In putting together this website, I decided I wanted to write up a post that covers the single thing that I most frequently have to explain to new Pennsylvanians. When it comes to vehicle, titling, registrations and inspections, Pennsylvania is entirely different from Maryland. It’s complicated at times and frustrating at others, but it doesn’t have to be, and we can get through this.

First things first, neither this post nor this website in its entirety represent the Commonwealth of PA whatsoever. If you’re looking for that, here is the link to their page. With that out of the way, let’s get to work.

  1. Get a PA Driver’s License (or PA State Identification Card)

So, the first thing you should know is that you’re going to need to get a PA Driver’s License or State-Issued ID to really get anywhere with this process. This can be done at any of the PENNDOT Driver’s Licensing Centers in the state. There are other less common options listened at the bottom of this post.

Once you have your license or ID, you can begin the process of getting your vehicles titled and registered in PA.

2. Sales Tax, Titling and Registration

Titling and registration are usually handled at the same time, in the same transaction. If you have had the vehicle for six months or less (as denoted on the title), you will have to provide proof that sales tax has already been paid. If you have not paid sales tax on the vehicle, you will not be able to register it in Pennsylvania until you have done so. The cost of registration is dependent upon the vehicle, as costs vary between passenger vehicles, trucks, motorcycles, etc.

Titling and registration can be completed by many notaries across the commonwealth. All notarial work is conducted at the discretion of the Notary Public, but generally speaking, you must provide valid, current proof of identity (hence: the license) with a PA address, as well as proof of insurance. The proof of insurance must show an effective date as well as an expiration date (this could be listed simply as “Not Valid More than x Months from Effective Date”), in addition to the customer’s name and the insurance policy identifying number. This document will be provided to the customer by his/her insurance company, and will also have all essential information for identifying the insurance company as well. It will very likely be designated as a “Pennsylvania Financial Responsibility Card.” Note: if you a registering a truck, you very well may need to provide a weigh ticket, displaying the truck’s unladen weight for registration.

You should expect to pay for sales tax (if necessary), PA’s titling transfer fee, registration costs, possible county (fee for local use) costs, in addition to any processing fees and notarial fees at this time. You may also be charged for the license plate itself. Pennsylvania’s designated costs for titling, tags, etc. can be found at this link. Bear in mind that additional fees can vary greatly from one notary to the next.

3. PA State Safety Inspection & Emissions (where necessary)

The biggest shock to many people moving to PA from another state is often that we have a required annual safety inspection on all of our vehicles (with a very few exceptions). This inspection goes over all of the “safety” elements of the vehicle’s operation. This includes brake pad thickness, tire tread depth, all exterior lights, steering and suspension components as well as many other areas of importance. Essentially all passenger vehicles, trucks, motorcycles, etc. have a variation of this inspection. There are hundreds of Pennsylvania-licensed Inspection Stations across the Commonwealth, though not all are the same.

Whereas many of the counties in PA require annual Emissions testing to be completed on most vehicles, there are some counties that do not. Inspection stations in these counties are unlikely to be able to able to conduct an Emissions test, which could be problematic for someone who may live close to a county line and get their service done in that neighboring county. An example would be York and Adams counties. York county requires Emissions. Adams does not. If a person living in York county went to a station in Adams county, they would likely not be able to get their Emissions test done. This does not make them exempt from needing Emissions testing, it just means that they’ll need to go somewhere else to get that done.

An important thing to note is that when you take your vehicle to be inspected, you must provide your current registration card as well as a current proof of insurance. For the inspection mechanic, verifying these two documents is literally step one in the process of completing an inspection.

Other, less common forms of acceptable proof of identity include a valid Pennsylvania Photo Exempt Identification Card; a valid Pennsylvania 15-day temporary internet driver license or identification card renewal credential and expired DL/ID; a valid Pennsylvania Camera Card and Pennsylvania Expired Identification Credential; a valid U.S. Armed Forces Common Access Card; or Dependents of Armed Forces Personnel must provide a valid United States Uniformed Services Identification and Privilege Card (DD Form 1173).

By Jason

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