The Lone Star State is replacing California as the target destination for Americans seeking greener pastures and new opportunities. These people are bypassing the Golden State's over-regulation and high living costs in favor of major Texas hub cities like Houston, Austin, and Dallas.
So if you're one of the 559,000 people who moved to Texas in 2019, have since moved here, or are planning to do so, you'll need to know how to register a car in Texas. Here are the steps to review whether you're bringing an out-of-state vehicle or planning on buying something in Texas.
Topmarq Tip: How to Sell a Car Privately in Texas
How to Register an Out-of-State Car in Texas
Texas allows newcomers a 30-day grace period from when they arrive in the state to register their vehicles. In that period, there are several steps, so it's best to start the process early to avoid running afoul of the rules.
Step 1: Vehicle Inspection
The first thing an out-of-stater must do is take their car to an inspection station. How do you know where to go? You can find a certified location via the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) website (just enter your Texas zip code). The cost for the inspection is $7, but $40 for a commercial vehicle. It's also $7 for a motorcycle or trailer. Be sure to bring your insurance card with the minimum coverage amounts:
- $30,000 per injured person in an accident, up to $60,000 in total
- $25,000 coverage for property damage
Verify that your insurance policy meets or exceeds these requirements before heading out for the inspection.
Step 2: Complete the Registration
With a successful inspection report in hand, the next step involves getting a registration sticker and Texas license plates. Begin by locating the nearest office of the county tax-assessor collector via the Texas DMV website . Just identify your county name to reveal the necessary information.
You'll need to bring the following documents to the tax-assessor collector's office:
- Insurance card to verify proof of coverage
- Out-of-state insurance policy papers to ensure coverage meets the minimum requirements (as mentioned above)
- Inspection report indicating the vehicle has passed Texas safety requirements
- Proof of vehicle ownership: examples include the registration or title from your previous state, military ownership papers, or foreign documentation
As a first-time registrant in Texas, you must complete Form 130-U , also known as the Application for Texas Title and/or Registration. Unlike many other states, Texas does not require residents to title their vehicles, and in the future, when you renew registrations or deal with other DMV tasks, you won't need the title. It's only for the first time registering that Form 130-U is required.
And while you're registering (for the first time), be sure to ask the DMV representative to sign you for eReminder . It's an email prompt that gets sent when it's time to renew the registration (see further below for registration renewal in Texas). You can also set this up on your own.
Additional: Fees and Costs
The basic registration fee is $50.75, plus an extra $1 for TexasSure, the electronic insurance verification program. That brings the total rate to $51.75. In addition, you'll also need to pay fees relating to sales tax, as per the requirements of the Comptroller of Public Accounts. The sales tax will either be $90 or the difference between your previous state's sales tax and the Texas sales tax.
Step 3: Getting a Texas Driver's License
Once your car is registered, you can get your driver's license from the Texas DPS . You'll need proof of your citizenship or residence status, verification of your Texas residency, your social security number, and the completed vehicle registration with proof of insurance. You must get your Texas driver's license within 90 days of moving to the state.
How to Register a Used Car Bought in Texas
So, we've learned how new arrivals in Texas can register their vehicles and establish themselves as legal drivers in Texas. But what about when you're already set up in the state and need to handle new registrations? First, let's look at registering a recently purchased pre-owned vehicle in Texas.
In many respects, the process is similar to registering an out-of-state car. The main difference is that you will already have a Texas driver's license, and it's assumed that insurance coverage already meets Texas requirements.
You don't need to worry about the registration details if you're buying a brand-new car from a Texas dealership. The dealer will register the vehicle within 20 days of the sale and mail you the receipt and documents from the county tax-assessor collector office.
In the case of a pre-owned car, the dealership will also likely manage the paperwork and arrange to transfer the title. At most, you may need to handle the final registration steps on your own. For regular registration, especially when buying from a private seller, the steps are as follows:
Step 1: Inspection
Using the same method covered earlier, have the vehicle inspected and ensure it passes, so there are no impediments to getting a new registration. A savvy seller will have already done this to ensure a fast sale; otherwise, you're on your own. Be sure to get the seller's inspection report if one is available.
Step 2: Transfer of Title and Insurance
Texas law requires that the transfer of title happen within 30 days from the date of sale. This is more of a problem for the seller than the buyer because otherwise, the seller is on the hook for tickets or other vehicle-related penalties. To ensure a smooth process, it's best for both parties to go together to the county tax office and ensure that the paperwork is done correctly.
The seller must:
- Provide a properly signed title, including the date of sale and the current odometer reading
- Provide a signed Form 130-U clearly indicating the sales price
- Remove their license plates from the vehicle (the plates follow the driver, not the car)
The seller should also provide all available documentation relating to the vehicle, including service history and other official documents that came with the car.
Step 3: Registration
With the title now in your name, you can complete registration as described above as the document verifies your ownership status. Be sure that you also have updated or applied for insurance on the new vehicle.
How to Renew Your Registration in Texas
Renewing your registration in Texas requires the same steps for inspection and registration that we have described above. We won't repeat those steps here, but here are your renewal options.
If you don't use eReminder (see below), just examine the license plate sticker for when registration renewal is required. Look for the month and year information. For example, 12/22 means the registration expires on the last day of December 2022 (specifically, December 31, 2022).
Online is the easiest way to renew a vehicle registration. An eReminder email notice will direct you to the online renewal page . Enter the car's license plate number and the last four digits of the VIN and click "Continue" to finish.
If online isn't an option, then renewal by mail is another method. Just send the following items to your local county tax office:
- Renewal notice
- Copy of vehicle inspection report
- Proof of insurance
- Required fees
In-person renewal is another option. Take the registration renewal notice and proof of insurance to your county tax office. License plate information, VIN, or a previous registration receipt can substitute for the notice.
Be sure to complete your registration on time, and welcome to Texas.