Title Application

The owner of a vehicle, or his or her duly authorized attorney-in-fact, must apply for a certificate of title in the name of the owner on appropriate forms pre-scribed and furnished by the Commissioner of the DMV.

Certificate of title must contain all liens, security interests, or encumbrances on the vehicle.

The certificate of title shall contain the date issued; the registration number assigned to the motor vehicle, trailer, or semitrailer; the name and address of the owner; a description of the registered motor vehicle, trailer, or semitrailer; and other statements of fact as may be determined by the DMV.

Whenever any person who has applied for or obtained the registration or title to a vehicle moves from the address shown in his or her application, registration card, or certificate of title, he or she shall notify the DMV of his or her change of address within 30 days.

Every certificate of title issued under this chapter shall be valid for the life of the motor vehicle, trailer, or semitrailer so long as the owner to whom it is issued shall retain legal title or right of possession of or to the vehicle.

Title Transfer of Ownership

When transferring or assigning a title or interest, transferor must fully and correctly endorse the assignment on the certificate of title to its purchaser, with a statement of all security interests on it, and shall deliver the certificate to the purchaser or transferee at the time of delivery.

The transferee shall write his or her name and address in ink on the certificate of title and must within 30 days forward the certificate to the DMV with an application for the registration of the motor vehicle, trailer, or semitrailer and for a certificate of title.

Every owner or transferor of any motor vehicle, including a dealer, shall, at the time of transfer of ownership of any motor vehicle by him or her, record on the certificate of title, if one is currently issued on the vehicle in the Commonwealth, and on any application for certificate of title, the reading on the odometer or similar device plus any known additional distance traveled not shown by the odometer or similar device of the motor vehicle at the time of transfer.

The registration card contains forms for providing notice to the DMV of a transfer of the ownership of the motor vehicle, trailer, or semitrailer.

It is illegal to sell, trade, or offer to sell or trade any vehicle without an accompanying certificate of title issued to its owner.

Titles for Mobile Homes

The owner of a mobile/manufactured home must register the vehicle with the DMV and obtain from the DMV a registration card and certificate of title.

Registration Application

The registration application must include a description of the vehicle and a statement of all liens of the vehicle.

No motor vehicle subject to an emissions test may be registered until it has passed such test or been issued a waiver.

Whenever any person who has applied for or obtained the registration or title to a vehicle moves from the address shown in his or her application, registration card, or certificate of title, he or she shall notify the DMV of the change of address within 30 days.

The DMV may reject an application for the registration of a motor vehicle, trailer, or semitrailer or certificate of title when the applicant has neglected or refused to furnish the DMV with the information required on the appropriate official form or other information required by the DMV; the required fees have not been paid; the vehicle lacks required equipment or contains prohibited equipment; or there is reason to believe that the application or accompanying documents have been altered or contain false statements.

There is no period of grace for late registration. However, there is a 90 day grace period for active duty military personnel stationed outside the United States and their accompanying spouse and dependents.

Registration for Non-Residents

Non-residents may operate a motor vehicle in the state without registering or paying any fees to the Commonwealth for a period not to exceed 6 months if the vehicle is registered in another state.

Other than for purposes of pleasure (any purpose other than to conduct business), a non-resident regularly operating within the Commonwealth must register his or her vehicle(s) with the Commonwealth.

Any owner who operates or permits to be operated 1 or more of these vehicles either simultaneously or alternately as often as 4 times in any 1 month shall be considered to be regularly operating them in the Commonwealth.

Military personnel on active duty in Virginia may retain vehicle registration in their home state.

Registration Type

Registration expires on the last day of the 12th or 24th month next succeeding the date of registration. Every registration shall be renewed annually or biannually on application by the owner and by payment of the fees required by law. A $10 late fee is assessed on all registration renewal transactions that occur after the expiration date. However, there will be a 10-day grace period for transactions conducted by mail to allow for administrative processing.

