How Long Does It Take for a Dealer to Register Your Car?

Last Updated on February 16, 2024

If you recently purchased a new vehicle from a dealership, then you may need to wait for the dealership to register your vehicle.

When purchasing a new car, the dealership handles the registration process. The dealership provides you with a temporary registration or license plate while you wait for the DMV to process your registration, which can take anywhere from two to six weeks.

Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about how long it takes a dealership to register a new vehicle.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Dealerships typically manage the registration of new vehicles, providing temporary permits until official documents arrive within two to six weeks.
  2. The time frame for the DMV to process new vehicle registrations ranges from two to six weeks, depending on state and specific circumstances.
  3. Vehicle registration processes and responsibilities can vary by state, with some requiring buyers to submit documents directly to the DMV.
  4. Dealerships handle taxes and registration fees at the time of purchase, often including these costs in the vehicle’s final invoice.

How Car Registration Works for New Vehicles

If you purchase a new vehicle from a dealership, then the dealership handles vehicle registration in most states.

After you purchase the vehicle, the dealership provides you with a temporary operating permit. This permit allows you to drive the vehicle. It proves you have paid all registration fees – even if your state’s DMV has not issued a license plate or registration sticker for your vehicle.

In most cases, it takes around three to four weeks for the dealership to register your new vehicle with the DMV. However, it could take as little as two weeks or as much as six weeks. Once registration is complete, the DMV should send your license plate and vehicle registration to your address.

How Long Does New Vehicle Registration Take?

It typically takes four to six weeks for the DMV to register your new vehicle.

The dealership files the registration paperwork with the DMV after you complete the purchase.

The DMV receives this paperwork and processes it. Suppose the DMV verifies you have paid all associated fees and have the legal title for the vehicle. In that case, the DMV sends the license plate, registration sticker, title, and other paperwork to your address.

In most cases, this registration process takes around four weeks from start to finish. However, depending on your state and situation, it could be completed in as little as two weeks or as long as six weeks.

Do All Dealerships Register Vehicles for You?

Registration rules vary from state to state.

In most states, however, dealerships handle registration paperwork on your behalf.

You buy a vehicle from the dealership, get it insured, and the dealership files paperwork to the DMV. You receive your license plate, license plate sticker, and associated paperwork in your mailbox a few weeks later, allowing you to replace the temporary registration paperwork on your vehicle (like the temporary paper license plate).

In some states, the dealership does not register the vehicle on your behalf, even when buying a new vehicle. In Colorado and Ohio, for example, the dealership gives you a package of documents that you must take to the DMV (or BMV) to register your vehicle. The dealership cannot register your vehicle for you.

Overall, all dealerships walk you through the registration process in your state, and they know the specific steps to take when registering your vehicle.

Who Pays Taxes & Registration Fees on a New Vehicle?

In most states, the dealership manages taxes and registration fees on your vehicle at the time of purchase.

When paying your invoice with the dealership, for example, you’ll likely see an estimated amount of taxes and registration fees you need to pay before buying your new vehicle.

After the dealership collects these fees, the dealership sends that money to the DMV or BMV on your behalf.

Some dealerships charge a documentation fee or additional registration fee for the convenience of filing paperwork on your behalf, but most dealerships do not.

Do I Need to Register My Vehicle?

Every state requires your vehicle to be legally registered. When a vehicle is registered, it means taxes have been paid on the vehicle and, if necessary, the vehicle has passed an emissions or safety inspection.

To prove you have registered a vehicle, you typically use a license plate, license plate sticker, windshield sticker, or some combination thereof. These show your vehicle is registered and that registration has not expired.

What Happens When Buying a Car from Another State?

In most cases, your dealership can register a vehicle for you even if you’re buying a car in one state and registering it in another.

This service is particularly common in dealerships close to state lines – say, dealerships in the Washington, DC metro area or in the greater Chicago metro area. These dealerships are used to working with customers in multiple states with different vehicle registration needs.

How Long Does It Take to Get a License Plate?

License plate wait times vary from state to state.

In most cases, however, you can expect to receive your license plate for a new vehicle within four weeks of buying that new vehicle from the dealership.

It could take anywhere from two weeks to six weeks – or even longer – to receive paperwork for your new vehicle. Continue to use your temporary registration and license plate until you receive formal registration information from the DMV.

Generally, if you have not received your license plate and other registration information within 30 days of purchasing your new vehicle, contact your DMV.

How Long Does Temporary Registration Last?

Most states have a 30 to 90 day temporary registration period. That means you can use the temporary registration from your dealership for 30 to 90 days.

California, for example, offers a 90 day limit on temporary license plates. Florida, meanwhile, has a 30 day limit.

Once this temporary registration period expires, you should have received your full registration in the mail. Or, you should have had time to visit the DMV yourself to register your vehicle.

Final Word

It typically takes around three to four weeks for a dealer to register your new vehicle.

However, your license plate and registration could arrive in the mail in as little as two weeks or as long as six weeks.

If you recently purchased a new vehicle from a dealership, the dealership will generally file registration paperwork on your behalf. Dealerships have extensive experience registering vehicles on behalf of customers: even if local laws prevent the dealer from registering the vehicle, the dealer can explain the specific steps to take to register your vehicle.

Contact your dealership or local DMV if you’re unclear about the process of registering a new vehicle.

James Shaffer
James Shaffer James Shaffer is a writer for and a well-seasoned auto insurance industry veteran. He has a deep knowledge of insurance rules and regulations and is passionate about helping drivers save money on auto insurance. He is responsible for researching and writing about anything auto insurance-related. He holds a bachelor's degree from Bentley University and his work has been quoted by NBC News, CNN, and The Washington Post.
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