North Carolina Vehicle Registration – A Beginner’s Guide

North Carolina Vehicle Registration

Need to register your vehicle in North Carolina?

Don’t know where or how to start?

Welcome to your beginner’s guide to North Carolina vehicle registration. 

Here, we’ll walk you through the registration process. We’ll also mention the different car laws in the state. 

This way, you know all you need to know. 

So shall we? 

How to Register A Car in North Carolina

Here are the steps to registering your car in North Carolina:

  1. Have your vehicle inspected for safety and emissions at an inspection station
  1. Prepared the required documents:
    1. A valid North Carolina-issued driver’s license or an out-of-state license with an NC Temporary Driving Certificate
    2. Proof of auto insurance
    3. Inspection sticker
    4. Proof of ownership (can be a registration card)
    5. A completed MVR-1 Title Application form 
    6. A completed MVR-180 Odometer Disclosure. This is if your vehicle is less than 10 years old.
    7. A completed MVR-181 Damaged Disclosure Statement (if applicable) 

NOTE: More documents may be needed for different situations. Click here to match your situation to the required documents to bring. 

  1. Visit an NC DMV office with a license plate service. Click here for locations.
  1. Submit the documents and fill up a registration application form. 
  1. Pay the appropriate fees. Click here for a complete list of the fees.
  1. Get your vehicle registration and license plates. 

And there you have it. Your vehicle is now registered in North Carolina. 

It wasn’t that complicated, right? 

Car Laws in North Carolina 

These are the car laws in North Carolina:

  • Vehicle registration and renewal
  • Car insurance and financial responsibility
  • Safety inspection
  • Window tinting

Let’s take a close look at these laws and their respective penalties (in case you don’t obey them).

Vehicle Registration and Renewal

When you buy a vehicle in North Carolina, or you bring a vehicle from another state, you should register it as soon as possible. If not, you have 60 days to complete the registration. 

As for renewals, you should renew your NC car registration annually.

The NC DMV typically sends a renewal notice 60 days before your current registration expires. 

This notice will include information regarding the cost of renewing the registration and any associated vehicle property taxes due.


Drivers are allowed to operate their vehicles up to 15 days after their registration expires.

However, the North Carolina DMV will charge a late fee. Here’s a quick chart for your reference: 

Length of Plate Expiration – Less than one month$15
Length of Plate Expiration – 1-2 months$20
Length of Plate Expiration – Two or more months$25


Car Insurance and Financial Responsibility 

As we saw, you need car insurance to register your vehicle in North Carolina. 

What you might not know is that there is a minimum coverage. This is:

  • $30,000 for bodily injury per person
  • $60,000 for total bodily injury for all people involved in an accident
  • $25,000 for property damage 

State law also requires financial responsibility in the form of an insurance policy or cash deposit with the NC DMV. 

What’s more, you need uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. This is to protect you if you are involved in an accident with someone who doesn’t have the required amount of insurance. 


If you are caught driving without car insurance, you will be given a Class 1 Misdemeanor violation. 

This means several penalties can be imposed on you, such as:

  • Fines anywhere between $50 to $150
  • License suspension
  • Jail time

If you fail to renew your car insurance on time, you will be subject to the following fees: 

1st Insurance Lapse$50
2nd Insurance Lapse$100
Subsequent insurance lapses$150
Restoration fee$50


The NC DMV will send you a car insurance termination notification 10 days before the expiration date. Your insurance provider will also inform you of when your insurance is about to expire — as required by law.

Safety Inspection

You are required to complete an emission and safety inspection before registering or renewing a registration.  

The North Carolina Vehicle Safety and Emissions Inspection Program is designed to:

  • Make sure your vehicle is in good condition
  • Reduce air pollution

Inspections must be performed at least 90 days before your vehicle’s registration expires.

Vehicle safety inspections are conducted at authorized inspection stations


These are the penalties concerning safety inspections in North Carolina:

  • $50 for failure to inspect your vehicle within 4 months of expiration
  • $250 for tampered emission tests
  • $250 for giving false information to avoid an emission test


In North Carolina, there are certain exemptions from the annual safety and emissions inspection. These include:

  • Vehicles that are three years old or newer
  • Collectible and antique vehicles
  • Vehicles that are owned by North Carolina residents and registered in another state or country
  • You live in a county in North Carolina which are exempt from the vehicle safety inspection requirements

Window Tinting

In North Carolina, the law on window tinting is fairly strict. 

The NC DMV requires that all windows be transparent enough to allow a certain amount of visible light.

According to NC law, front windshields must allow at least 35% of outside light into the vehicle. Front side windows must allow at least 25%.

Rear windshields and rear side windows must allow at least 20% of outside light into the vehicle. 

North Carolina also prohibits car owners from putting tinting on their headlamps and fog lamps. 


If you are caught with illegal window tints, you will be charged with a simple misdemeanor violation and will have to pay a fine of $200. 


You are exempted from the window tinting law if you have a medical condition that requires blacker tints. However, you must have a medical waiver with you at all times. 

What Is the Tag and Tax Together Program?

The North Carolina Tag and Tax Together Program allows residents to pay both their vehicle registration fees and vehicle property taxes in one transaction. 

It’s administered by North Carolina’s Department of Revenue.

To use the North Carolina Tag and Tax Together Program, drivers must first obtain an authorization code from the NC Department of Revenue. 

Once they have their authorization code, drivers can then make their payment at a participating DMV office or online through the NC DMV online portal

Drivers can also choose to have their registration and taxes renewed automatically each year through the online portal or by calling 1-800-NC-DMV


And that was how to register your car in North Carolina. 

As we saw, it isn’t as complicated as you might think — just make sure you have all the required documents ready. 

On top of that, you also know all the car laws in the state — this will help you avoid the penalties. 

We hope this article has been a great help!

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