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  • Writer's pictureJeff Guymon

Illinois car registration: a helpful, illustrative guide

Updated: Aug 13, 2020

Whether you just moved to Illinois, purchased a new car, or need to renew your motor vehicle registration, this article will help answer your questions about these processes.

Questions this article will address are:

  • Can I complete my car registration online?

  • How do I register a car in Illinois for the first time?

  • How do I re-register or update the registration for a car in Illinois?

  • What fees are involved in Illinois vehicle registration?

  • What sort of inspection is needed?

  • Are there any special circumstances?

How to Complete your Car Registration Renewal in Illinois Online

The Illinois Secretary of State (SOS) offers an online platform for registration renewal that allows for an efficient four-step transaction to renew your license plates. This service is unavailable to individuals who are a part of the Circuit Breaker Program, have incorrect vehicle information, or want their Illinois stickers sent out of state.

The SOS suggests that motor vehicle owners renew their registration at least a month before it expires. If registration is renewed after the expiration date, drivers are still able to use the online service and are not charged a late fee, but are subject to potential tickets from law enforcement.

To renew online:

  1. Visit the S.O.S. website and input your Registration ID and P.I.N. (located on your renewal notice or current registration)

  2. Follow the direction to verify your information

  3. Pay (VISA, e-checks, MasterCard, Discover or American Express)

    1. Until August 2, 2020, the processor fee for e-checks is waived

  4. Print out your receipt

    1. If not re-plating: allow 5-10 business days for a renewal sticker

    2. If re-plating with the same license plate number: a temporary sticker will be sent in 5-10 business days and used until new actual ones are processed and sent.

    3. If re-plating and want new random numbers for the license plate: allow 2-4 weeks for new plates to arrive.

When you are waiting for your sticker or new plates in the mail, you can use your receipt as proof of renewal.

In 2005, Illinois stopped sending out renewal notices by mail in an attempt to save money in postage and encourage a more environmentally friendly form of delivery, email. Go to the IL SOS site if you would like to sign-up for the electronic delivery of your renewal notice. The only information you will need is your Registration ID and PIN, both of which can be found on your current registration.

Other Registration Renewal Options in Illinois


To renew in-person, you are required to have your renewal notice accessible. If you are not set up for email renewal reminders, the IL SOS has made it possible to print your renewal notice online. Simply enter your registration ID and PIN located on your current registration to download the form. Bring the printed document and a form of payment to any currency exchange, bank, or Illinois Secretary of State facility that processes vehicle registration stickers to complete your renewal.

By Mail

To mail in your registration renewal, you will need a physical renewal notice. If you do not have this document and want to renew by mail, you can either:

  1. Follow the process noted above in the in-person registration section for printing your notice. Once printed, you will need to sign the bottom of this document with your first and last name. The signed renewal notice and a check payable to the Illinois Secretary of State will need to be included in the envelope.

  2. Write a letter with your name, address, license plate number, and vehicle information (year, make, model, V.I.N.). In the envelope, you will need this letter plus a copy of your current registration card (if applicable), and payment in the form of a check.

The mailing address:

Illinois Secretary of State

Vehicle Services Department

501 S. 2nd St., Rm. 011

Springfield, IL 62756

Note, you will need to allow for 30 days of processing time, so plan accordingly.


The Touch-Tone Phone System is available by calling (866) 545-9606. You will need access to your renewal notice for your Registration ID and PIN. Payment can be made in the form of American Express, Discover, or MasterCard credit cards. Processing Fees Apply.


Renew your registration tags directly after your vehicle successfully passes an emissions test at the testing station. After passing the emissions test, you will receive an inspection certificate. Take the certificate to the testing station office before leaving. Payment options include Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and American Express. Cash will not be accepted.

Call the Public Inquiry Division at (800) 252-8980 if you do not have a current registration card or are unable to locate your Registration ID and P.I.N. To identify yourself when on the phone, you will need to provide the license plate number and the address used the last time your information was updated with the Illinois Secretary of State.

COVID-19 Updates:

Secretary of State Jesse White announced that through July 31, offices would only be serving new drivers, those with expired driver's licenses/I.D.s and vehicle transactions. Due to coronavirus, all employees are required to wear face masks. For test drives, employees will wear face masks and face shields. Illinois residents are required to wear face masks and practice social distancing of six-feet. After Governor JB Pritzker's proclamation on June 1 ended, White extended expiration dates for driver's license/I.D. and vehicle registration for 90 days. Real ID deadlines have also been extended until October 1, 2021.

How to Complete Your Out-Of-State Car Registration

Planting your roots somewhere new can be stressful. The information below will provide instructions on ways to be eligible for Illinois residency, how to complete out-of-state car registration, and how to get an Illinois driver's license/I.D.

