That pretty price plastered on the window is just the tip of the iceberg. What are the hidden costs floating right below the surface? Each state has a unique way of sticking it to your wallet.
It’s not all bad, though. Someone has to pay for the highway maintenance, public safety officers, and the army of slow-motion workers at the DMV. Okay, maybe not so much on that last one. The idea is everyone shares the cost to keep the roads safe.
You might know about registration, license plate, and title fees. But that slick car salesperson has a few fees of their own. Then, there’s what could be a four-figure sales tax. And your state may want you to pay an ad valorem tax, excise tax, personal property tax, or use tax.
Don’t worry. You won’t need an accountant to buy a car. This guide should help you avoid paying more than what’s necessary to the dealership or the state. Speaking of not paying more than what’s needed, the savings you’ll get from the cheap car insurance you’ll find at Insurify could cover some of the cost for all those fees.
State-By-State Car Costs in 2021
|State||Registration Fee||License Plate Fee||Average Insurance Cost||Average Yearly Cost||Title Fees||Excise Tax / Personal Property Tax / Vehicle License Fees||Plug-In EV/Hybrid||Other|
|Alabama||$15–$24||N/A||$51||$612||$18||N/A||$200 EV, $100 Hybrid||N/A|
|Arizona||$40.25 minimum||N/A||$67||$804||$4||$2.80 for new vehicles and $2.89 for used vehicles per each $100 of value||N/A||N/A|
|Arkansas||$17–$30||N/A||$51||$612||$10||Varies by county||$200 EV, $100 Hybrid|
|California||$62||$22||$86||$1,032||$22||.65% of value, decreasing over time||$100 EV||Transportation Improvement Fee (TIF) $27-$188, $25 CHP|
|Colorado||based on weight||varies by county||$60||$720||N/A||2.1% of value, decreasing over time until reaching a $3 flat fee starting the tenth year||$50 EV||N/A|
|Connecticut||$120 new||$5||$91||$1,092||$25||based on 70% of retail value||N/A||$15 Clean Air Act Fee|
|Delaware||$40||N/A||$85||$1,020||$35 or $55 with lien||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|District of Columbia||$72–$155||N/A||$75||$900||$26||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|Florida||$225 + $14.50–$32.50 based on weight||$28||$130||$1,560||$77.25 new $85.25 used||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|Georgia||$20||N/A||$72||$864||$18||Title Ad Valorem Tax 6.6% of fair market value||$213.88 EV||N/A|
|Hawaii||$57||N/A||$55||$660||$5||Based on weight||N/A||N/A|
|Idaho||$45–$69 based on age||N/A||$41||$492||$14||N/A||$140 EV, $75 Hybrid|
|Indiana||$21.35–$30.35 based on type||N/A||$38||$456||$15||$12 excise tax||$150 EV, $50 Hybrid||$15 Transportation Infrastructure Improvement fee|
|Iowa||Up to 1% of list price, depends on age + $0.40 per 100 lb. of vehicle weight||N/A||$32||$384||N/A||$0.40 per 100 lbs. of vehicle weight||$65 EV, $32.50 Hybrid|
|Kansas||$42.50–$52.25 based on weight||N/A||$52||$624||$10||Varies by county||$100 EV, $50 Hybrid|
|Kentucky||$21||N/A||$105||$1,260||$9||45 cents per $100 of value||N/A||N/A|
|Louisiana||$20–$82 based on value||N/A||$115||$1,380||$68.50||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|Maine||$35||N/A||$42||$504||$33||Excise tax based on age and MSRP||N/A||N/A|
|Maryland||$135–$187 based on weight and last two years||N/A||$82||$984||$100||N/A||N/A||$14.50 EMS|
|Massachusetts||$60 lasts two years||N/A||$73||$876||$75||$25 per $1,000 of excised value||N/A||N/A|
|Michigan||based on value||$5||$225||$2,700||$15||N/A||$100–$200 EV, $30–$100 Hybrid based on weight|
|Minnesota||$35 minimum based on value||$4.50 single and $6.50 double||$83||$996||$8.25||N/A||$75 EV||$10–$20 Wheelage Tax based on county|
|Mississippi||based on value||N/A||$52||$624||$9||$100 minimum based on value||$150 EV, $75 Hybrid|
|Missouri||$24.25–$57.25 based on horsepower||N/A||$62||$744||$8.50||45 cents per $100 of value||N/A||N/A|
|Montana||$28–$217 plus 3% admin fee||$10.30||$49||$588||$10.30||N/A||N/A||$10 Montana Highway Patrol|
|Nebraska||$20.50 including fees||$3.30||$41||$492||$10.00||$25 minimum and maximum 1.9% of MSRP||N/A||N/A|
|Nevada||$33||$8||$101||$1,212||$29.25||1.4% of MSRP max reduces with age||N/A||N/A|
|New Hampshire||$31.20 and up based on weight||$8||$42||$504||$25||based on value varies by county||N/A||N/A|
|New Jersey||$35.50 to $84 based on weight and age||$6||$109||$1,308||$60 or $85 with lien||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|New York||$26–$140 based on weight||$25||$94||$1,128||$50||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|North Carolina||$38.75–$86.25 based on type||$21.50||$57||$684||$52||based on value varies by county||$130 EV||N/A|
|North Dakota||$49–$274 based on age and weight||$37||$444||N/A||N/A||$120 EV, $50 Hybrid||N/A|
|Ohio||$31.00||N/A||$43||$516||$15||N/A||$200 EV, $100 Hybrid||NA|
|Oklahoma||$26–$96 based on age||N/A||$58||$696||$11||N/A||N/A||3.25% excise tax for new vehicles; for used vehicles, $20 on the 1st $1,500 of value plus 3.25% on the rest|
|Oregon||$268.50–$636.50 based on mpg||$24.50||$76||$912||$98–$187 based on mpg||N/A||$110 EV, $18–$58 Hybrid based on mpg and speed||N/A|
|Rhode Island||$30 and up based on weight||$8||$114||$1,368||$52.50||based on value varies by county||N/A||N/A|
|South Carolina||$40||N/A||$61||$732||$15||based on value varies by county||N/A||Gross Vehicle Weight Fee $46–$116 based on weight|
|South Dakota||$25.20–$144 based weight and age||$28||$336||$10||N/A||N/A||$0–$60 wheel tax varies by county|
|Tennessee||$26.5 state minimum plus county fees||based on county||$52||$624||varies by county||N/A||$100 EV||N/A|
|Texas||$51.75 minimum plus county fees||N/A||$66||$792||$28–$33 based on county||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|Utah||$44||N/A||$80||$960||$6||$10–$150 based on model year||N/A||N/A|
|Virginia||$30.75–44.75 based on weight||N/A||$46||$552||$15||based on value varies by locality||N/A||N/A|
|Washington||$30||$10||$58||$696||$15||N/A||$150 EV, $75 Hybrid||N/A|
|West Virginia||$51.50||N/A||$50||$600||$15||based on value varies by county||N/A||N/A|
|Wisconsin||$85–$100 based on weight||N/A||$43||$516||$164.50||N/A||$100 EV, $75 Hybrid|
|Wyoming||$30–90 based on weight||N/A||$28||$336||$15||N/A||$200 EV||wheel tax $10–$30|
Note: Data sourced from federal, state, and local governments.
