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Coronavirus Concerns Prompt Big Changes in How You Register Your New Car

The coronavirus pandemic has slowed new car sales and encouraged automakers to entice consumers with lengthy zero-percent financing deals and big rebates. These deals are good enough that they may have you considering trading your old car for a new one, even during the pandemic. After all, it’s possible to buy a new car online without even visiting a showroom, and many car dealers are able to stay open or have shifted to internet and phone sales during the pandemic.

One lingering concern you may have is just how you will register your new car, however, as city, county and state offices have generally been shuttered until further notice.

In some states, such as Texas, broadly speaking it’s business as usual since dealers there are tasked with handling registration paperwork and verifying that you are who you say you are when you sign on the dotted line to take your new car home. You’ll be issued a temporary license plate, and your new plates will likely show up in the mail within a month or two.

Other states that require buyers to make a stop at the DMV before their temporary license plates expire are handling the situation in very different ways. Some are transitioning more services online and to remote kiosks that can be found in places such as grocery stores and in the lobbies of big government buildings. If you are able to use a kiosk to complete your new-car registration, be sure to follow the Centers for Disease Control guidelines to disinfect the machine and thoroughly wash your hands after you’re done.

A number of states have extended registration deadlines by as many as two months, with the possibility of further extensions moving forward depending on how the pandemic situation changes over the next couple of months.

California in mid-March said that new car buyers will have a 60-day extension and that police have been asked to not issue citations for expired temporary license plates that fall within a certain window. If you buy your car today, you may have several months before you have to register it.

Since vehicle registration is left up to states to handle individually, and since the coronavirus pandemic is evolving rapidly, it is imperative that you find out where your city, county and state stand currently. Ask the dealership that is handling the sale if it is possible for them to take care of your registration. If not, contact your local DMV — or BMV, as the offices are called in some states — to find out how they are currently handling new car registrations. A phone call is likely best since most DMVs have limited up-to-date information online.

Whatever you do, be smart and safe during this extraordinary time.

Looking for more information relating to you, your vehicle and the COVID-19 pandemic? Check out more of Autotrader’s coronavirus content.

Andrew Ganz
Andrew Ganz is an author specializing in helping in-market consumers get the most bang for their buck -- and the best car, while they're at it. When not virtually shopping for new and used cars, Andrew can probably be found under the hood of a vintage classic that's rapidly losing fluids.

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