What Are Car Tags & What To Do When They Expire?

Wondering what car tags are and why they expire? In this post, we'll break down everything you need to know about car tags, including how to renew them.

What Is A Car Tag

To drive your vehicle legally on the road, you need to know what’s required. That brings you to ask – what are car tags and what should you do when they are expired? These are two of the most basic questions you should be searching out, among others.

In this guide, we explain the meaning of the car tags. We also walk you through the process of renewing your car registration.

What are Car Tags?

Your car tags are the registration sticker given to you each year. You place it on the license plate or windshield of your vehicle, depending on the state laws. Each car tag displays the month and year that your vehicle is registered through. 

You are responsible for registering your vehicle every year. If you don’t register the vehicle, the car tags will expire. 

Why are Car Tags Needed?

You must register your vehicle to drive legally on the road. The car tags prove that you have it registered. It’s just as important as having current car insurance cards. If you don’t have current car tags, you are driving illegally and could be penalized.

If you purchase a used car, it’s your responsibility to ensure that the car tags are transferred. You will need to put the registration in your name. 

Tags vs. License Plate

Both the tags and license plate are needed, but for different purposes. The license plate is used to identify your vehicle. You get the plate when you initially register your vehicle for the first time after buying it. 

The license plate never changes. It remains with your vehicle for the time that you own it. However, the registration sticker is given to you each year, proving that you have kept the information current with the state. You put the sticker on the license plate in many states. 

Are My Car Tags Expired?

The tags on your car expire at the same time as the registration. The registration prove the tags are valid. However, everyone registers their vehicles at different times, so it can be difficult to figure out when it’s time to renew.

Start by looking at the car tags. You should see a month and year listed, showing when the registration is good through. As an example, if your tags read March 22, the car is registered through the end of March 2022. That’s the month that you must renew your registration.

You should also get paperwork from the state in the mail when the registration is ending. This serves as a reminder to renew the car tags. 

Can Cops Pull You Over for Expired Tags?

Police are regularly watching for expired car tags and you can get pulled over. The amount you will pay in fines depends on what state you are in. You might also pay less in fines if you registered the vehicle and merely forgot to put on the new tags. In some cases, the officer may give you a grace period to get the registration completed.

On top of that, if you don’t have a current car registration, it could become difficult to get auto insurance. As more systems work together, insurance companies can be notified when your registration lapses, causing issues with your policy. 

RELATED: Motor Vehicle Service Notification – Is It A Scam Or Legit?

What to Do When Car Tags Expire

1. Prepare Ahead

There’s plenty of warning that your car tags are going to expire. Not only will you see the expiration month on the sticker, but you should receive paperwork ahead of time in the mail.

Once you receive the paperwork, you should put a reminder in your calendar. Now, you have no excuse to miss the renewal date. 

2. Mail in Paperwork

The traditional way to handle your car registration has always been to mail the paperwork back in. You can fill out your information, including the payment and send the envelope back in via snail mail. 

Just be sure that the registration is postmarked by the end of the month or you could pay extra penalties and fees. You will have to wait a certain amount of time until you get the sticker back, so it’s best to do this method earlier in the month.

3. Go to DMV

If you want to get the registration and renewal sticker right away, you can go directly to your local DMV. Fill out the paperwork and pay the fee to receive your new sticker. 

Most people avoid the DMV because of the long waits. However, there are other companies, such as AAA, that will offer DMV services to members. A few states might also offer DMV kiosks for self-service tasks, such as car renewal. These locations might also offer to print off the new car registration and tags before you leave. 

If you plan to visit a DMV, try to make an appointment first. With an appointment, you may not have to wait as long for your renewal. With appointments, it’s normal to wait a few weeks to schedule. With this in mind, you want to plan ahead and get your appointment scheduled earlier. Also, you won’t want to miss the appointment or you might need to wait weeks once again. 

Unless you have reached the end of the month, these might not be the best option for you. The other two options take far less time away from you, especially the next way. 

4. Register Online

By far, the easiest option for car tag renewal is to head online. You don’t have to mail anything in or wait in long lines. It’s the best way to get the job done without wasting a moment.

Go online to your state’s DMV website. You will need your car registration information with you to log in. You will also need to pay for the renewal online. While it only takes a few minutes to complete, you will have to wait for the new car tags to be mailed, so consider doing this a few weeks in advance.