North Carolina

Title Application

An application for vehicle title shall be made at the same time as an application for vehicle registration. The application shall contain the following information: the owner’s name; mailing and residence addresses; a description of the vehicle, including make, model, type of body, and vehicle identification number; whether the vehicle is new or used, and if new, the dates the manufacturer or dealer sold and delivered the vehicle to the applicant; and a statement of the owner’s title and of all liens upon the vehicle, including the names, addresses, and date of all lienholders in order of priority.

Applications for new vehicles must also be accompanied by a manufacturer’s certificate of origin that is properly assigned to the applicant.

Upon receipt of a valid application for title, the DMV shall issue a certificate of title. The certificate shall contain the name and address of the owner, and a description of the vehicle. If there are more than 2 owners or lienholders, the names, dates of issuance, and all liens or encumbrances shall be included on the title.

The reverse side of the certificate of title shall contain a form for the assignment of title or interest and warranty by the registered owner or registered dealer.

A person must notify the DMV of a change of address or name within 60 days of the change.

Title Transfer of Ownership

In order to assign or transfer a title, the owner must execute, in the presence of a person authorized to administer oaths, an assignment and warranty of title on the reverse of the certificate of title. The form on the back of the title shall include the name and address of the transferee.

Any person transferring title or interest in a motor vehicle shall deliver the certificate of title to the transferee at the time of delivery of the vehicle. If there is a security interest, the transferor shall deliver the certificate of title to the lienholder and the lienholder shall forward the certificate of title together with the transferee’s application for new title and necessary fees to the DMV within 20 days.

A transferee must apply to the DMV for a new certificate of title within 28 days of the transfer.

Titles for Mobile Homes

Mobile homes must be titled. Titling requires a Manufacturer’s Certificate of Origin.

Mobile homes sold by a dealer are subject to a 2% sales tax with a $300.00 maximum. The sales tax is due on each section of a doublewide mobile home. The sales tax is paid to the dealer who then reports it to the Department of Revenue. If the mobile home was purchased from an individual or someone other than a dealer, no tax is due.

A title will be issued in the new owner’s name and canceled when the vehicle is converted to real estate.

Registration Application

All vehicles, unless exempted, must be registered with the DMV before operating the vehicle.

The following types of vehicles need not be registered: those dealing with manufacturers, dealers, or non-residents; vehicles used only to cross a highway to get from one piece of property to another; implements of husbandry, farm tractors, road construction, or maintenance machinery that are designed for use in work off the highway and are operated on the highway for the purpose of going to and from such non-highway projects; vehicles owned by the U.S. government; farm equipment headed to or from farms or markets; and trailers or semitrailers attached to and pulled by a farm vehicle.

For the requirements of an application for registration, see the APPLICATION section for Vehicle Title.

There is a 15 day grace period for late registration.

The registration of a vehicle renewed by means of a new registration plate expires at midnight on the last day of the year in which the registration plate was issued. It is lawful, however, to operate the vehicle on a highway through midnight February 15 of each the following year.

Registration for Non-Residents

Non-residents are exempted from North Carolina licensing requirements for motor vehicles for the same time and to the same extent as like exemptions are granted by other jurisdictions to residents of North Carolina.

Military personnel on active duty in North Carolina may maintain home state vehicle registration.

Registration Type

Staggered registration system.

A safety/emissions inspection is required before any vehicle can be registered in the state.

Upon receipt of a valid application for registration, the DMV shall issue a registration card. The card shall contain the name and address of the owner, space for the owner’s signature, the registration number assigned to the vehicle, and a description of the vehicle. The owner shall sign the registration card and keep it in the vehicle at all times.

The registration must be renewed annually. The owner of a vehicle may renew the registration by filing an application with the DMV and paying the required fee.

Annual vehicle inspections, registration renewals and vehicle property taxes are due the same month each year. Vehicle owners receive a statement that lists both vehicle registration fees and taxes due 60 days prior to their vehicle’s registration expiration. Only one payment, made either in person, online or by mail, is required to pay both the annual tag and tax for a vehicle.

When the DMV renews a vehicle registration, it shall send the owner a new registration card and either a new license plate or a registration renewal sticker for the plate.

