How to register a car in Pennsylvania


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Written by
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Licensed Auto Insurance Agent
UPDATED: 2020-04-01T18:11:23.164Z
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View of the Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, skyline.

If you’re moving to Pennsylvania or buying a new car, you’ll need to register your car with the state.

With just a little preparation on your part, registering your car in Pennsylvania can be a quick process. Read on to find out how to register a car in Pennsylvania, including why you are required to register your car and what you need in order to register it.

Why do you need to register your car in Pennsylvania?

In short, you are required to register your car in Pennsylvania. When you move to a new state with the intention to establish residency there, your legal documents, including your driver’s license and vehicle registration, must reflect your new address.

Pennsylvania state law requires that anyone who has moved to the state apply for a Pennsylvania title to register their car within 20 days of establishing residency in Pennsylvania. New residents have up to 60 days to get a new state driver’s license.

Registering your vehicle in Pennsylvania establishes a record of your permanent residence linked to your vehicle.

Having this information recorded is important to Pennsylvania for a few reasons:

  • Taxes – Having a state record of who the legal owner of the car is allows Pennsylvania to assess any vehicle taxes to the correct person.
  • Safety – Registering your vehicle and annual renewals create a Pennsylvania state record of the condition of your vehicle, ensuring that it is safe to operate on Pennsylvania’s roads.
  • Law enforcement – During the registration process, you will provide Pennsylvania with the vehicle identification number (VIN) associated with your car (or truck, etc.). Recording the VIN is an important part of combating criminal activity such as vehicle theft.

Who needs to register a car in Pennsylvania?

Any vehicle that will be driven on Pennsylvania’s roads by a resident must be registered with the state, so gather up your documents and head to a Pennsylvania Department of Motor Vehicles office!

What documentation do you need to register your car in Pennsylvania?

You’ll need to bring several documents with you when you go to register your vehicle in Pennsylvania. If you are moving to Pennsylvania, you should make note of the documents that you will need, and set those aside in a safe place before you pack.

A lot can happen during a move and it’s a good practice to carry any important documents with you rather than packing them with your household items. Moving can be stressful enough without the added worry of having a time clock ticking on your unpacking in order to meet Pennsylvania’s required deadline to register your vehicle.

Here is what you will need to have with you when you go to register your vehicle in Pennsylvania:

  • Valid Title: The valid title in your name from your previous state for each vehicle you will be registering
  • VIN Number or Tracing of the VIN Number: Either a VIN verification completed by an inspection mechanic, the notary at a dealership, or an issuing agent; or, a tracing of the vehicle identification number
  • Payment for Fees: Any appropriate fees and sales taxes
  • Form MV-IL (leased vehicle): If the vehicle you are registering is a leased vehicle, the leasing company will need to complete and provide you with a Form MV-1L.
  • Proof of Insurance: Bring proof of valid Pennsylvania car insurance for each vehicle you will be registering.

After you register your vehicle in Pennsylvania, you will be required to have a safety inspection performed on your car within 10 days. Safety inspections are performed at official inspection stations in Pennsylvania, where they will check to verify that your vehicle’s safety systems (such as your vehicle’s brakes, lights, horn, tires, etc.) are working correctly. There is a fee assessed to complete a vehicle inspection. The fee is only for the inspection; the cost of any repairs required that were discovered during the inspection would be separate.

Do you need car insurance to register a car in Pennsylvania?

Yes, you will need proof that your vehicle is insured in order to register your car in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania law requires all vehicle owners to carry liability insurance coverage on any currently registered automobile.

The minimum car insurance requirements in Pennsylvania are:

Liability:

  • Bodily injury — $15,000 per person
  • Bodily injury — $30,000 per accident
  • Property damage — $5,000 per accident

Medical benefits:

  • $5,000 per accident

While that is the minimum required by Pennsylvania, you may need more coverage if you are financing or leasing your car. Even if you aren’t, it’s often recommended that you purchase more than the minimum requirements in order to have more protection.

There are several forms of acceptable proof of valid insurance, including:

  • A valid insurance identification card;
  • The declaration page of an insurance policy;
  • A copy of a valid insurance binder; or,
  • A copy of an application for insurance through the Pennsylvania Assigned Risk Plan.

You must have proof of insurance for each vehicle registered with Pennsylvania.

In Pennsylvania, insurance companies are required to notify the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation when a policy is canceled by the insured party, but they are not required to notify the state if you’ve changed insurance companies. You are responsible for that notification.

For more information on Pennsylvania car insurance requirements and cost, you can visit Clearsurance’s Pennsylvania car insurance page. On that page, you can also see a ranking of the companies that consumers say are the best in Pennsylvania.

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