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  • Writer's pictureJeff Guymon

Texas car registration: a helpful, illustrative guide

Updated: Aug 13, 2020

Are you new to the Lone Star State? Maybe you’ve just moved and your previous car registration was in California? Regardless of where you’re coming from, there are a few things to note about car registration in Texas that must be completed within the first 30 days of moving.

How to complete your car Registration in Texas

First, you need to have your vehicle inspected. Inspection means that you need to take your vehicle to a certified Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) inspection station and bring your insurance card. Typical DPS locations are mechanic shops, oil change locations, and service stations. During the inspection, your vehicle will be checked for various odds and ends such as tail lights, mirrors, exhaust systems, and more.

If your vehicle fails the inspection, you do not have to pay for it to be re-inspected as long as everything is fixed within 15 days and it is re-inspected at the same location. Failure to return within the 15 day grace period, means the inspection fee will have to be paid again.

After passing the inspection, you need to register your vehicle in Texas. Vehicle registration can be done in three ways: in-person, online, or by mail. A more detailed process on how to do this is listed later in the article. The total base state registration fee in Texas is $51.75, but varies depending on the county you reside in.

Of the $51.75, $50.75 is the base fee associated with the state, and $1 is for TexasSure, an electronic insurance verification program through the Department of Public Safety. At the local county tax-assessor collector office with your insurance card, proof of vehicle inspection, and proof of ownership (vehicle registration or title from previous state).

New stickers, if current one is lost, can be obtained by filling out Form (VTR-60) an Application for Replacement License Plates and/or Vehicle Registration Sticker. Lastly, it’s time to head to the DMV and get a driver's license. Make an appointment online to save time at your local DMV to get your new license within 90 days of moving to Texas.

In order to qualify for a Texas driver's license you will need proof of:

  1. U.S. Citizenship or if not a U.S. Citizen, evidence of lawful presence

  2. Texas Residency

  3. Identity

  4. Social Security Number

  5. Evidence of Texas Vehicle Registration for each vehicle you own (Currently waived due to COVID-19)

  6. Proof of insurance for each vehicle you own (if you do not own a vehicle, then you will sign a document saying so)

  7. Impact Texas Driver (ITD) completion

  8. Driver Education course (6 hours) completion, if 18 to 25 years old 

Texas registration for cars: How to renew yours today

Is it that time of year again? Did you receive a registration renewal notice in the mail? Texas vehicle registration renewal can be completed with a few quick steps:

Vehicle Inspection:

Take your vehicle to a certified Texas DPS inspection center (oil change locations, mechanics, service stations) to make sure everything is running smoothly. This is for your safety, as well as others!

After passing a vehicle inspection, you are able to begin your car registration in Texas no matter if you live in Houston, Austin, or any other city in 3 ways:

Online Registration

By using your license plate number and the last 4 digits of your VIN you can successfully renew your vehicle registration in Texas online at their TxDMV. A Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) can be found typically on the driver’s side dashboard or in the driver’s side door. It will be displayed on a sticker or visible through the windshield; if unable to find, check the vehicle title or vehicle insurance card.

The process can be done online 90 days before your current expiration date or up to six months after the expiration date. Expired registration that goes by without a citation will keep the same expiration month. Renewing online can even save you $1.00.

Registration By Mail

If choosing to renew your registration through mail include the following necessary items in one package: The renewal notice, a copy of your Vehicle Inspection Report (VIR), proof of liability insurance, and the fees necessary. Your local county tax office will process your renewal and mail your sticker to you once all forms have processed.

In Person Registration

Head to your closest DMV in your county or approved subsection and bring: renewal notice and proof of current liability insurance. In Texas, the law requires drivers to show that in case of an accident, they can pay for the damages done.

Typically this is done through auto liability insurance, which covers fees associated with car repairs, medical expenses, and damaged property. The eight types of auto coverages can be found in more detail on the Texas Department of Insurance site. There is an auto insurance requirement in the state of Texas in which drivers are required to have a coverage minimum of $30,000 per injured person, up to $60,000 total for everyone injured in an accident, and $25,000 for property damage.

Don’t have your renewal notice? No worries, you can use your license plate number, vehicle identification number (VIN), or registration receipt from the previous year. 

How to calculate and understand Fees and Taxes for car registration in Texas:

There is a local fee associated with vehicle registration that varies depending on the County Tax Assessor Collector’s office in which you reside. Along with this fee, there is an additional fee for the vehicle type.

  • Passenger Vehicles & Trucks under 6,000 lbs = $50.75

  • Trailers & Travel Trailers under 6,000 lbs = $45.00

  • Motorcycles & Mopeds = $30.00

  • All Vehicles 6,001 lbs - 10,000 lbs = $54.00

  • Other vehicle fees for weights varying from those listed, can be found on the Texas DMV website. 

If you’ve purchased a vehicle in Texas or brought a car into the state, you are responsible for the taxes associated with it. To do so, standard presumptive value (SVP) is used to calculate the sales tax on vehicles purchased in Texas and those brought into the state.

