Your vehicles must be registered with your local state motor vehicle agency. This process usually involves filling out a form and paying a fee and should be done when you buy a vehicle when you move between states, and annually for your existing cars.
The rates charged for registering a new vehicle, registering a non-resident vehicle, and registering a used car are often different. Costs also differ from one state to another, and the exact process for registering a car varies depending on state and local laws. It is essential to check with a motor vehicle agency office in your area for accurate local information.
In a survey of state registration fees completed in May 2018, 45 states set the cost to register a vehicle between $8 and $225.
Costs in Different States
All fees shown here are approximate rates for registering a car you already own. Five states do not have set rates, but instead determine the cost of registration by looking at the vehicle’s age, Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP), or gross vehicle weight. These states are: Colorado; Iowa; Michigan; New Hampshire; and Utah.
The states with the lowest registration fees are:
Arkansas at $8
North Carolina at $15
Louisiana at $20
Kentucky at $25
Kansas at $35
The states with the highest costs for registering a vehicle are:
Alaska at $100
Oregon at $112
Indiana at $197
Montana at $217
Florida at $225
Most other states have car registration fees averaging between $50 and $100. However, many states also add additional fees, such as weight fees, special plate fees, county or district fees, and a Vehicle License Fee (VLF). Some of these may be deductible from your income tax.
Calculating Vehicle Registration Fees in Your State
Many state motor vehicle agencies now have online calculators for estimating how much your registration will cost. These calculators add in all of the fees for your location and vehicle and provide a fairly accurate estimate. Bear in mind, though, that state motor vehicle agencies can and do change their fees from time to time, so always check that you have the latest data.
When using a vehicle registration fee calculator, you can choose to estimate fees for a new vehicle, an out-of-state vehicle, or a used vehicle. You will need to enter information such as:
Year and make of vehicle
Type of engine (gas, diesel, electric)
County of residence
Vehicle license number or VIN (used vehicles only)
With all of this information, you can properly assess your various purchase options to determine the overall cost for each car, including all registration fees, before you buy.