A person must notify the DMV of a change of address or name within 60 days of the change.

Emissions Inspection

Emissions inspection is required in 22 out of 100 counties on vehicles that are 1996 model year or newer and that are either older than the three most recent model years or with 70,000 miles or more on their odometers.

A list of those counties can be found on the Division of Air Quality website.

Safety Inspection

A motor vehicle is subject to an annual safety inspection if it meets the following requirements: it is subject to registration with the DMV, it is less than 35 years old, it is not subject to inspection under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, and it is not either a trailer with a gross weight below 4,000 lbs. or a house trailer.

A safety inspection ensures that the following equipment is in a safe operating condition: brakes; lights; horn; steering mechanism; windows and windshield wipers (including tinting levels); directional signals; tires; mirrors; and the exhaust system, if the vehicle is not subject to an emissions test.

Upon successful completion of a safety inspection, the vehicle will receive an inspection sticker that shows the inspection’s expiration date and also contains the date of inspection, odometer reading, and the identification of the mechanic who performed the inspection. The inspection sticker shall be a different color than 1 for both inspections.

Title and Registration Fees


Title Fee: $40.00 ($52.00 eff. July 1, 2017)

Registration Fee: $28.00 ($36.00 eff. July 1, 2017)


Title Fee: $40.00 ($52.00 eff. July 1, 2017)

Registration Fee: $18.00 ($20.00 eff. July 1, 2017)


Plate Fee: $15.00 ($20.00 eff. July 1, 2017)

Registration Fee: $15.00 ($20.00 eff. July 1, 2017)

Driver’s License Fee: $10.00 ($13.00 eff. July 1, 2017)

Title Fee: $15.00 ($40.00 eff. July 1, 2017)

Special Plates: $30.00

Plate Disbursement

Upon registration, the DMV shall issue 1 reflectorized registration plate for a motorcycle, trailer, semitrailer, and every other motor vehicle.

Every license plate shall have the registration number assigned to the vehicle, the name of the state of North Carolina, and year number for which it is issued or for the expiration date.

The color scheme for license plates is red and blue on white.

License plates are validated by stickers.

Commercial plates must also bear the word “commercial,” unless it is a trailer or is licensed for 6,000 lbs. or less.

Vehicle owners may pay a prorated fee for license plates issued for less than a year. If the plate is issued between April 1 and June 30, the owner will pay 75% of the fee. Between July 1 and September 30, he or she owes 50% of the fee, and from October 1 to December 31, 25% of the fee.

Handicapped plates are available at DMV branch offices throughout the state.

Transfer of Plates

License plates shall be retained by the owner following the transfer of a vehicle. They may be assigned to another vehicle in the same vehicle class belonging to the owner, upon proper application to the DMV and payment of a transfer fee and any additional fees that may be due because the new vehicle has a greater registration fee. Owner may use the plates on the other vehicle for no more than 20 days while in the process of completing the transfer.

The vehicle for which the plate is being transferred to must have a current inspection before the plate can be transferred.

If the new vehicle is of a different vehicle class, the owner shall return the plates to the DMV.

Driver's License Examination

In order to demonstrate an applicant’s physical and mental ability to operate a vehicle, an applicant must pass tests issued by the DMV, which may include road tests, vision tests (20/40 visual acuity required), and oral or written tests.

The DMV may not require a person who is at least 60 years of age to parallel park a motor vehicle as part of a road test.

An applicant using bioptic telescopic lenses is eligible for a regular Class C driver’s license if they meet specific visual acuity requirements and successfully complete a road test. The license or permit holder will be restricted to driving between one-half hour after sunrise and ending one-half hour before sunset.

Graduated Driver's Licensing

North Carolina has a system of graduated licensing for novice drivers.

At age 15, individuals who pass driver education and a written test, and have a driving eligibility certificate are eligible for a learner’s permit.

  • Permit holders may not drive unsupervised.
  • For the first 6 months, the permit holder may only drive between the hours of 5 a.m. and 9 p.m.
  • Every person riding in the vehicle operated by a permit holder must either be wearing a properly fastened safety belt or be safely restrained in a child passenger restraint system.
  • Permit holders must complete 60 hours of practice driving (including 10 hours at night).