To prove Illinois Residency:

  • State of Illinois tax return or federal tax transcript

  • Illinois high school and/or college transcript

  • Illinois driver's license

  • Utility or rent bills in the applicant's (or parent's) name

  • Illinois auto registration card

  • A residential lease (in the applicant's or parent's name)

  • Wage and tax statements (I.R.S. Form W-2)

  • State of Illinois ID card (issued by the S.O.S.)

  • Statement of benefits (Illinois Department of Employment Security)

  • Statement of benefits (Social Security Administration)

  • Illinois voter's registration card

  • Property tax bill

  • I.R.S. Form 1099 - Miscellaneous Income Statements

After becoming a resident, you will have 30 days to apply for vehicle title and vehicle registration. To successfully register an out-of-state vehicle, you must first complete an Application for Vehicle Transaction(s) (VSD-190).

Documents and Information Needed:

  • Name and Illinois address

  • Odometer disclosure statement

  • Vehicle description (year, make, model, V.I.N., body type, date of purchase, and if it is new or used)

  • If lienholders: names and addresses

  • Owners(s) original signatures(s)

An out-of-state driver's license is valid in the Prairie State for 90 days, or when your old license expires (whichever comes first). You will need to visit one of the Secretary of State Facility locations to obtain an IL license.

To get a Driver's License/ID, you must:

  • Give up out-of-state licenses, permits, commercial driver's licenses (CDLs), and state I.D. cards

  • Provide acceptable identification

  • Pay appropriate fees (taxes and fees section for more information)

  • Proof of Liability Insurance

  • Pass exams needed (vision, screening, written and/or driving)

    • Vision exam (everyone)

    • Those 75 and older must take a driving exam

A 90-day paper temporary driver's license/I.D. is given to new applicants while they wait for the permanent one to be sent by mail. Allow up to 15 days for the permanent one to arrive.

For mandatory insurance:

The state of Illinois requires all motor vehicle owners to have vehicle liability insurance (auto insurance) coverage on active registrations. Some popular auto insurance companies are State Farm, GEICO, and Allstate. Minimum fines of $500 and suspension of license plates are given to those who drive uninsured. The following are the minimum amounts required:

  • $25,000 - injury or death of one person in an accident

  • $50,000 - injury or death of more than one person in an accident

  • $20,000 - property damage

How To Complete New Motor Vehicle Registration In Illinois

Illinois uses the Electronic Registration and Title (E.R.T.) System to allow new vehicle owners to complete and print Application for Vehicle Transaction(s) (VSD 190). These forms can also be obtained by visiting an S.O.S. facility or calling the toll-free number: 1-(800) 252-8980. Completed applications can be brought in to the nearest Secretary of State facility or by mail.

If purchasing from a Private Party:

It is your responsibility as the buyer to submit the title and information to the SOS within 20 days of purchase. To report your purchase, you must use Form RUT-50 to determine the taxes required to be paid. The Tax Form RUT-50 is available at most S.O.S. facilities or online with the application.

To title and register your new car, you will need to:

  • Provide proof of auto insurance

  • Complete an Application for Vehicle Transactions (VSD 190)

  • Provide a valid Odometer Disclosure Statement signed by both the seller and buyer

  • Verify the title is correctly assigned from the seller to the buyer. Note, the buyer name must match the application

  • Have paid the $150 title fee

  • Have the taxes paid on the vehicle

  • Have paid the registration fees

For more information on registration fees and taxes, please see the “Taxes and Fees” section.

To apply by mail:

Secretary of State

Vehicle Services Department

501 S. 2nd. St., Room 014

Springfield, IL 62756

To apply in-person: Find your nearest Secretary of State facility.

If purchasing from a dealer:

Car dealers in Illinois can charge customers up to $180 to take care of registration, title, and other paperwork on their behalf. Dealers have 20 days to submit the following information to the Secretary of State:

  • Sales Tax Transaction Return (Form ST-556)

  • Title and registration application

  • Surrender document

  • Registration fees and title fees (check made payable to Illinois Secretary of State)

  • Tax check (made payable to Illinois Department of Revenue)

How to calculate and understand fees and taxes for car registration in Illinois

Registration fees in Illinois vary depending on vehicle weight and type as well as license plate type.

The IL SOS has provided the following fee breakdown:

Dealer Tax

Purchases made from dealerships are subject to a Vehicle Sales and Use Tax (RUT-25). These additional costs help fund the development of new roadways and infrastructures within Illinois, making them safer to drive on. The Sales and Use Tax varies depending on the county you reside in. To find out what your rate would be, MyTax Illinois has a Tax Rate Finder available. All you have to do is input your county and a date to see the tax rate for said date. Be aware, these rates are subject to change if you apply a trade-in to your purchase because a trade-in changes the taxable value of your vehicle.

