Replacing Lost or Stolen Vehicle Registration Papers

california license plate vehicle registration

Realizing you have lost or misplaced your vehicle registration can be a stressful moment. Fortunately, it is easy in most locations to contact the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and request a lost car registration renewal form to replace lost car registration papers, license plates, or vehicle stickers. 

Vehicle Title and Vehicle Registration

When you acquire a car, you are issued a title or certificate of ownership. To operate the vehicle legally, you must present the title to your local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) office and apply to register the vehicle. You should store the vehicle title in a safe place at home and keep the current vehicle registration card in the vehicle at all times. 

If you are pulled over by law enforcement, the officer will ask to see the vehicle registration. Not having a valid vehicle registration card is against the law, and you can get a separate ticket for this along with whatever the officer pulled you over for in the first place. You might find yourself in need of a defensive driving course to dismiss the ticket, or tickets.

Vehicle registrations must be renewed and fees paid each year. The DMV sends out renewal notices several weeks before the payment is due, and most people send the registration paperwork and payment in by mail. You can also pay online, in person, and at a DMV kiosk, where available. 

Getting a Replacement Vehicle Registration Card

Registration paperwork can easily be lost, stolen, damaged, or misplaced. Getting a replacement is not difficult or expensive, and you can do it in-person at a DMV office, by mail, and online, depending on your location. 

If you suspect the original registration was stolen, you should report this to the police. If you later find a missing registration card after you have replaced one, destroy the old one, or, turn it into the DMV office where the car is registered. 

In some states, such as California, a private, third-party service for expedited renewal or replacement of vehicle registration cards handles online services for the DMV. The service then mails a new registration card to the vehicle owner with next-day delivery as an option.

Contact your local DMV field office or go online and download a copy of the Application for Replacement Plates, Stickers, Documents form or equivalent for your state. Provide your name, address, drivers license number, and license plate number, sign, and mail the form and payment to the address provided in the form instructions. 

You can also go in person to a local DMV field office and submit the form and payment and receive a new registration card there. Fees for duplicate registration paperwork are usually about $20.

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