register by mail, return the renewal notice, a copy of the vehicle inspection report, proof of current liability insurance and the required fees.
  2. Online. You can renew registration online up to 90 days before the old registration expires. Provide the same information as is needed by mail, along with your license plate and vehicle identification numbers. Registering online saves you $1 on your annual registration fee.
  3. In person. If you prefer, take all of the needed information to your local DMV office or to an approved substation. If you didn’t get your registration renewal in the mail, you’ll also need to bring the registration receipt from the prior year.

Fees When You Register a Car in Texas

There are both mandatory and voluntary fees associated with registering a car in Texas. Many of the mandatory fees vary depending on the type of vehicle, the county it’s registered in and the county of inspection. The voluntary fees are donations that you can opt to include with your registration.

The standard mandatory fee for registering a car in Texas is $50.75, plus an additional $1 that goes to the state’s Insurance Verification Project. The registration fee helps fund construction and maintenance for the state’s transportation system. Other mandatory fees include:

  • Local fee. Local fees go toward funding roads and bridges, long-term transportation projects and child safety programs in the county. These fees can be up to $31.50, depending on the county in which you register your car.
  • Special plates fee. If you have specialty license plates, you will be charged a special plates fee. This fee varies depending on the particular plate.
  • Inspection fee. This amount covers the state’s portion of the car’s inspection fee. This fee ranges from $2.75 to $22.
  • Processing and handling fee. This fee covers the cost of processing your vehicle’s registration.

There is also a fee to perform the annual inspection of your car. The cost varies based on the county where your car is registered and the type of inspection you need.

If you would like to make a voluntary contribution in any amount to the Fund for Veterans’ Assistance, Texas State Parks or Donate Life Texas, you can do so when you complete the vehicle registration.

What Is the Fine for an Expired Registration in Texas?

If you fail to renew your car’s registration in Texas, you may be fined. You can still drive your car for up to five days after the registration expires without any penalty, but after that time lapses, you can be fined up to $200.

Be sure to keep an eye out for your registration renewal notice in the mail so that you don’t run the risk of an expired registration. You can always renew your registration without the notice if needed. Just take a look at your license plate to see the month and year that your car registration expires so you don’t miss it.

How Do You Transfer a Car Title in Texas?

If you buy or sell a car in Texas, you must transfer the car’s title. When buying a new car from a dealer, the dealer handles the paperwork pertaining to title and registration. If you buy or sell a car through a private transaction, you are responsible for properly transferring the car's title.

When buying a car, you must sign the back of the car’s valid title document, submit the appropriate paperwork and transfer the title within 30 days. When selling a car, assign title to the buyer by filling out the appropriate section on the car’s title document, including the date of sale.

The following documents are needed when transferring a car's title in Texas:

  • title document, either original or a certified copy that is properly assigned
  • buyer’s valid identification
  • proof of valid and current liability insurance
  • application for Texas title, with original signature of the buyer and optional signature of the seller

Along with the required documentation, you must also pay fees, which vary depending on the county. Fees include a title application fee, sales tax and applicable registration fees. You must also pay a credit card convenience fee if paying by that method.

If you do not transfer title within the required 30 days, you'll also pay a delinquent transfer fee and sales tax penalties, which increase the longer you wait to transfer title.

About the Author

Leslie Bloom earned a J.D. from U.C. Davis’ King Hall, with a focus on public interest law. She is a licensed attorney who has done advocacy work for children and women. She holds a B.S. in print journalism, and has more than 20 years of experience writing for a variety of print and online publications, including the Journal of Juvenile Law and Policy.

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