Car License Plate Registration Renewal Late Fees in North Carolina Causing Confusion

The late registration fees range in amount from $15 to $25, but consumer confusion looms as to when the fees kick in

Car License Plate Registration Renewal Late Fees in North Carolina Causing Confusion
Image: NCCC
January 26, 2018

Since July 1, 2016, North Carolina vehicle owners have been seeing unexpected additional charges when renewing their vehicle registrations. While late fees for vehicle registration had been planned for some time, some consumers have either missed or forgotten about the announcement made by the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles (NCDMV). To add further confusion, many consumers are still relying on older registration cards that incorporated a registration grace period into the expiration date.

License Plate Sticker and Old Registration Cards Cause Confusion

The confusion seems to stem from a conflict between the registration sticker, located on the license plate, and the expiration date printed on older versions of the vehicle's registration card. For example: If the license plate sticker read "01/16," the registration expired at the very end of the month, on 1/31/16. The old registration cards in this example would show an expiration date of "2/15/16," which includes a fifteen (15) day grace period designed to prevent you from being ticketed if you forget to renew it prior to the end of the month. That changed with the implementation of these late fees.

Many Still Think Registration Expires on the 15th of the Following Month

But many consumers are confused and still think that the registration expires on the grace period date, which on older registration cards was listed as the "expiration date." New registration cards were updated to reflect the actual expiration date, but many consumers haven't noticed the change and erroneously believe the registration expires on the 15th day of the month following the sticker date. So if you renewed your registration in the previous example, your sticker would still read as January (01/18) but your expiration date on your registration card will now read "1/31/18," which is the true expiration date.

Fees for Registration Expired Less than One Month

If the vehicle registration has been expired for less than one month, a late fee of $15 will be charged. If the license plate sticker reads "01/18," you will be charged this fee if you renew during February.

Fees for Registration Expired One to Two Months

If the registration has been expired for one month, but less than two months, a late fee of $20 will be charged. If the license plate sticker reads "01/18," you will be charged this fee if you renew during March.

Fees for Registration Expired More Than Two Months

A late fee of $25 will be charged for registrations that have been expired for two months or greater. If the license plate sticker reads "01/18," you will be charged this fee if you renew during April or later.

How Early Can I Renew My Vehicle's Registration?

You can renew your vehicle's registration up to ninety (90) days before it expires. The expiration date can be found on your vehicle registration card or on a reminder notice that is sent to your last address on record, which includes the registration renewal fee and the property tax amount due. If you moved and did not notify the DMV of your address change, you are still responsible for getting your inspection on time.

How To Pay For Your Registration Renewal

North Carolina vehicle registration renewals may be paid in person at any license plate agency, by mail, or online at ncdot.gov/dmv/online.

If paying by mail, the registration fee is considered to be made on the day postmarked by the United States Postal Service (USPS). If it is not postmarked, the payment is considered to be made on the date the NCDMV receives the payment. If you are mailing the fee on the date your registration is due, you should take it directly to the post office as you may miss the last mail pickup from a drop box.

Getting Your New Registration Card and Sticker

If you renew your registration or get a new registration in person, you will receive your new registration card and sticker at that time.

If you renew an existing registration online or by mail, you will receive your new registration card and sticker by mail within 7-10 business days.

North Carolina now uses a single registration sticker, which is different from the two registration stickers used in the past. Apply the registration sticker to the upper-right corner of the license plate. You do not need a new sticker to replace the old month-only sticker in the upper left corner of the license plate.

Will I Be Ticketed If I Renewed My Registration But Don't Have My New Card and Sticker?

When you renew your vehicle's registration, that information is updated in the state's computer system, to which all law enforcement agencies have access. If a law enforcement officer accesses your registration using this system, it will respond with the updated date.

While it is technically against the law to operate a vehicle without displaying a current registration sticker, most law enforcement officers will not stop or ticket you if you are displaying an old sticker. They are also aware that it's possible that your registration was just renewed.

Vehicles Must Be Inspected

You must pass a vehicle safety inspection and possibly a vehicle emissions inspection prior to being able to renew your vehicle registion.

You can view information about exemption from emissions inspections here or information about the items inspected here.

If You Need Help or Have Questions

For more information on renewing your vehicle registration and plate, visit the NCDMV website.

You can contact the NCDMV directly with any questions or concerns. We regret that we are unable to offer any additional information beyond the content of this document.