Do You Get a Refund from the DMV When You Sell Your Car?

In most states, you’re required to renew your vehicle registration at least once per year with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) or equivalent state agency. This requires a safety and emissions inspection and proof of insurance.

Imagine this… you renewed your registration just a few months ago. You paid the state and local taxes, applicable registration fees, and the cost of the state inspection. But, unexpectedly, you need to sell your car. You may be wondering, “can I get a refund on my registration fees if I sell my car?” Let’s take a look.

DMV Refund of Vehicle Registration Fees

As you’re probably aware, vehicle registration laws vary from state to state. In some states, such as California, your license plates follow the vehicle. Once you sell your car, the plate is no longer yours. In other states like North Carolina, you’ll need to re-register the vehicle for new license plates in your own name.

In a majority of United States jurisdictions, the fee you paid for your vehicle’s license plate cannot be refunded. However, there is a possibility you can apply to get a portion of the fee you paid refunded to you. That fee covers the taxes that you paid.

Am I Due a Refund?

If your vehicle is not yet due for re-registration but you need to sell, your best option is to contact your local office of the DMV. This office may be called by a different name in your state, just visit the location where you received your plates initially.

Wait until after you’ve sold your car. You should have a bill of sale or a copy of the transferred title on hand. Explain your situation and be prepared to provide your original license plate number. Receipts are generally not necessary as most interactions with the DMV are now digital.

Once you have finished this process, ask the agent if you’ve qualified for a refund. They will let you know if the taxes you paid on your vehicle can be refunded to you.

If you do qualify for reimbursement, most states will let you choose between a paper check and an electronic refund. There is no benefit of one over the other except that your electronic transfer may appear in your bank account more quickly than a paper check will arrive in the mail.

Conclusion: Can a Car Owner Request a Refund from the DMV?

Will the DMV refund you if you’re selling your car? Probably. You likely won’t receive a full refund of your registration costs. But the taxes you paid, in most states, is refundable. Ask your local DMV agent how much money you’re entitled to.

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