How to Register a Car in Florida
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How to Register a Car in Florida

By Zac Estrada | July 19, 2021

The base annual fee to register most trucks and cars in Florida is $32.50 in 2021. But that's just the start of the costs imposed by the state's vehicle authority that may apply to your situation, primarily if you're applying for Florida vehicle registration for the first time.

When you move and intend to become a resident, you have 30 days to register your out-of-state vehicle with the state. To do that, you need to fill a few requirements of becoming a resident and get some paperwork in line. And you will also incur several one-time fees that can put registering a car in Florida for the first time at hundreds of dollars. This isn't unlike registering a car in other states, but it helps to know the costs first before any surprises arise.

Here's a rundown of what to look for when registering a car in Florida and what to expect to pay.

What is Considered Florida Residency?

According to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (HSMV), you must have a residential address with a rental or lease agreement or proof of property ownership in the state to become a Florida resident. You can also show proof of residency by showing that you're employed in the state or that your child is registered in a Florida public school.

What Documents Are Needed to Register a Motor Vehicle in Florida?

As with any other state, you'll need to bring all of your previous documents to the vehicle registry at one of their regional locations. That will include a Florida driver's license, vehicle registration, proof of Florida insurance, current license plate, and certificate of title.

Using these documents, the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) or similar agency from the state where the car is currently registered will transfer the out-of-state title to Florida. While this is theoretically a seamless process, it's important to follow up with the state in charge of transferring the title, so get the direct line to that vehicle registry and call if there's a problem in Florida.

Vehicle Identification Number in Florida

To complete a vehicle transfer, you will need to have your vehicle inspected in person by either a Florida law enforcement officer or a licensed car dealer in the state of Florida. If you have it verified by an out-of-state dealer, you will need to verify the verification via letterhead stationery from the dealer.

Complete List of Parties Who Can Inspect Your Vehicle Identification Number
You can expedite the car registration process by completing a VIN inspection in advance.

The following are some parties who are legally allowed to do VIN verification:

  • County tax collector's office
  • Any police officer
  • Any licensed Florida car dealership
  • Previous state's car dealer with dealership letterhead
  • Florida DMV inspectors
  • Florida Notary Public
  • An active-duty military officer

How Much Does It Cost To Register a Car in Florida?

In Florida, the initial registration fee for a vehicle is $225. This one-time fee affects those who move to Florida and apply to re-register a vehicle there or buy a car from another state and request a Florida title, license plate, and registration. An original title for a new vehicle is $77.25, while one for a used car is $85.25.

The final price of vehicle registration in Florida depends on a few factors. Cars that weigh at least 3,500 pounds (as most do) and light trucks more than 3,000 pounds have a base annual tax of $32.50. Cars weighing between 2,500 and 3,499 pounds and trucks between 2,000 and 3,000 pounds are taxed from $22.50, and cars less than 2,499 pounds and trucks less than 2,000 pounds have a $14.50 base tax imposed.

But that's just the start. The annual vehicle registration fee also depends on how the vehicle will be used, such as a hire car or a dealer demonstrator, for example. Florida also offers various specialty plates and personalized plates for charities, colleges, military, or historic vehicle purposes, all of which have different surcharges that the vehicle owner pays with the annual registration.

Consult the HSMV website or a local office to determine the final cost based on the specific case.

Step By Step Vehicle Registration in Florida

  • Step 1 - Visit a Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles office.

  • Step 2 - Have the vehicle title and proof of identity with a government-issued ID, and show proof of valid Florida car insurance.

  • Step 3 - If you haven't done it yet, have a VIN inspection and odometer reading done on-site.

  • Step 4 - Pay the initial vehicle registration fee of $225, plus taxes, plate, and title fees.

Once you're registered, you will get a license plate for the rear of your vehicle, plus a registration sticker; this validation decal goes in the upper right-hand corner of the plate. You'll also get a registration certificate that the vehicle operator should have on them at all times (so it's usually best to leave it in the glove box).

