Registering a vehicle in the owner’s name notifies the state of ownership of the vehicle, and provides the necessary documentation for the issuance of state license plates and tags to be affixed to the vehicle. Operating a motor vehicle that is not properly registered is usually an offense punishable by fine or imprisonment. Within most states, the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) or an office of the Secretary of State is the proper entity for registering vehicles.
The most common document requirements for registering a vehicle are the title and a certificate of automobile insurance coverage. Some states additionally require a copy of the contract or bill of sale, or in the alternative, an affidavit containing averments of purchase price, description of the vehicle, and the VIN number, names of seller and buyer, date of purchase, and odometer reading.
The title owner of the vehicle is generally, but not always, the party to whom the vehicle is registered. Even in states where creditors retain titles in their names until the buyer pays off the auto loan, registration of the vehicle will nonetheless be in the buyer’s name. This means that the buyer will pay the sales taxes, use taxes, licensing plate fees, and (usually) fees associated with the transferring of the vehicle to the buyer’s name.
If the buyer has a lien against the title to the buyer’s vehicle, the state will most likely require the buyer to maintain full coverage insurance on the car, including, especially, collision coverage. Doing so protects the interests of the lienholder, who could stand to lose both payment and the vehicle if the buyer is involved in an accident and does not have the vehicle insured. Registration may be denied if the vehicle fails to pass auto emissions or operational testing, or if any taxes are pending. Additionally, registration may be denied to persons whose driving licenses have been suspended or revoked.