Texas Car Registration: A How-To Guide

January 27, 2012

Whether you have just purchased a new car, moved to the state or transferred ownership of an existing vehicle, you'll need to complete a Texas car registration. The Texas Department of Transportation and DMV ensure that all vehicles operated or parked on public roads must be adequately registered with the state. Depending upon where you are in the state, there are different procedures for car registration. Austin, Texas has a different set of protocols from other cities in the area, for instance. Generally, however, the process of registering a new car is similar no matter where you are in Texas. A new car must be registered within 30 days of arrival in Texas or the purchase date.

Gather the Appropriate Materials
Before you'll be able to register your vehicle, you'll need the following materials:

  • Certificate of inspection
  • Proof of insurance
  • Car title, complete with odometer reading
  • Title/Registration form (Form 130-U), available at the DMV

The last item on the list serves to both create a Texas title and registration. You can also apply for a Texas driver's license at the same time, if you are new to the state.

In order to receive the first item on the list, have the car inspected by an authorized inspection agency. These organizations check cars to make sure that they meet Texas' emissions and smog standards. You can find out more information about the agencies that provide this service by contacting your local DMV branch office.

Present the Documents
Bring the above documents as well as a method of payment to your local county tax office for processing. If you do not already have a Texas driver's license, you'll need one before you can complete the registration process.

There are a variety of fees that you may have to pay in order to complete the registration procedure. Contact your county tax office for additional information about those which are applicable to your case.

Affix the Temporary Plate
After you register the car, you'll receive a temporary paper license plate card to place in the rear window of your vehicle while you await the final printing of the real plate. Put this card in the window of your car immediately. Once you receive your license plates in the mail, replace the card with the true license plates, and be sure to affix the registration tags to the appropriate areas on the license plates themselves.

How to Renew Your Car Registration in Texas

In Texas, each registration is valid for only one year. You have to re-register each of your vehicles every year in order to legally drive them.

Collect Forms and Documentation
If your existing registration is about to expire, the Texas DMV will mail a printed renewal notice to the address they have on file. Check this notice for important information about your registration and the vehicle itself. In addition to serving as a reminder you need to renew your registration, the renewal notice also contains other information about your car, such as information about bringing your vehicle up to emissions standards. It is necessary for you to follow all of the steps listed on the renewal notice in order to be able to operate your car legally in the state of Texas.

In addition to the notice, collect a copy of the previous year's license receipt and take note of both your car's VIN number and license plate code before visiting the DMV to update your vehicle registration.

Check Availability of Online Renewal
Some counties in Texas allow you to renew your vehicle registration online. To determine whether your county participates in this program, visit the Texas state DMV website. You have to meet certain requirements in order to renew your vehicle online; namely, you'll need to be a resident of that county, have a valid email address, your car's current registration must have not expired yet, and the car must be up to all other road standards.

In most cases, however, you need to renew your vehicle registration either by mail or in person at your local DMV branch office.

Renewing in Person
If you do decide to renew your vehicle registration in person, bring along the documents listed above as well as proof of your car insurance. You can renew the registration at a DMV office or at a local county tax office. Be prepared to pay a fee. It may be necessary to pay additional fees in order to complete the re-registration process as well, and these fees will be outlined and highlighted on the renewal notice itself.

Renewing by Mail
When renewing by mail, include all of the information listed above, as well as a photocopy of your car insurance card. Mail the documents and the appropriate fees to your local county tax office for further processing.

How to Transfer a Vehicle in Texas

If you are selling or purchasing a used car in the state of Texas, you need to be familiar with the vehicle transfer requirements and procedures. The DMV requires a motor vehicle transfer notice to be completed and submitted in full. A Texas vehicle transfer notification and application is relatively simple to complete, but you still need to take care while doing it to ensure you complete it within the proper time frame. Failure to do so may not legally transfer ownership of the car and may incur fines and other legal damages in the future.

Collect the Appropriate Forms and Materials
In order to properly transfer the title for your vehicle to a new owner, or to transfer an existing title into your name, you need the following forms:

  • Vehicle transfer permit
  • Application for Texas Certificate of Title (Form 130-U)
  • Car title
  • Car registration receipt and information

The first two forms are available from your local DMV office, while the last two should be in the owner's records for the car.

Note the Mileage
Take note of the odometer reading in the car and record the information on the title itself. If the car is less than 10 years old, if it weighs less than eight tons or if it has an approved carrying capacity of less than two tons, you need to note the mileage appropriately. There are three different mileage classifications in Texas:

  • "A": This refers to the actual mileage shown on the odometer
  • "N": This refers to a situation in which the original odometer has been broken or switched over to a new reader, whereby the odometer reading in the vehicle is not accurate
  • "X": This refers to a situation in which the number of miles driven has exceeded the listing on the odometer

Provide the appropriate letter label along with the mileage reading on the title.

Sign the Title
The current owner of the car should sign and date the title for the vehicle. After this, they can give the title over to the new owner, along with a copy of the registration receipt and information. The previous owner should remove the license plates from the car and retain them for future use. The new owner must also sign and date the title as confirmation of the mileage reading.

Complete the Title Application
The new owner must then complete the application process for a new title for the vehicle. This can be done by filling out the application form from the DMV and submitting the information to a local DMV branch office. Once this process is complete, the title is officially transferred over to the new owner.

If you have any questions about the process of buying or selling a used car, or if you're unsure about the steps necessary to transfer a title, consult with the DMV in your area.

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