At age 16, after passing a road test, earning a driving eligibility certificate, and holding a learner’s permit for at least 12 months, individuals may obtain a limited provisional license.

  • Provisional license holders may drive unsupervised between 5 a.m. and 9 p.m. or at any time when driving directly to or from work or as a member of a volunteer fire, rescue or emergency medical service. At all other times, drivers must be supervised by a parent, guardian, grandparent, or a person approved by any of them, who has been licensed for at least 5 years.
  • Provisional license holders are restricted from transporting more than 1 passenger under 21 unless accompanied by a supervising driver (family exempted). However, individuals transporting family members under 21 may not transport any other passengers under 21 unless supervised.
  • Every person riding in the vehicle operated by a provisional license holder must either be wearing a properly fastened safety belt or be safely restrained in a child passenger restraint system.

At 16 years and 6 months, drivers are eligible for an unrestricted license if they have: (1) held a provisional license for at least 6 months; (2) not been convicted of a moving violation or seat belt infraction during the preceding 6 months; (3) completed 12 hours of practice driving (including 6 at night); and (4) a driver eligibility certificate.

Driver education is required for all license applicants under age 18.

Driver's License Issuance/Application

A new resident of North Carolina who has a valid driver’s license from another jurisdiction must obtain a North Carolina driver’s license within 60 days of becoming a resident.

To obtain a driver’s license, an applicant must complete an application, present at least 2 forms of identification, be a North Carolina resident, and demonstrate his physical and mental ability to drive a motor vehicle safely.

A driver’s license application must contain the applicant’s full name; mailing address and residence address; a physical description including sex, height, eye color, and hair color; date of birth; social security number; and the applicant’s signature.

The DMV may not issue a license to a person until that person has furnished proof of financial responsibility.

A driver’s license issued by the DMV must be tamperproof and must also contain a color photograph of the license holder and an identifying number for the license holder that is not the holder’s social security number.

A person whose address or name changes shall notify the DMV within 60 days after the change occurs.

An application for a commercial license must include the same information as a regular license, as well as consent to release the applicant’s driving record.

A first driver’s license may be issued for period shorter than 4 years if the DMV determines that a license of shorter duration should be issued because the applicant holds a visa of limited duration issued by the United States Department of State.

The expiration dates on non-citizen’s driver’s licenses and ID cards are linked to the expiration date of the person’s visa.

Driver’s License Renewal

Applicants for renewal prior to the license expiring may not be required to take a written or road test unless the applicant has been convicted of a traffic violation since the person’s license was last issued or the applicant suffers from a mental or physical condition that impairs the person’s ability to drive a vehicle.

A current or expired license is required at renewal. In the absence of a license, an applicant for renewal must present two documents of identification.

A driver’s license issued to a person at least 18 years old but less than 66 years old expires eight years after the date it was issued. A driver’s license issued to a person at least 66 years old expires five years after the date it was issued.  Licenses may be renewed remotely every other renewal. Vision testing is required at in-person renewals.

The first license the DMV issues to a person expires on the person’s 4th or subsequent birthday that occurs after the license is issued and on which the individual’s age is evenly divisible by 5.

Before a license expires, the DMV mails a reminder card explaining the number of years it will be valid. The reminder card is not required in order to renew. If DMV does not have your social security number on file, you must present your social security card at the time of issuance. If you are not eligible for a social security card, you must present documentation issued by the US Government indicating legal presence. If you do not have your current or expired license at renewal, you will be required to show the examiner two required documents of identification.

Resident on active duty or their dependents may renew their driver’s license by mail no more than two times during a license holder’s lifetime. A driver’s license with a military designation on it issued to a person on active duty may be renewed up to 1 year prior to its expiration upon presentation of military or Department of Defense credentials.

