How to Register a Car in PA and How Much Does It Cost?

First of all congrats! Buying your first brand new car or used car that’s new to you is a major milestone. As you prepare to embark on that first exciting step, you start learning about a whole lot of other things that you need to do as part of the process. Proof of insurance? Getting license plates? How much is all this going to cost? No need for stress though. We’ll walk you through what you need to do to register your car in Pennsylvania and all the fees step-by-step. 

How do you register a new car or used car in Pennsylvania?

To legally drive your new ride on the highways and byways in Pennsylvania you need to make sure your car is properly registered. If you’re buying a new car, most of this is usually taken care of at the dealership. But, in case it isn’t, you’ll need the following info to register your car:

  1. Get your vehicle insured – We can help you select not only the right car insurance coverage but can also potentially save you a few bucks. We’ll provide you with all the necessary documentation you’ll need. We also offer New Car Replacement Coverage ensuring (for qualifying vehicles) you can get a replacement vehicle of equal value with that new car smell if you ever get into an accident where you were not at fault and your vehicle is totaled. Best of all, this coverage is free with your Verti Car Insurance Policy!
  2. Vehicle identification number (VIN) – According to PennDOT, you must provide a “tracing” of the vehicle identification number (VIN) or this verification can also be provided by an inspection mechanic or notary public at a dealership or issuing agent.
  3. Valid title – The title must be in your name or, if you are taking out a loan to purchase your new car, your lienholder will provide this. 
  4. Odometer reading – Take a picture of the actual mileage on the odometer to provide verification. If your vehicle is a 2008 or newer and has fewer than 7,500 miles on the odometer, it must be certified by the California Air Resources Board (CARB). An inspection mechanic or issuing agent can help provide you with this documentation.
  5. Valid photo ID – This could be a valid Pennsylvania Photo Driver's License, Pennsylvania Photo Identification Card or U.S. Armed Forces Common Access Card.
  6. Payment – We’re going into this next, just know that PennDOT accepts checks and money orders for valid forms of payment.

How much does registering a car in Pennsylvania cost? 

The exact cost to register a vehicle in PA varies by vehicle type and your location. Most passenger vehicles are $37 and motorcycles are $19. Trucks and commercial vehicles are based on weight and PennDOT has a separate schedule of fees for these types of vehicles. 

In addition to your vehicle registration, you'll also need to pay title fees which are $53 unless there is a lien on the vehicle and then the title fee is $78.

Finally, there’s sales tax and this is where it can get confusing. If you buy a vehicle from a dealer, you'll usually pay sales tax directly to them. However, if you buy a car in a private sale, you'll have to pay that sales tax to the state of Pennsylvania when you register. What you pay in sales tax varies on where you live in PA. If you live in the city of Philadelphia, you’ll pay 8% in sales tax. If you live anywhere in Allegheny County it’ll be 7% and 6% everywhere else in Pennsylvania. 

Phew! That’s a lot of stuff to take care of! We just wanted to lay it all out there for you. Luckily, if you’re buying through a dealership they’ll take care of most of this for you to make the process easier. We’ll make the insurance documentation as simple as possible for you too. Any other helpful tips you’d include when it comes to registering a car in the Quaker State? Let us know on Facebook and Twitter!