The operator of any motor vehicle, trailer, or semitrailer being operated on the highways in the Commonwealth shall have in his or her possession the registration card issued by the DMV or the registration card issued by the state or country in which the motor vehicle, trailer, or semitrailer is registered; and his or her driver’s license, learner’s permit, or temporary driver’s permit.

The registration card shall contain the date issued; the registration number assigned to the motor vehicle, trailer, or semitrailer; the name and address of the owner; a description of the registered motor vehicle, trailer, or semitrailer; and other statements of fact as may be determined by the DMV.

There is a $1 per year discount for each year of a multiyear registration. In addition to any other fee imposed and collected by DMV, a service charge of $5 shall be charged for any registration renewal carried out in any of its customer service centers, if the transaction is one that can be conducted by mail, telephone, or electronic means.

Emissions Inspection

Motor vehicles having a gross weight of 10,000 lbs. or less that are registered in the Northern Virginia region must have emissions inspections.

Inspections must be done on a biennial basis at official emissions inspection stations. This rule does not apply to motorcycles, “clean fuel” vehicles, hybrid cars, antique vehicles, or vehicles 4 years old or less.

A vehicle will qualify for a waiver if it has failed an initial inspection and subsequently fails a re-inspection if the owner provides written proof that at least $175 was spent on improvements to a pre-1980 model vehicle or $200 for 1980 and newer vehicles; and that any emissions control system which has been removed, damaged, or rendered inoperable has been replaced and restored to operating condition.

Visit the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles for more information.

OBD is utilized as part of the state emissions inspection process.

Safety Inspection

Motor vehicles, trailers, and semitrailers, except for antique vehicles, are required to be inspected for safety upon registration and must be re-inspected within 12 months of the month of the first inspection and at least once every 12 months thereafter. New motor vehicles that have been inspected in accordance with the manufacturer or distributor are exempt from the safety inspection.

Safety inspection stickers must be displayed on the windshield of vehicles.

A safety inspection sticker issued for any vehicle that is principally garaged outside the Commonwealth registered to a person in the armed services of the United States will be deemed not to have expired during the period of the owner’s official absence from the Commonwealth.

Title and Registration Fees


Title Fee: $10.00

Registration Fee: $38.75–$43.75


Title Fee: $10.00

Registration Fee: $26.75


Plate Fee: $10.00

Registration Fee: $2.00

Driver’s License Fee: $10.00

Title Fee: $10.00

Special Plates: $10.00/year

Plate Disbursement

Two reflectorized plates must be attached to both the front and the rear of the motor vehicle.

The color scheme for license plates is blue on white.

License plates are validated by stickers.

For a motorcycle, moped, or trailer, the plate must be attached to the rear of the vehicle.

Handicapped license plates are available by application to DMV or Customer Service Center.

The use of any bracket, holder, mounting, or frame that obscures the alpha-numeric license number, the name or abbreviated name of the state, or any decal, stamp, or other device indicating the month or year in which registration expires is prohibited.

Transfer of Plates

An owner who sells or transfers a registered motor vehicle may have the license plates and the registration number transferred to another vehicle titled in the owner’s name.

An application for transfer of plates must be made to the DMV accompanied by a fee or, if the other vehicle requires a greater registration fee than that for which the license plates were assigned, on the payment of a fee plus the amount of the difference in registration fees between the 2 vehicles.

Driver’s License Examination

Every applicant must submit to an examination to determine his or her mental and physical qualifications and ability to drive.

A written examination and road test are required for first-time applicants. Prior to taking the examination, applicants shall either present evidence that they have completed a state-approved driver education class or submit to the examiner a behind-the-wheel maneuvers checklist.

Any person under the age of 18 who applies for a driver’s license and fails the motor vehicle knowledge test shall not be eligible for retesting for at least 15 days.

Vision screening with a 20/40 or better vision and at least 110 degrees of horizontal vision in 1 or both eyes is required.

Any person who fails the behind-the-wheel or knowledge examinations for a driver’s license administered by the DMV shall not be eligible to retake the test for 2 days.  Such a person who fails 3 times shall not be permitted to take such examination a fourth time until he successfully completes the in-vehicle or knowledge component of driver instruction at a driver training school.

