Buying a new or used vehicle is an exciting time. If it’s your first-ever vehicle, you’re getting that new sense of freedom you’ve dreamed of. If it’s replacing your old vehicle, you get the excitement of stepping into a new car and out of any of the issues your old vehicle had.
In both cases, you must endure the motor vehicle registration process. While there’s nothing overly scary or intimidating about motor vehicle registration in Canada, there is a lot of paperwork to work through, and it’s certainly not the most enjoyable part of the car-buying process.
Continue reading to learn more about motor vehicle registration in Canada and some of the specifics on each province.
No matter where you live in Canada, you’ll need the following items to successfully complete the motor vehicle registration process and receive your vehicle registration certificate.
If you have unpaid fines or parking tickets, you’ll want to take care of those, as Ontario and almost all provinces require payment before allowing you to register a vehicle.
Each Canadian province has its own motor vehicle registration process, though there are similarities nationwide. Regardless of the nuances in the motor vehicle registration process, it is fairly straightforward. To help you, check out this provincial breakdown of everything you need to register your vehicle.
Note: Remember that you'll need all the required documents above to register a road vehicle in Canada. Any variations for each province will be listed below, if necessary.
Regardless of province, once you've completed the registration process, you'll receive a registration sticker — also known as a decal — to put on your licence plate (or a new licence plate) and registration papers (vehicle permit). Some agencies provide these onsite, while others send them in the mail within five to 10 business days. Regardless of how you receive these documents, put them in your vehicle in case the police pull you over.
The registration of commercial vehicles may also have different requirements from province to province compared to passenger vehicles. Check with the appropriate agency to find out everything you need.
Most provinces require a vehicle registration renewal either annually or biannually. However, this process is much less involved than the original motor vehicle registration process. In each province, car owners can now renew their registration online, as long as they don't have any changes to the registration. These changes may include a change of name or change of address.
Unless you must go in person to renew your registration, skip the line and use the online service. You only need personal and vehicle information and a debit or credit card (Visa and MasterCard are the most widely accepted options). Remember that each province may also have a window to renew your registration online before expiry. If you miss this window, you must renew in person.
And if you're forgetful, don't stress. Every province will send you a renewal notice in the mail so you have a few months to renew your registration online.
Unless you live in Newfoundland and Labrador, the idea is simple: licence plates always stay with the vehicle's seller. Newfoundland and Labrador reverse this idea, and the plates always stay with the vehicle.
Personalized licence plates are a fun way to go if you want to show off your style or set your vehicle apart from the pack. Each province offers plate customizations, allowing you to spell something out in letters or numbers that express your personality.
To obtain custom plates, you must complete a special form. After review, the Ministry of Transportation or a similar governmental organization decides whether to issue the plates based on them passing specific tests (no vulgarity, promotion of crime, etc.). Most personalized plates are renewable annually, regardless of the province.
Unless your dream growing up was to work at the Ministry of Transport of Ontario, motor vehicle registration isn't glamorous. But as a driver, keeping you legal, avoiding fines, and streamlining the car buying process is essential.
Keeping things simple makes Clutch a great ally for your next vehicle purchase. Not only do you get perks like a 210-point inspection, a fair value trade-in, and a 90-day, 60,000-km warranty, but you also get to skip the registration process. Instead, we'll do it for you. That's like jumping to the front of the line at Canada's Wonderland. The only thing left for you to do is pop the keys in the ignition and enjoy one of life's greatest pleasures: the freedom to go anywhere.
Disclaimer: Although this blog post touches on many of the points necessary to register a motor vehicle, review local regulations and laws before completing any transactions.