Types of Driver's Licenses


  • Class A: Authorizes the holder to drive any class A motor vehicle exempt from the commercial license requirements, or a class A motor vehicle that has a combined Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of less than 26,001 lbs. and includes as part of the combination a towed unit that has a GVWR of at least 10,001 lbs.
  • Class B: Authorizes the holder to drive any class B motor vehicle exempt from the commercial license requirements.
  • Class C: Authorizes the holder to drive any class C motor vehicle that is not a commercial motor vehicle; or a class A or B fire-fighting, rescue, or EMS vehicle when operated by a volunteer member of a fire department, rescue squad, or EMS; or a combination of noncommercial motor vehicles that have a GVWR of more than 10,000 lbs. but less than 26,001 lbs. Commercial Drivers’ Licenses (CDL):

Class A CDL: Authorizes the holder to drive any class A motor vehicle.

Class B CDL: Authorizes the holder to drive any class B motor vehicle.

Class C CDL: Authorizes the holder to drive any class C motor vehicle.

H Endorsement: Authorizes the holder to drive vehicles, regardless of size or class, except tank vehicles when transporting hazardous material that requires the vehicle to be placarded.

M Endorsement: Authorizes the holder to drive a motorcycle.

N Endorsement: Authorizes the holder to drive tank vehicles not carrying hazardous materials.

P Endorsement: Authorizes the holder to drive vehicles carrying passengers.

T Endorsement: Authorizes the holder to drive double trailers.

X Endorsement: Authorizes the holder to drive tank vehicles carrying hazardous materials.

Out-of-state restricted license holders who are between the ages of 16 and 18 may be eligible for any of the 3 provisional licenses, depending on the driving experience of the driver.

Distracted Driving

Text messaging and emailing while driving are prohibited for all drivers. Limited learner’s permit and provisional driver’s license holders, and drivers under 18, are prohibited from all cell phone use. School bus drivers are not permitted to use cell phones.


No prohibition on wearing of headsets while driving.

Impaired Driving

Forty-nine states and the District of Columbia prohibit the operation of a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating beverages, with the illegal per se limit set at 0.08 percent blood alcohol content (.08 BAC). Utah’s per se limit is 0.05 BAC. All 50 states and the District of Columbia set the legal drinking age at 21.

Every state’s chemical test law has ‘‘an implied consent’’ provision providing that any person operating a motor vehicle on a public highway, who is suspected of driving while intoxicated, consents to a chemical test to determine if he or she is inebriated. Failure to submit or pass such a test may cause the driver’s license to be suspended or revoked regardless of any court action finding the person innocent of the charge.

The most comprehensive resource on U.S. impaired driving laws is the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Digest of Impaired Driving and Selected Beverage Control Laws.  NHTSA’s Digest is updated annually.

North Carolina requires the use of ignition interlocks for repeat and high BAC (.15 BAC or greater) impaired driving offenders only.

Move Over Law

State law requires drivers approaching a stationary emergency vehicle displaying flashing lights, including towing and recovery vehicles, traveling in the same direction, to vacate the lane closest if safe and possible to do so, or slow to a safe speed. Also included in the law are utility vehicles, municipal vehicles, and road maintenance vehicles.

Seat Belts

Seat belts are required for the driver and all passengers age 16 and older.

Violation of the seat belt law is a standard offense, but secondary for rear seat occupants age 16 and older.

Riding in the cargo area of a pickup truck is not permitted for persons under age 17 unless belted or with a supervising adult; some other exceptions apply.

Child Passenger Safety

Children ages 8 until 16 must be secured in either a child passenger restraint system or a seat belt.

Children under age 8 and less than 80 lbs. must be secured in a child passenger restraint system. If the vehicle has a passenger-side air bag and a rear seat, the child must be secured in a rear seat unless the restraint system is designed for use with air bags.

Violation of the child restraint law is a standard offense, but secondary for rear seat occupants age 16 and older.

Railroad Crossing

The driver of any vehicle shall stop the vehicle within 15-50 feet of a railroad crossing when there is a stop sign, clearly visible electrical or mechanical signal device giving warning of the immediate approach of a train, a crossing gate is lowered, a human flagman gives a signal of the approach of a train, a train approaching within 1,500 feet emits a signal audible from that distance and is an immediate hazard, or an approaching train is plainly visible and in hazardous proximity to the crossing.