Graduated Driver's Licensing

Virginia has a system of graduated licensing for novice drivers.

At 15 years and 6 months, individuals are eligible for a learner’s permit.

  • Individuals must hold the permit for at least 9 months (minimum age — 16 years and 3 months).
  • Permit holders must accumulate at least 45 (15 at night) hours of parental/guardian supervised driving before being eligible for an intermediate license.

At age 16 and 3 months, drivers who have held the permit for at least 9 months are eligible for a junior/intermediate license.

  • Provisional license holders may not drive unsupervised between the hours of midnight and 4 a.m. (secondarily enforced).
  • Provisional license holders under 18 are prohibited from transporting more than 1 passenger under 21 for the first year they hold their license. After the first year, provisional license holders are prohibited from transporting more than 3 passengers under 21 until they reach age 18, unless driving to and from a school activity or accompanied by a passenger age 21 or older (secondarily enforced). Family members are exempted from all passenger restrictions.

At 18, drivers are eligible for an unrestricted license.

Driver education is required for all license applicants under age 19.

Driver's License Issuance/Application

Application information must include whether or not the applicant has previously been licensed as a driver and, if so, when and by what state, and whether or not his or her license has ever been suspended or revoked and, if so, the date of and reason for such suspension or revocation. Applicant must also provide signature and disclosure of whether or not the applicant has ever been convicted of a felony.

Initial applicants older than 19 years of age must have held a learner’s permit issued by the DMV for at least 60 days or have completed driver’s education before issuance of a driver’s license.

A resident must notify the DMV within 30 days of a change of address. Persons moving to Virginia have 60 days to obtain a Virginia license.

License includes a photograph or a statement “valid without photo pending licensee’s return to Virginia.”

Licenses are prohibited from displaying a social security number.

When applying for a DMV document, applicants may not use immigration visas and written statements (whether notarized or not) where another person “vouches” for the applicant’s Virginia residency.

Driver’s License Renewal

Every driver’s license expires on the last day of the birth month of the applicant every 8 years, or every 5 years for drivers age 75 and older.

Any driver’s license may be renewed by application, which must include the applicant’s certification of Virginia residency, after the applicant has taken and successfully completed all required examinations.

Applications for license renewal may be submitted online, by phone, or by mail every other time, except for drivers age 75 and older which must renew in person. All licenses will be issued by mail.

Applicants 75 years of age or older must undergo vision examinations either in person or provide a report of the examination to renew a driver’s license.

Out-of-state military personnel can apply for a license extension in the mail. Licenses must be renewed within 60 days of returning to the Commonwealth. The validity of driver’s licenses can be extended for persons serving outside Virginia in the U.S. Armed Forces or the diplomatic service as well as for the spouses and dependents accompanying them. The license shall be valid during the period the person is outside of the Commonwealth and 60 days thereafter, but no extension can be for more than 3 years after date of expiration shown on the license.

Types of Driver's Licenses

Types of non-commercial licenses are driver’s licenses, driver’s licenses with a Class M motorcycle, and a motorcycle-only license. Types of commercial licenses are:

  • Class A: Any combination of vehicles with a Gross Combination Weight Rating (GCWR) of 26,001 lbs. or more if the vehicle(s) being towed has a GVWR of more than 10,000 lbs. If an operator holds a Class A license and has the correct endorsements, he or she may also operate vehicles listed in Classes B and C.
  • Class B: Any single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 lbs. or more. Any single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 lbs. or more towing another vehicle with a GVWR of 10,000 lbs. or less.
  • Class C: Any vehicle that is not included in Classes A or B that carries hazardous materials or is designed to carry 16 or more passengers, including the driver.
  • Types of endorsements are: H — permits driving a vehicle that transports hazardous materials; N — permits driving a tanker; P — permits driving a passenger-carrying vehicle; S — permits driving a school bus; or T — permits driving a double or triple trailer. 