Private Party Vehicle Use Tax

The tax rate for private-party vehicle purchases is determined by either the fair market value of the motor vehicle or the purchase price. If the purchase price of the car is over $15,000, this tax is determined by the fair market price of the vehicle. For this calculation, use Table B. If it is below $15,000, this tax is based on the year of the vehicle and can be calculated using Table A. There is no trade-in deduction for this charge. To determine if your purchase or transfer is subject to a local private party tax, refer to the RUT-6, Form RUT-50 Reference Guide.

Smog and Emissions Testing

The state of Illinois values its residents' health and safety, therefore it has put in place a required emissions test every two years for all vehicles that are four years or older in the Chicago and Metro-East areas. An Emissions Testing notice is sent out four months before your current Illinois license plate expires. You are also able to check whether your vehicle needs an emissions test by entering your VIN and license plate number into the Illinois Air Team Vehicle Eligibility Check Tool. Testing locations can be found using the Testing Station and Repair Shop Locator.

During the emission test process, vehicles must undergo a Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) inspection to ensure that they meet the testing standards. A VIN inspection verifies the VIN on the vehicle matches the one listed on the registration and/or title document.

Vehicles that need to be tested:

  • 1996 models and newer gasoline-powered passenger vehicles if they are more than four years old

  • New residents in areas that require testing

Vehicles that are exempt from emissions testing:

  • Vehicles that do not need new registration

  • Vehicles that are diesel-powered or exclusively electric

  • 1995 models or before that complied with the I.L. Vehicle Emissions Inspection Law in 2007

  • Vehicles registered and in compliance with emissions inspections requirements of another state

  • 2006 models or earlier with a manufacturer gross vehicle weight rating between 8,501- 14,000 pounds

For any questions, contact the Illinois Air Team (844)258-9071.

Passing Emissions Test

  • After passing the emissions testing, the station will notify the Illinois SOS electronically, and you will be able to renew your inspection.

Failed Emissions Test

  • If your vehicle fails the emissions test, repairs need to be made. Repair shops can be located using your zip code and mile radius locator on the Illinois Air Team website. A Repair Data Form (RDF) will be given to you by the technician with details about what is wrong with the vehicle. After alterations have been completed, the vehicle needs to complete a retest before the registration expires. Tests can be done up to four months before registration expiration dates.

COVID Extensions:

Due to COVID-19, vehicle registration expiration dates have been extended currently for at least 90 days. To manage the traffic volume at inspection stations and reduce wait times, the Illinois E.P.A. is asking motorists to stagger their testing based on the chart below. Extended testing hours on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Saturdays have been put in place to accommodate the missed hours during the pandemic.

Hours of Operation

Monday & Tuesday 7:30AM - 6:30PM

Wednesday, Thursday, & Friday 8 AM - 6 PM

Saturday 7 AM - 3:30 PM

Special Circumstances

There are a few programs in Illinois to help the elderly, disabled, low-income, and homeless with motor vehicles, emissions, and I.D. card fees.

Benefit Access Program

Illinois has the Benefit Access Program (previously, the Circuit Breaker Program), in which the Secretary of State's office provides reduced-fee license plates for senior citizens and those with disabilities. Applications for the program can be found here. If the site redirects you, select the "Programs" section, and on the drop-down, click "Benefits Access."

No-Fee Identification Card

If a person is considered homeless, according to the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, 42 U.S.C. 11302 or 42 U.S.C. 11434a(2). The ID card will be issued free of charge with appropriate documentation to show: legal name, date of birth, social security number, and signature. A completed copy of the Homeless Status Certification must also be provided.

Economic Hardship Extension

If a vehicle owner fails an emissions test and cannot have the repairs taken care of due to financial hardships, they can apply for a one-year extension. The extension will allow them the time to have the vehicle repaired and pass another emissions test or receive a waiver. You can apply here.

Your car is registered, now what? Lower your payments!

Now that you feel the stress and confusion of vehicle registration vanishing, it’s time to take a look at how to improve another aspect of your car-ownership experience: your loan. This is where comes into play.

More than likely, if you received your vehicle loan from a dealership, you are drastically overpaying on your loan. We live in a time of greedy car dealerships which has caused the car loan market to be inefficient. This market inefficiency is due to the fact that most vehicle owners pay more for their loans than they were qualified for.

Most people can save money by refinancing their loans from the comfort of their homes. “Most people” maybe you, which is why you shouldn’t waste any more time or money and follow these simple steps.

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