Standard presumptive value is determined by the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles (txdmv), and is a value of a motor vehicle based on average sales prices of private-party sales of used vehicles sold regionally. These taxes are only applicable for vehicles purchased through private-party sales. Vehicles sold through car dealerships would not be subject to SVP calculations.

Rates for cars sold in Texas

  • Texas residents purchasing a car in-state: 6.25% of sales price (minus any trade-in allowance)

  • Texas residents purchasing a used vehicle out-of-state: 6.25% of sales price

  • New residents bringing in a vehicle: $90

  • Even exchange: $5

  • Gift: $10

High taxes and fees for your car? Looking for ways to save money? Check out our Auto Loan Refinance Calculator to put some cash back in your pocket to help with those fees and taxes for Texas car registration!

Complete your car registration in Texas Online 

Have your inspection completed and don’t want to go into the DMV or mail your papers in? The Texas DMV offers an online registration alternative. The txdmv website requires your license plate number and last 4 digits of your Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) in order to identify the vehicle you wish to register.

Your VIN can be found typically on the driver’s side dashboard or in the driver’s side door. After all of your information has been imputed, the system will verify the data. Be sure to allow up to three weeks for the system to process and mail your sticker to you for the registration renewal in Texas. Keep track of your vehicle registration sticker as it is shipped to you in the mail.

Due to current public health issues with COVID, gov. Greg Abbott has announced that Texans are not required to register their vehicles or obtain titles. With less people congregating in groups, the hope is to reduce the spread of coronavirus. There will be a 60 day grace period once the services resume and residents will have to renew their overdue titles and registrations.

Getting your car inspected in Texas: A requirement for registration

Safety comes first in the Lone Star state, unfortunately this comes with extra money attached to it. Other states such as California, Florida, and New Jersey do not require safety inspections in order to pass car registration each year. The inspection not only includes the $14.50 fee required to receive it, but also is time intensive and requires work to be taken off or schedules to be re-arranged in order to meet appointment times. Those most affected by inspections in Texas are the low-income Texans.

What is going to be inspected? Well, it depends on the type of vehicle. For passenger cars, everything from the horn and mirror, to the window tint and tail lamps (making sure both work) are inspected. For motorcycles, the wheel assembly and making sure the one tail lamp is fully functioning. If you’re curious about what will be inspected for your vehicle, check out the Texas DMV site for a detailed list on each vehicle.  

Inspection Costs:

  • One Year Safety Inspection: $7.00

  • Two-Year Safety Inspection: $7.00

  • Trailer / Motorcycle: $7.00

  • Safety Emissions: $18.50 - $25.50 (varies by county)

  • Emissions-only vehicles: $11.50 - $18.50 (varies by county)

  • *more costs included here depending on the vehicle

During the safety inspections, some vehicles are required to have an emissions test as well. Vehicles required to have emissions tests are those in certain counties, gasoline powered, and those 2 to 24 years old or after the two-year initial inspection sticker. More information on specific counties and whether your vehicle needs to have an emissions test performed as well can be found on the Texas DPS site.

Texas uses On Board Diagnostics-Second Generation (OBDII), a computerized system that monitors emissions-related components in vehicles to ensure they are functioning correctly. Vehicles may fail the OBDII for reasons such as a faulty gas cap or mis-routed vacuum lines. If this happens, it is best to get the malfunctioning parts fixed as soon as possible in order to continue with car registration in Texas.

If extra time is needed, contact your local DPS waiver/challenge stations for more information on waivers and time extensions in the state of Texas.  

Importing a Vehicle From Mexico To Texas

In order to successfully import a vehicle from Mexico into Texas, all federal and state importation requirements must be met prior to the vehicle titling and registration in Texas. It’s important to note that the vehicle you’re looking to import is legally able to be imported into the United States. Many cars that are legal in Mexico are not legal in the USA.

For example, Honda Civic Type-R years 1997-2000 cars are not eligible, whereas McLaren F-1 1993-1998 cars are eligible. A more detailed approved and disapproved vehicles list can be found through the NHTSA website. There is also information on NHTSA with registered importers and their services provided. The services range from modifying buses and passenger cars, to modifying vehicles imported from Canada or other countries.

  1. Your vehicle must meet Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) in order to be properly imported. Check out U.S. Customs and Border Protection as well, to stay up-to-date on policies and procedures for products coming into the United States.

  2. Go to a Texas-certified Safety Inspection Station, where a vehicle inspection report (VIR) will be provided upon passing a safety inspection. 

  3. In order to receive an original Law Enforcement Identification Number Inspection, a trained auto theft investigator, who is also a law enforcement officer in Texas must perform an inspection on the vehicle.

Once the previous steps have been completed, take these forms, and proof of insurance, to your county tax office:

  1. U.S. Department of Transportation Form HS-7 (customs clearance)

  2. If under bond - bond release form

  3. Vehicle Inspection Report (VIR) 

  4. Law Enforcement Number Identification Form VIR

  5. 130-U form

  6. Vehicle odometer reading (if less than 10 years old)

  7. Ownership document (in English)

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 on 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 loan than they were qualified for.

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

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