Distracted Driving

Text messaging and emailing while driving is prohibited for all drivers. Learner’s permit and provisional driver’s license holders under 18 are subject to a complete ban on cell phone use (secondarily enforced). All drivers are prohibited from using handheld communication devices while driving (effective January 1, 2021). School bus drivers may not use cell phones while driving.


Using earphones is not permitted while operating a motor vehicle, bicycle, electric power-assisted bicycle, or moped. Exempts hearing aids and motorcycle helmet earphones.

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.

Virginia requires the use of ignition interlocks for all impaired driving offenders.

Move Over Law

State law requires drivers approaching a stationary emergency vehicle, including a tow truck, that is displaying a flashing lights and traveling in the same direction to vacate the lane closest to the stationary vehicle if safe to do so, or slow to a speed safe for highway conditions. Also included in the law are road maintenance and utility vehicles.

Seat Belts

Seat belts are required for the driver and all front seat passengers age 18 and older.

Violation of the seat belt law is a secondary offense.

Riding in the cargo area of a pickup truck is not permitted for persons under age 16; some other exceptions apply.

Child Passenger Safety

Children ages 8 until 18 must be secured in a child restraint, booster seat, or safety belt regardless of seating position.

Children under age 8 must be secured in a child restraint or booster seat, as appropriate in the rear seats.

Children must be rear-facing until, at least, the child reaches two years of age or until the child reaches the minimum weight limit for a forward-facing child restraint device as prescribed by the manufacturer of the device. The new law becomes effective July 1, 2019.

Violation of the child restraint law is a standard offense.

Railroad Crossing

All vehicles must stop within 50 feet but not less than 15 feet from the nearest rail on a railroad crossing if either signaled to do so or if an approaching train is plainly visible.

Except in cities or towns, the driver of any motor vehicle carrying passengers for hire, or of any vehicle carrying explosive substances or flammable liquids, must stop within 50 feet but not less than 15 feet from the nearest rail of a railroad.

School Buses

A person shall be guilty of reckless driving who fails to stop when, approaching from any direction (divided highways not included), any school bus which is stopped on any highway or school driveway for the purpose of taking on or discharging children, the elderly, or mentally or physically handicapped persons. Drivers must also remain stopped until all such persons are clear of the highway or school driveway and the bus is put in motion. Local school systems are authorized to install and operate video-monitoring systems on school buses in order to detect drivers passing stopped school buses. School bus drivers may not use cell phones while driving, even if they are equipped with “hands-free” technology.

Bumper Height

Modification of original bumper height is permitted but must meet state standards.  Bumpers must be between 14 and 22 inches in height.

Headlight Use

Headlights must be used from sunset to sunrise, when wipers are in use, or when visibility is less than 500 feet.

Hazard Light Use

Hazard light use is not permitted while driving except for emergency vehicles, stopped or slowed vehicles to indicate a traffic hazard, when traveling as part of a funeral procession, or traveling slower than 30 mph.

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 October 15 to April 15.

Glass/Window Tinting

Glass tinting is allowed only if the vehicle is equipped with 2 side mirrors, and the following conditions apply:

  • For passenger cars, rear side windows or rear windows tint cannot reduce the total light transmittance of such window to less than 35%; and front side windows tint cannot reduce total light transmittance of such window to less than 50%.
  • For passenger trucks, vans, and SUVs, front side windows tint cannot reduce total light transmittance of such window to less than 50%.

No tints may have a reflectance of light exceeding 20% or produce a holographic or prism effect.

No film or darkening material may be applied to the windshield except to replace the sunshield in the uppermost area of the windshield.

Any greater reduction of light transmittance of any window requires written authorization from the Commissioner of the DMV.

Video Screens

No moving images on a television receiver may be visible to the driver. Provides an exemption allowing vehicle information display, a visual display used to enhance or supplement a driver’s view of vehicle occupants, television-type receiving equipment used exclusively for safety or traffic engineering information, or with the use of an interlock device that, when the motor vehicle is driven, disables the equipment for all uses except as a visual display.

Radar Detectors

Radar detectors are not permitted.

Windshield Stickers

Stickers are not allowed on any windshield, except for inspection and county tax decals.

