Life Skill: Everything My Son Needs To Know About Vehicle Registration


vehicle registration, car responsibilities, car ownership
Even though my son’s eyes were still filled with sleepiness, I could see the disappointment in his eyes when I broke the news to him.

“You can’t drive to school today, son. I forgot to get license tabs for the car, so it’s illegal to drive.”

On my way from work that afternoon, I picked up the license tabs for our car. Once I got home, I knelt down on my knees in the garage to place the stickers on the license plates. Just as I was about to peel the first one off the packaging paper, I thought this would be a great opportunity to teach my sixteen year old son about vehicle registration.

  • Frequency : The frequency in which car license tabs must be renewed varies by state. Most states require yearly registration, but there are many that only require it every other year. I told my son that our state requires yearly registration, with the month the payment is due is listed on the sticker affixed on the license plates.
  • Fee: There are several ways by which states calculate the registration fee including based upon the age and weight of the vehicle,as well as a flat fee or the type of fuel it uses. Our state calculates the fee based on the age of the vehicle. Since the car he drives is ten years old, the fee is fairly low at $60.
  • Grace Period: Some states have a grace period after your tabs expire before you can be ticketed. My state has a grace period of 10 days to have the new stickers on the license plates. However, during that grace period the police can still pull me over and give me a ticket. The good news is that I can have the ticket rescinded if I show proof that I paid for my license tabs.
  • Tax Deductible: Vehicle license registration is a personal property tax that can be used as a tax deduction. The amount you can deduct also varies by state.  Check the website for your state’s DMV for details.

Our yearly (or biyearly) trip to renew our vehicle’s registration is something that adults have done countless times over the years. But for a newly licensed driver like my son, this is all new and someone has to teach it to him.


Image courtesy of Teerapun at

Have you taught your son or daughter the ins and outs of vehicle registration? Do you remember who taught you?

Brought to you courtesy of Brock

About the author

Brock Kernin


  • I actually didn’t have a car until about 5 years ago, when we moved to Phoenix. It was weird to have to deal with things like that.

    I wish my parents had showed me that. It turned out not to be that complex, but I was apprehensive at first.

    This year, I’m going to pay for two years at once. One less thing to worry about. And thanks for the reminder that the tabs are deductible! We’re actually itemizing this year, and I would have forgotten all about it.

  • This is a great blog on car registration issues. Actually, in many states the registration fee is NOT tax deductible. It is only deductible if it is based on the value of your car. If its based on age, it’s likely that’s actually a way of determining its value. But if it doesn’t explicitly say “value” tax on your registration, you can’t deduct it. Also, in states like California, part of your registration fee is value based and part is not. Only the tax based on value is deductible.

  • @Abigail – glad I could help remind you! Yeah, it’s not that complicated, but it’s just one more thing that I really wanted him to learn. Thanks for reading!

  • @Tara – Thanks for the details – it’s a great reminder that you have to check how things are handled in your specific state. Thanks for your comment!

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