Vehicles other than a school bus, activity bus, motor vehicle carrying passengers for compensation, vehicle over 10,000 lbs. that is carrying hazardous materials, and any motor vehicle with a capacity of at least 16 persons do not need to stop at railroad tracks used for industrial switching purposes, where a police officer or flagman directs traffic to proceed, if there is a railroad gate that flashes to indicate an approaching train, or at an industrial or spur line crossing marked with a sign reading “Exempt.”

School Buses

The driver of any vehicle approaching a school bus from any direction, when the bus is displaying its stop signal or flashing signal lights, shall stop the vehicle before passing the bus and remain stopped until the signal has been turned off.

Vehicles traveling on the opposite side of a divided highway do not need to stop.

Bumper Height

The manufacturer’s specified bumper height of any passenger motor vehicle shall not be elevated or lowered more than 6 inches in the front or back of the vehicle, without prior written approval from the DMV.

Headlight Use

Headlights must be used from sunset to sunrise, when windshield wipers are in use, or when insufficient light limits visibility to 400 feet.

Hazard Light Use

Hazard light use is permitted while driving unless otherwise posted.

Tire Chains

Tire chain usage is permitted for hazardous weather or other related incidents only, but may not damage the highway surface.

Studded Tires

Studded Tires are permitted.

Glass/Window Tinting

The windshield of a vehicle may only be tinted along the top 5 inches of the windshield or to the AS1 line, whichever is longer. The tinting must allow a light transmission of at least 35%.

All other windows must have a light transmission of 35%, but vehicles measured to have a light transmission of at least 32% will be presumed to meet the standard.

All windows must have a light reflectance of 20% or less.

Exceptions are available to persons with a medical condition causing them to be photosensitive to visible light.

Video Screens

No person shall drive any motor vehicle on a public street while viewing any television, computer, or video player that is located at any point forward of the back of the driver’s seat, or that is visible to the driver while operating the vehicle. Exempts certain navigation, safety, and informational systems.

Radar Detectors

Radar detectors are permitted for passenger vehicles but prohibited for use by commercial vehicles.

Windshield Stickers

Prohibited, except those required by law or approved by commissioner.

Other Equipment Rules


Motorcycle Equipment

Every motorcycle and motor-driven cycle shall be equipped with:

  • At least 1 brake operated either by hand or foot.
  • A rearview mirror that provides the operator with a clear, undistorted, and unobstructed view of at least 200 feet to the rear of the motorcycle.
  • Either 1 or 2 headlamps that shall be lighted at all times when the motorcycle is in operation.
  • If manufactured after December 31, 1955, a stop lamp on the rear of the vehicle that displays a red or amber light visible from a distance of at least 100 feet when operated in the sunlight. The stop lamp shall be activated upon application of the foot brake and may be incorporated into a unit with other rear lamps. No person shall operate a motorcycle or moped when the number of persons on board exceeds the number it was designed to carry.

The operator and all passengers of a motorcycle or moped must wear a protective helmet.

Lights must be on at all times.

Motorcycle Licenses

To drive a motorcycle, a person shall have a full provisional license with a motorcycle learner’s permit, a regular driver’s license with a motorcycle learner’s permit, a full provisional license with a motorcycle endorsement, or a regular driver’s license with a motorcycle endorsement.

To obtain a motorcycle endorsement, an applicant must pass a knowledge test concerning motorcycles, pay the fee, and either pass a road test or provide proof of successful completion of the North Carolina motorcycle safety education program basic rider course or experienced rider course, or any other approved course for this purpose.

An applicant must pass a vision test, road sign test, and written test to obtain a motorcycle learner’s permit.

Motorcycle Learner’s Permit: A person who is 16 or 17 years old and has a full provisional license, or a person who is at least 18 years old and has a valid license, is eligible for a motorcycle learner’s permit.

A motorcycle learner’s permit is valid for 12 months after it is issued, and may be renewed for one additional 6-month period.

Motorcycle Noise Limits

No statewide noise restriction requirement.

Mopeds & Other

To drive a moped, no license is required, but the operator must be at least 16 years of age.

Mopeds need to be registered and operators need liability insurance.

Safety helmet required. If operated at night, headlight and taillight or reflector and rearview mirror. If moped is registered additional equipment required: horn, brakes, and license plate lamp.