Step By Step Vehicle Renewal in Florida

There are different ways to renew vehicle registration in Florida after the initial paperwork has been completed. While there is an online renewal program, those who want to avoid service charges or who have questions regarding their specific case may wish to visit an office in person.

  • Florida residents can renew their vehicle's registration for one year or two years at a time.

  • Residents can use either the online portal (GoRenew.com) or the smartphone app for iPhone or Android.

  • A major credit card will be needed, and there will be a $2.00 convenience fee on top of the renewal fees.

  • Residents who wish to do their registration renewal in person can find a local service center here.

Other Motor Vehicle Services available online include replacing or renewing a Florida driver's license or state-issued ID card, replacing registration for a vehicle, vessel (like a boat), or mobile home, and getting a paper title.

Additional Steps for Out-of-State Vehicles

Before you can register your vehicle with the steps indicated previously, you will need to obtain a Florida driver's license and buy Florida auto insurance from an insurance company. If you don't physically have your out-of-state title due to being held by a lienholder, you will have to contact the tax collector's office to have the lienholder send the title.

Vehicle Sales Tax for New Residents

You may be charged sales tax, use tax, or discretionary local taxes on your vehicle by the state of Florida when you first register it. Whether these taxes are assessed depends on the length of time you have owned the car. If you've held it for less than six months, then you can expect to be responsible for a six percent state sales or use tax and any required local taxes. The Florida tax will be pro-rated based on your previous state's taxes. For example, if you already paid four percent tax in your home state, then you will owe two percent tax for Florida.

If you've owned your vehicle for over six months, then you won't have to pay any of the above taxes. However, your vehicle documents will need to verify with the Florida DHSMV that you have owned the vehicle for at least six months.

Car Dealer Registration

If you buy a car in Florida from a car dealership, you can get a temporary license plate, and they will file the registration on your behalf. However, the dealer must transfer the title and registration within 30 days. You will also need to complete a bill of sale with the seller to have proof of the transaction. That action is essential to have if the dealer does not transfer the title within the indicated time. At that point, you will have to visit the county tax collector's office to complete the process.

Buying a Vehicle in Florida as a Non-Resident

If you come to Florida and buy a new car or used car, but you are not a resident, you will likely have to get temporary registration tags. Do this by visiting the county tax collector's office and showing proof of insurance. You also need to pay Florida sales tax on the vehicle. These tags allow you to drive it back to your home state.

Florida Military Vehicle Registration

If you're a military resident, follow the same steps as a Florida resident to register your vehicle. The main difference is that you won't have to pay the initial registration fee. Instead, you will have to fill out a Military Initial Registration Fee Exemption Affidavit to be exempt.

If you are a non-resident military member who is only stationed in Florida, you do not have to register your car in Florida. However, maintain current registration in your home state and always carry proper proof of insurance. If you choose to register your vehicle in Florida, you will have to complete the steps listed above and file the exemption to avoid the fee.

Similarly, if you are a Florida resident stationed out of state, you can maintain your current Florida registration.

To do this, you'll need the following items:

  • Original title or application for a certificate of title with/without registration
  • Florida insurance affidavit
  • Military insurance exemption
  • Military initial registration fee exemption
  • Exemption from Florida sales tax for military service members

Florida License Plates

Once you have filled out all registration forms and submitted them, you will get your new Florida license plates. The registration decal should be placed in the upper right corner of the plate in the indicated square. You can choose to have standard Florida plates or personalized plates.

Other special cases

If the vehicle title has two owners, they will share responsibility for it, and each name will be listed on the title. Both parties must also be present at the time of the title transfer.

In the event that the paper title is lost, damaged, or stolen, you'll need to request a duplicate title for $75.25 as of 2021. You'll have to bring a valid state-issued ID and proof of lien satisfaction to a motor vehicle service center, as well as complete the Application for Duplicate or Lost in Transit Reassignment for a Title Certificate. The titleholder must also address any outstanding fees or taxes on the vehicle at this time. Completing this process also makes the original title invalid, even if you find it after requesting the duplicate.