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  • Nicholas Hinrichsen

Arizona car registration: a helpful, illustrative guide

Updated: Aug 13

Congratulations, vehicle ownership is exciting, but first you must register your car in Arizona and comply with all necessary state laws in order to legally drive your new car. All motor vehicle owners  in the state of Arizona are required to register their state vehicle with the Arizona Motor Vehicle Division (MVD).


When registering your car, you may be wondering the following FAQs:


  • How do I get a car registered in Arizona for the first-time?

  • How do I re-register or update registration for a car in Arizona?

  • What fees might be involved for car registration? 

  • Can I complete my car registration online?

  • Do I have to get an emissions test and how?

  • What sort of inspection is needed?

  • Are there any special rules or cases for registration?


This process might appear daunting and a little bit complicated, but compared to most states, registering a car in Arizona is quite simple. To ease your mind and save time, this article will walk you through the answers to each intimidating question and serve as your complete guide of how to successfully register your new vehicle. 


How to complete your car registration in Arizona


Once you purchase your new vehicle, you must apply for a 3-day permit. This 3-day permit costs $1 and allows you to drive to the Arizona MVD (this is otherwise known as a DMV in other states), to an emissions test or to an inspection. When registering for this 3-day permit, you must bring: 

  • Proof of auto insurance

  • Emissions compliance form


You can obtain a 3-day permit either at the dealership, authorized third party or the Arizona Department of Transportation's (ADOT) online platform here. Once you receive this time-sensitive permit, you are ready to start the process to register your car in Arizona. AZ registration must be completed in person at your nearest MVD office. If you have just moved to Arizona or bought a new car, you have 15 days to register your vehicle. Furthermore, you must register in AZ as soon as you are considered an Arizona resident. 

You are considered an Arizona resident as soon as:

  • Your children attend school in Arizona

  • You are employed in Arizona

  • You have an Arizona driver’s license

  • You stay in Arizona for seven months or one calendar year

  • You own a business in Arizona that transports goods or people

  • You have a business in Arizona that operates or houses vehicles

  • You are registered to vote in Arizona


Registering your vehicle at the Arizona Motor Vehicle Division (MVD) can be a stressful and confusing process if you show up unprepared. We have created a comprehensive and easy-to-follow guide to prepare you for what to bring and what to expect once you arrive. 


Documents to bring to the Arizona DMV office include the following:

  • Proof of insurance that meets minimum requirements

  • Your vehicle title

  • A completed Title and Registration Application

  • If you do not have proof of title or registration certification, you must provide proof of a Level I Inspection

  • Current registration or out-of-state title

  • Passed Emissions test (details are discussed later)

  • A Drivers License or other form of Identification

  • If applicable, a lien release (this is common if you have a loan that has been paid off)

  • If applicable, written permission from the lender if there is a lien on the vehicle that has not been paid off


Now that you have prepared all the necessary documents for your visit, be prepared to pay registration fees at the office. These initial fees vary based on the vehicle. To provide more insight, one might pay a $4 fee for a title, $8 for registration documents, $1.50 for an air quality inspection, and $5 for license plates. The largest fee is taxes, which is discussed later. The MVD accepts payments made with cash, check, or money order; most offices also take credit cards. The MVD will also require you to fill out an emissions compliance form. 

How to renew your registration for your car in Arizona


If you are already an Arizona resident with car registration, you must renew your registration periodically depending on what your vehicle registration requires. Arizona registration is typically renewed every one to two years. In addition, some registration can be renewed at the end of the given month or it will have a deadline of the 15th. 


When completing your vehicle registration renewal in Arizona, you can submit your registration renewal application online, by phone or by mail to the DMV. As of April 2020, you are not allowed to renew your registration in person at the office. Your current vehicle’s registration is used as your AZ renewal registration application and as far as vehicle emissions tests go, the MVD will notify you by mail if you are due for another test. You will also be required to pay an $8 registration renewal  fee. 


Renew on time! As long as you complete your Arizona renewal registration on time (your date can be found on your current certificate) you will avoid any late fees. The only exception to a late fee is if your vehicle fails the emissions test. In this case, you will have a 30 day grace period to complete another test and resend your renewal application. 


How to calculate and understand Fees and Taxes for car registration in Arizona


You may be bombarded with various fees when completing tax registration in Arizona. Continue reading this section to be informed of these fees and to know exactly where your money is going. Arizona vehicle registration fees will include the following:

  • $32 public safety fee

  • $1.50 air quality research fee

  • $4 title fee (one time fee, only applicable to newly registered vehicles)

  • $8 registration fee

  • $5 for license plates

  • $15 90-day registration fee

  • $1 3-day permit

  • Vehicle License Tax

What is a VLT, or a vehicle license tax? This added annual fee is based on the vehicle’s assessed value. This is calculated by taking 60% of the manufacturer’s base retail price and is then reduced by 16.25% each year after your vehicle has been registered. From there, the Arizona Registration Calculator determines the assessed value on whether the car is new or used ($2.80 per $100 of assessed value for new vehicles and $2.89 per $100 of assessed value for used vehicles). Here is a visual that exemplifies how the VLT adjusts according to the depreciation of a vehicle.


