What Happens if You Get Caught Driving an Unregistered Vehicle?

Is your registration out of date, or you never had one in the first place? You might consider driving the car to work or other important places. However, do you know what happens if you get caught driving an unregistered vehicle?

Driving an unregistered vehicle is a criminal misdemeanor. You can receive hefty fines, which can get up to $500. On average, you can expect the penalty to fall between $150 and $300. In the worst-case scenario, the state impounds your car, and you face prison time for a maximum of 90 days.

If you don’t know how to register your vehicle, make sure to find the laws in your state. You want to avoid driving an unregistered car to avoid all the fines and legal matters that come with it. In this article, you’ll learn all about why it’s essential to keep your car’s registration up to date.

Why Vehicle Registration Is Important

You might be surprised to learn about vehicle registration if this is your first car. A car registration proves that you paid all the taxes to drive your car on the roads legally. Without it, you’re doing something illegal when you take the vehicle on the road or out in public.

Additionally, a car registration creates a strong connection between you and your vehicle- allowing the registration to prove that you own it. Law enforcement can then use the registration if your car is stolen or involved in a crime. However, the main point of the registration is tax-related.

Car registration is essential for everyone who drives. It doesn’t take long to update, so you will want to take care of it as soon as you can. In addition, most states require that you register all of your vehicles annually.

Legal Impacts of Driving an Unregistered Vehicle

There are several penalties for not correctly registering your vehicle. First, you will get caught if you are pulled over by police or find yourself in an accident. Second, the officer will ask for your license, registration, and proof of insurance.

If you don’t have those documents on you, you will be in trouble! That’s why it’s essential to always carry those items with you when you drive. Law enforcement may even take the car from you and impound it. The fines are nothing to scoff at either; they can get very pricey.


You need to keep your car up to date, or you could potentially face very high fines. These fines can even affect your driving record. The amount of the penalty is different in every single state. For example, if you live in Maryland, you can expect to pay a maximum of $500 in fines when caught. Additionally, states will fine you for not having auto insurance.


While the rules differ depending on where you live, the state can impound your vehicle if you don’t have the proper registration for it. That means the car is taken by authorities and stored somewhere until you pay off all your fines. Many places hold your vehicle until you clear your driving records as well.


If you continue to ignore the fines after receiving them, you could even face a short amount of time in jail. You don’t want that to happen to you, especially over driving an unregistered vehicle. So it would be best if you didn’t risk it. Jail food is bad, the accommodations are cramped, and the neighbors leave something to be desired.

How You Can Register Your Vehicle Today

When your car is unregistered, you want to take care of it as soon as possible to avoid additional stresses later on. Each state has different ways that you can register your car. The best way to find out how to do it in your area is to search for local information online.

However, you can also complete the process in your local DMV. The staff will require your Bill of Sale, which you get from the dealership or seller. It includes information on the car’s make, model, and year. You also will need the vehicle identification number, proof of insurance, and your license.

This quick video can help you find your vehicle identification number if you don’t remember what it is:

You also can register your car online through government websites. However, not all states offer this feature. For example, Pennsylvania requires that you first register your vehicle at a local PennDOT location. While there, you pay the registration fees and have the car inspected.

Pulled Over in an Unregistered Car?

If you were pulled over in an unregistered car, make sure to treat the law enforcement personnel with respect. You want to offer all of the documentation they ask for when pulled over, even if it’s out of date.  If you don’t have what they need, make sure you let them know and are honest with them.

The officer will appreciate this much more than if you make them look for the information.  Overall, you want to stay calm and pay close attention to the law enforcement officer. However, make sure you let them know what is going on.

When You Can Drive an Unregistered Car

In some states, you can drive your unregistered vehicle to the DMV to fill out the forms. You will want to ask the dealership for a “pink slip” since this lets law enforcement know you’re on the way to register the vehicle.

Final Thoughts

Overall, you don’t want to drive an unregistered vehicle. Doing so comes with plenty of adverse legal effects. However, you can even register your car online in some states, so it’s worth checking out. You can avoid some severe fines by doing so.

If the police pull you over in an unregistered vehicle, make sure that you listen to the officer. You still want to provide them with all the documents- they run checks, so trying to hide information won’t help you get out of a fine.

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