Other Equipment Rules


Motorcycle Equipment

Each passenger is required to have a permanently affixed seat and footrest.

Every person operating a motorcycle must wear a face shield, safety glasses, or goggles, or have his motorcycle equipped with safety glass or a windshield, at all times while operating the vehicle.

Operators and any passengers thereon must wear protective helmets.

Handlebars may not be higher than 15 inches above the level of the motorcycle’s seat.

No more than 5 lights may be used for general illumination ahead of a motorcycle.

Motorcycle Licenses

Applicants must pass a special examination including a written examination and a road test before being issued a license.

A motorcycle written or road test may be waived for licensed members, spouses of a member, or dependents of a member of the United States Armed Services who has successfully completed a basic motorcycle rider course approved by the United States Armed Services.

Motorcycle Noise Limits

The exhaust system must be no louder than the original factory equipment.

Mopeds & Other

Moped drivers must ride as close as is practical to the right curb or edge of the roadway or, if posted, may be required to use an adjacent bike trail.

No moped may be driven on any highway or public vehicular area faster than 35 mph or by any person under the age of 16.

A person who operates a moped in excess of 35 miles per hour will be deemed to be operating a motorcycle.

Mopeds are required to be registered. All drivers must carry government-issued identification that includes their name, address, and date of birth.

All riders of mopeds must wear helmets and other protective equipment.

All rear red reflectors must be visible from 600 feet.

Trailer Dimensions

Total length: 65 feet (excluding safety equipment, energy conservation devices, and steps and handholds for entry); trailer length: 28 feet 6 inches; motor home length: 45 feet (excluding bumpers); width: 8 feet 6 inches (excluding mirrors, and for trailers appurtenances); height: 13 feet 6 inches.

Trailer Brakes

Trailers must be equipped with brakes if the gross weight exceeds 3,000 lbs.

Trailers must be equipped with at least 1 red brake light on the rear of the vehicle.

Trailer Hitch/Signals

The connection between any two vehicles, one of which is towing or drawing the other on a highway, shall consist of a fifth wheel, drawbar, trailer hitch, or other similar device not to exceed 15 feet in length from one vehicle to the other. Any such two vehicles shall, in addition to such drawbar or other similar device, be equipped at all times when so operated on the highway with an emergency chain or cable that is structurally adequate to securely stop and hold the trailer being towed.

Trailer Lighting

Trailers must carry at the rear a red light plainly visible in clear weather from a distance of 500 ft.

Alternatively, a separate white light shall be so mounted as to illuminate the rear license plate from a distance of 50 feet to the rear of such vehicle.

Reflectors must be affixed to the rear end of the trailer.

Trailer Mirrors

Mirrors are required to give view of not less than 200 feet to rear of the vehicle; 1 outside and 1 inside. If inside view is obstructed to rear, then 1 on each side of the vehicle on the outside is required.

Trailer Speed Limits

70 mph or as posted.

Trailer Towing


Trailer Other Provisions

Riding in a towed trailer is not permitted.

Accident Reporting

Crashes are required to be immediately reported in cases of death or injury.

Liability Laws

Has security-type law applicable in event of accident causing property damage of $1,000 or more or personal injury or death.

Vehicle owners are required to pay a $500 UMV fee if registering an uninsured motor vehicle; all policies must include “uninsured motorist” coverage.

Every motor vehicle’s owner’s policy must insure the insured or other person against loss from any liability imposed by law for damages, including damages for care and loss of services, because of bodily injury to or death of any person, and injury to or destruction of property caused by accident and arising out of the ownership, use, or operation of such motor vehicle or motor vehicles within the Commonwealth, any other state in the United States, or Canada.

Minimum insurance amounts, with respect to each motor vehicle, are $25,000 because of bodily injury to or death of 1 person in any 1 accident and, subject to the limit for 1 person; to a limit of $50,000 because of bodily injury to or death of 2 or more persons in any 1 accident; and to a limit of $20,000 because of injury to or destruction of property of others in any 1 accident.

State has non-resident service of process law and guest suit law.