Whether you’re a brand-new Austinite or buying a new car in the state, you need to know how to register a vehicle in Texas. Registering your car is essential because it allows you to legally operate it in the state. Nothing cuts a killer Texas road trip short like getting pulled over for an expired registration. In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about registering your car in Texas, including how to get a registration, how often to renew your registration and the laws around license plates in Texas.
How to Register a Vehicle in Texas
Suppose you’re registering a car for the first time in Texas. In that case, you’ll need to take a fun-filled journey to your local Texas Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) Regional Service Center. Oh boy! You can find a list of DMV locations on the Texas DMV website. You can also find several private title and registration companies if you really want to avoid the DMV (can’t say we blame you)
When you go to the DMV, you’ll need to bring the following documents with you:
- Your driver’s license or another form of photo ID
- Proof of insurance
- Proof of ownership (such as a title or bill of sale)
- An inspection certificate (if your vehicle is more than two years old)
You’ll be given a registration sticker and license plates for your vehicle when you submit your paperwork and pay the necessary fees. The registration sticker should be placed on your car’s windshield, and the license plates should be placed on the front and back of your vehicle. We’ll cover more about license plate laws in Texas later in this article.
Suppose you’re moving to Texas from another state (welcome!). In that case, you must register your car in Texas within 30 days of establishing residency. You’ll need to bring the same documents as someone registering a vehicle for the first time in Texas, as well as your out-of-state registration and a completed application for Texas title and/or registration. You’ll also need your car inspected at a Texas state inspection station.
Vehicle Inspections in Texas
If your vehicle is over two years old, you’ll need to have it inspected at a Texas state inspection station before registering it. The inspection covers a variety of safety and emissions-related systems in your vehicle, including:
- Exhaust system
- Fuel system
- Emissions control system
- Wiper blades
During the inspection, the technician will also check your vehicle’s headlights, taillights, turn signals, and other lighting equipment to ensure they work correctly. Fun fact: Wiper blades and lugnuts are the number one fail condition. That’s part of why we suggest checking your wiper blades seasonally since it’s something you can handle yourself. If you do need new wiper blades, it’s a cheap fix.
If your car fails the inspection, you’ll need to get it repaired and retested before registering it. We don’t perform registration inspections at Juke Auto. However, if your vehicle fails, we can help you get it up to snuff.
**Beginning in 2025 most drivers won’t have to have their vehicles inspected. However, in Travis County you will still need to have an annual emissions inspection.
Renewing Your Registration in Texas
Once you’ve registered your car in Texas, you’ll need to renew your registration yearly. You can renew your registration online, by mail, or in person at a Texas DMV office. You’ll need to provide your license plate number and either your vehicle identification number (VIN) or your renewal notice. You’ll also need to pay the necessary fees.
You’ll be sent a new registration sticker for your vehicle when you renew your registration. This sticker should be placed on the windshield of your vehicle. You may be subject to late fees and penalties if you don’t renew your registration on time.
License Plate Laws in Texas
In Texas, license plates are required on the front and back of all vehicles. The license plate should be clearly visible and not obscured by anything, including a license plate frame. If your license plate is damaged, lost, or stolen, you must get a replacement from the Texas DMV.
It’s important to note that Texas law prohibits using paper license plates, also known as dealer tags, beyond a certain period of time. Paper plates are intended to be used briefly while a car is being sold or transferred.
**Beginning in July 2025, paper plates will be banned in Texas. Dealers will need to issue metal plates at the time of sale.
However, some people have abused the system by using paper plates longer than they should. This makes it challenging (sometimes impossible) to identify the vehicle’s owner in the event of a traffic violation or accident. If you see a car with paper plates that appear to be expired, you can report it to the Texas DMV.
Types of Texas Auto Titles
When it comes to how to register a vehicle in Texas, you should be aware of several types of auto titles. This info is especially useful if you’re buying or selling a car in the state. Understanding the differences between these titles can help you avoid potential problems down the road. Here are the most common types of auto titles in Texas:
- Clean title: A clean title means no liens or legal issues are attached to the vehicle. This is the most desirable type of title, as it indicates that the car is wholly owned by the seller, and there are no outstanding debts or legal claims against it.
- Salvage title: A salvage title is issued when a vehicle has been declared a total loss by an insurance company. This could be due to severe damage from an accident, flood, or other disaster. While rebuilding and repairing a salvage vehicle is possible, it can be challenging to get financing or insurance for it. Additionally, a salvage title can significantly reduce the value of the car. Some counties prohibit the registration of these titles altogether.
- Lemon title: A lemon title is issued when a vehicle has repeated issues that cannot be fixed by the manufacturer or dealership. If a car has a lemon title, purchasing it is generally not a good idea.
- Bonded title: A bonded title is issued when the original title is lost or stolen. The owner must purchase a bond to ensure no outstanding liens or legal claims against the vehicle before a new title can be issued.
When buying a vehicle, it is vital to check the title carefully to ensure that it is valid and accurate. A vehicle history report can provide valuable information about the title and any previous damage or issues with the vehicle. If you have any questions about a vehicle’s title, it is best to consult with a trusted mechanic.
If you run into any problems when purchasing or registering a vehicle in Texas, we’d be happy to help you out. Give us a call and we’ll set you up with an appointment.
Registering a car in Texas is necessary to ensure you’re legally allowed to operate your vehicle on Texas roads. By following the steps outlined in this guide, you can make sure that you’re in compliance with Texas laws.