Trailer Dimensions

Total length: 60 feet (excluding bumpers); trailer length: 40 feet (excluding bumpers); motor home length: 45 feet (excluding mirrors and bumpers); width: 8 feet 6 inches; height: 13 feet 6 inches.

A boat or boat trailer with a width between 102 and 120 inches is permitted to be towed as long as the boat or trailer is equipped with two operable amber lamps on the widest point to clearly mark outside dimensions. The towing of a boat or boat trailer 114 inches to 120 inches in width may take place only during daytime.

Trailer Brakes

Every semitrailer, trailer, or separate vehicle attached by a drawbar or coupling to a towing vehicle of at least 4,000 lbs., and every house trailer weighing at least 1,000 lbs., shall be equipped with brakes controlled or operated by the driver of the towing vehicle.

Trailer Hitch/Signals

The towed vehicle, if the primary towing attachment is a hitch, shall also be attached to the towing unit by means of safety chains or cables of sufficient strength to hold the gross weight of the towed vehicle in the event the hitch fails or becomes disconnected.

Trailers or semitrailers having locking pins or bolts in the towing attachment and semitrailers in combination with vehicles equipped with 5th-wheel assemblies, do not need the safety chains or cables.

Trailer Lighting

Trailers whose load does not obscure the directional signals of the towing vehicle from the view of a driver approaching the vehicle from the rear within 200 feet, and trailers with a gross weight of 4,000 lbs. or less, do not need turn signals.

Trailers with a gross weight of less than 4,000 lbs. need not be equipped with a rear tail lamp, provided that the trailer is equipped with 2 red rear reflectors with a diameter of at least 3 inches that are visible from a distance of at least 500 feet when opposed by a vehicle with lighted headlamps.

Every trailer or semitrailer with a gross weight of 4,000 lbs. or more must also have: on the front, 2 clearance lamps, with 1 on each side; on each side, 2 side marker lamps and 2 reflectors, with 1 of each at or near the front and at or near the rear; and on the rear, 2 clearance lamps and 2 reflectors, with 1 of each at either side, and 1 stoplight.

Every pole trailer with a gross weight of 4,000 lbs. or more must also have: on each side, 1 side marker lamp and 1 clearance lamp (which may be in combination) to show the front, side, and rear; and on the rear, 2 reflectors, with 1 on each side.

Every trailer, semitrailer, or pole trailer with a gross weight below 4,000 lbs. must also have: 2 reflectors, with 1 on each side, on the rear of the vehicle.

On every trailer or semitrailer 30 feet or more in length and weighing at least 4,000 lbs., 1 combination marker lamp showing amber and mounted on the bottom side rail at or near the center of each side of the trailer is required.

Trailer Mirrors

Vehicles that have an obstructed view of the rear of the vehicle must place a mirror so that it can reflect the view of the highway to the rear of the vehicle.

Trailer Speed Limits

55 mph unless otherwise posted.

Trailer Towing

No trailer, semitrailer, or other towed vehicle shall be operated unless such trailer is firmly attached to the rear of the towing unit, and unless so equipped that it will travel in the path of the vehicle towing it without snaking.

Trailer Other Provisions

Riding in towed trailers is permitted.

Accident Reporting

Crashes are required to be immediately reported in cases of death, injury, or if property damage exceeds $1000.00.

Liability Laws

The minimum liability insurance coverage for a vehicle is $30,000 for bodily injury to or death of 1 person; $60,000 for bodily injury to or death of 1 or more persons; and $25,000 for injury to or destruction of property of others in any 1 accident.

Vehicle owners are also required to maintain insurance for the protection of persons entitled to recover damages from owners or operators of uninsured drivers and hit-and-run accidents in amount equal to the highest limits of property damage liability coverage, not to exceed $1,000,000 per person and per accident.

State has non-resident service of process law; does not have guest suit law.

Waives civil penalties and restoration fees for any deployed military personnel whose motor vehicle liability insurance lapsed during the period of deployment or within 90 days after the military member returned to the state. The military member must certify to the DMV that the motor vehicle was not driven on the highway by anyone during the period in which the motor vehicle was uninsured and that the owner now has liability insurance on the motor vehicle.