This tax may seem confusing, but know that your money is being redistributed back to your community as 22.72% of the tax is put towards The State Highways Fund, 14.38% to your county’s roads, 13.72% to your town’s roads, 24.59% to your county’s general fund and 24.59% to your town’s general fund. If you are looking to use an Arizona VLT calculator to find your vehicle’s specific VLT click here. Now you can visualize the monetary distribution of the VLT and, furthermore, gain an insight into the fees of Arizona registration. If you would like to have a more thorough and detailed report of your specific AZ vehicle registration fees, you can click here to request a Vehicle Fee Recap of personal motor vehicle fees from the previous year. 


Complete your car registration in Arizona Online


As many businesses are transferring their services to online platforms, you can now renew registration and tags online and bypass the MVD line. As discussed above, the MVD will notify you if your vehicle is due for an emissions test. You may be eligible for early renewal 

  • Up to 6 months before the expiration date if a smog test is not required

  • Up to 3 months prior if an emissions test is required

Check your renewal notice or current registration to find the due date that applies to your vehicle. You need to provide the following information for AZ online registration:

  • Record Number

  • Last 2 digits of VIN

  • If you would like to renew your registration/tags on MVD’s new online platform, click here.

  • If you prefer to utilize the MVD automated phone system dial 888.713.3031


Getting your car inspected in Arizona: A requirement for registration


Like all Arizona residents, as a car owner in the Phoenix Metropolitan or Tucson area, you are required to pass Arizona Registration Inspection. Vehicle emissions can be harmful to the environment and are, therefore, controlled by the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ). According to the ADEQ, each vehicle must pass a Vehicle Emissions Inspection Program (VEIP) in order to be registered. Arizona car emissions inspection is mandatory and, if not completed in time, will result in tickets, fines or the inability to drive the vehicle. Smog testing can be intimidating, so here is a compilation of everything you should know about vehicle inspections. 

  • No out-of-state emissions tests are accepted, only a passed test from an Arizona Registration Station will suffice.

  • If you don’t pass inspection the first time around, you must make repairs accordingly until you do. 

  • Until a vehicle passes inspection, it cannot legally operate.

  • You must complete the inspection no more than 90 days prior to vehicle registration or tag renewal.

  • In Arizona, all 1967 model year vehicles are required to be tested.


Vehicles exempt from testing requirements include:

  • Most 2007 or newer vehicles

  • Most 2009 vehicles using alternative fuel 

  • Model 1966 or older vehicles

  • Collectible cars (requires collectible car insurance)

What to bring to the Arizona Inspection Testing Station:

  • Vehicle’s title

  • Current and valid registration 

  • Bill of sale (if applicable)

  • If your vehicle failed the first emissions test, bring the failed vehicle inspection report and repair information.

  • Keys to open gas caps

  • Payment for the testing fee


Expected prices for inspection fee (Phoenix Metro Area):

  • $27.75 for passenger vehicles (Model year 1981 and newer)

  • $28 for heavy-duty diesel trucks over 8,500 pounds

  • $19 for most other vehicles


Where is my nearest testing station?


Emissions testing station hours are Monday-Friday 8:00 AM-7:00PM and Saturdays 8:00AM-5:00PM. Below is a list of all testing locations; click here to find a location near you.

PHOENIX AREA


• 1520 E. Riverview Dr., Phoenix, AZ 85036

• 5850 W. Beverly Ln., Glendale, AZ 85306 

• 4949 E. Madison, Phoenix, AZ 85034 

• 7140 N. 110th Ave., Glendale, AZ 85307 

• 1851 W. 1st Ave., Mesa, AZ 85202 

• 10210 N. 23rd Ave., Phoenix, AZ 85021 

• 4442 E. Ivy St., Mesa, AZ 85205 

• 5302 W. Roosevelt, Phoenix, AZ 85043 

• 2360 S. Airport Boulevard

• 20 N. Beck Ave., Chandler, AZ 85226 

• 8448 E. Evans, Scottsdale, AZ 85260 

• 13425 W. Westgate Dr., Surprise, AZ 85374 

• 2360 S. Airport Blvd., Chandler, AZ 85286 

• 501 W. Deer Valley Road in Phoenix

• 16140 W. Eddie Albert Way in Goodyear 

• 565 E. 38th Avenue in Apache Junction 


Your car is registered, now what? Lower your payments!


Now that you feel the stress and confusion of vehicle registration vanishing, it’s time to take a look on how to improve another aspect of your car-ownership experience: your loan. This is where WithClutch.com comes into play.


More than likely, if you received your vehicle loan from a dealership, you are drastically overpaying on your loan. We live in a time of greedy car dealerships which has caused the car loan market to be inefficient. This market inefficiency is due to the fact that most vehicle owners pay more for their loan than they were qualified for.


Most people can save money by refinancing their loan from the comfort of their home. “Most people” maybe you, which is why you shouldn’t waste any more time or money and follow these simple steps.

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