Car Insurance: I Can’t Find My Registration

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Important facts to know...

  • Vehicle registration documents prove who owns a particular car and also establish the permanent location of the vehicle
  • Vehicle registration has an impact on car insurance premiums and underwriting
  • Anyone who loses a vehicle registration document needs to take steps to replace it without any delay


Anyone who has been pulled over for a traffic citation knows presenting a driver’s license and proof of both registration and insurance are going to be requested.

Failure to possess and display any of these items means things may get a little complicated. Most people seem to understand why there is a requirement to maintain a valid driver’s license and also to keep insurance current.

The importance of keeping vehicle registration documents in the car may escape them.

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What is Vehicle Registration?

Vehicle registration is important for one major reason: the registration reveals who owns the car.

Additionally, the registration logs what particular state the vehicle is registered. In certain states, only a resident may register a vehicle. In other states, non-residents may do so.

Regardless, the registration information connects owners/users to the car within the jurisdiction of a particular state.

So, when a traffic camera catches a car speeding through a red light, the DMV knows who to issue the ticket. In more serious crimes, a description of a license plate helps law enforcement’s investigation immensely.

Determining the Registered Location of the Vehicle

Registration of a vehicle also allows the DMV and other entities of the state determine a location in which the car is normally parked.

The location of the vehicle’s registration might not be the permanent address of the person who owns the car. The vehicle may be kept in storage or parked at a second home.

Registering the car at the appropriate address is important for insurance purposes as well. The insurance company does need to know the correct registered location of the vehicle in order to correctly underwrite the policy.

If the owner of the vehicle lives in a major metropolitan area and the vehicle is parked in a private garage 50 miles out of the city limits, the insurance premiums on the car might end up being significantly lower.

Of course, registering the car at the wrong address to save money would be a disastrous plan. It could result in one of the following:

  • Claims denial – Improperly registering a vehicle could create serious problems with an insurance company if an accident occurs.
  • Legal issues – A person living in Pennsylvania could attempt to register a vehicle at a private mail box address in New Jersey in order to avoid dealing with the former state’s inspection requirements. This scheme could lead to insurance fraud charges.

Don’t play games with registering a vehicle. Make sure all reported information is truthful and be sure the printed documents reflect as much.

Requirements for Registering a Vehicle

Each and every state DMV is going to have its own unique rules and requirements.

In addition to the aforementioned residency requirement, the DMV may require proof of insurance. Otherwise, the vehicle won’t be accepted for registration. The obvious exclusion here would be a state that does not mandate insurance coverage.

With the exception of non-owner car insurance, the insurance company is going to require proof of registration for a vehicle.

Again, registration reveals who owns the vehicle and who may legitimately take out a policy on the car. Ambiguity does not help the cause of underwriting and drafting an insurance policy.

Registration is not free. An initial registration is going to come with a set fee established in the state, a fee that must be renewed annually. Driving with an expired registration could lead either or both of the following penalties:

  • A traffic citation
  • Late fees when paying for registration after the expiration has been reached

Since a registration card is printed on paper, the chance exists that the card might be lost. This loss shouldn’t be too difficult of a problem to fix.

What to Do When a Valid Registration is Lost

Ordering a new copy of the registration card can be done at a local DMV.

Going to the DMV in person may be required in order to procure a copy of the card right away. Ordering one through the mail is possible, but, usually, involves filling out a form and mailing it in.

The form may be filled out online in certain states and the payment processed online as well. Many will find this to be the easiest route to go although some time will need to pass for the new registration card to come in the mail.

Do not delay at all when it is discovered the registration document is missing. Spot checking the glove compartment to make sure the registration is where it is supposed to be is always recommended.

The Vehicle Stays Registered

Losing the proof of registration does not mean the vehicle is no longer registered. The vehicle is going to be on file and registered with the state DMV.

Still, the document proves this to someone who requests the information. If pulled over by a police officer, the inability to present a copy of the registration document could lead to being issued a ticket.

An appearance in court may be required in order to have the fine set aside. That is a lot to go through.

Simply replacing the original registration document at the earliest possible convenience would be a wise strategy.

Those who have all their official documents in order are going to avoid a lot of problems. Perhaps ordering a duplicate registration document before the original was lost would be a decent idea.

The second copy could be put in a safe place and ready to be retrieved when the time calls to do so.

As always, check state laws and rules regarding the rules associated with the acquisition of a duplicate car registration document. Some may only issue a duplicate if the original was:

  • lost
  • stolen
  • defaced

Another state may issue a duplicate registration card on demand.

Registration without Problems

All of this might sound like a lot of work, but it really is not. As long as the person registering a vehicle is providing basic, accurate information, the registration card should be processed without any problems.

And always keep the document in the glove compartment or somewhere else where the card can be stored for safe and easy access. Doing so will definitely cut down on the potential for the document being misplaced.

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