Summary of Vehicle Registration Fees and Costs (A–Z)
Car dealerships have turned the idea of the doc fee into a cash cow. Some states had to crack down on how much they could charge. It’s often one thing the savvy buyer can offset by negotiating down the car’s price. The documentation fee is the price that the dealership charges for them to file the sales contract and other paperwork with the state.
Electric and Hybrid Motor Vehicles
The owners of electric vehicles pay little or no fuel tax. For this reason, the legislators in many states charge a specific amount so that these drivers can pay their fair share of road and public safety costs.
Emissions and Inspections
Some states require you to pass emissions testing or inspections before ownership can be transferred to you. You pay the service fee so the state can perform the inspection.
Many states couple the cost of the license plate with registration. Sometimes it’ll show up as a separate cost. You’ll pay more if you want a specialty or personalized plate or a specific plate number. States differ on whether you can move your old plate to a new car or must get a fresh one altogether.
They may be called decals or tags, and you can generally pay for them in person with cash, a check, or a credit card payment at any DMV location that does identification cards or driver’s licenses too.
Lien Recording Fee
What is a lien? The lien is your loaning bank’s legal right to possess the vehicle until you pay the debt. (Side note: this is why they can repossess your car.) Some states couple the lien recording fee with the title fee. You’ll get one price when you buy the vehicle outright and another if you have a lien.
Personal Property Tax
Your state will assess this fee, much like your home property taxes. They usually charge some percentage of the car’s value. The amount goes down every year as it gets older. Then, most states stop at a flat fee for vehicles beyond a certain point.
About half the states charge this in one form or fashion. Some states call it ad valorem (by value) tax, excise (indirect) tax, vehicle licensing fee, or wheel/wheelage (all vehicle) tax. Maybe they think if the name is fancy enough, you won’t miss the money.
Motor Vehicle Registration Fee
The state wants to know that your brand-new ride belongs to you. Part of the registration process usually includes getting a license plate, and you’ll need proof of insurance and the vehicle identification number, or VIN. They’re identifying you with the vehicle.
The registration fee is the cost that you pay to link your name to the vehicle. Some states charge a flat price across the board, but others base the rate on your vehicle’s age, value, or gross weight. If your dealership doesn’t take care of it or if you buy from a private party, don’t wait too long. Every state is different, but the clock is ticking for you to register and avoid additional fees or penalties.
Registration renewal is usually required yearly. And you must keep a registration card in your vehicle in most states.
Governments charge sales tax as a percentage of the vehicle’s purchase price. The state, county, and city may all get a slice of the pie. Tax savings from one city to the next can be significant, so where you buy a car should be a factor in your search.
Vehicle Title Fee
The state charges a titling fee to record the updated document with the Department of Motor Vehicles when the dealership transfers ownership to you. The title says who the vehicle legally belongs to.
What’s the difference between the title and the registration? The title says you own it, and the registration means you’ve paid the fees and taxes required to drive it. Most states will question your right to register the vehicle unless you’re on the title. That’s why having a clean title is so important.
Are car registration fees tax-deductible?
Yes, they are deductible if you’re claiming the value portion of the registration fee. Costs that are based on age, weight, or MPG won’t qualify. You also must choose itemized deductions instead of standard deductions. Motorists interested in recouping some green from Uncle Sam should see how their state handles vehicle personal property tax.
Vehicle costs too high? Here’s how to cut one of them
It happens all the time. A first-time buyer goes down to the dealership and needs insurance to drive off the lot, so they choose the first company that gives a “yes” and an okay price. It’s a classic mistake that often comes back to bite consumers, who’ve already drained their bank accounts on a down payment.
The best strategy to get a competitive price with customized coverage is to check multiple companies. In the time it takes for that salesperson to come back with yet another bottled water, you can use an auto insurance comparison tool like Insurify to get up to 10+ real quotes. Insurify might not help with the fees, but we can point out the discounts and deals that make a difference to the bottom line.
Conclusion: How to get the best and cheapest car insurance
After reading this guide, you shouldn’t be stuck on sticker price. You can use what you know to negotiate the best deal and to budget in all the costs of your new ride.
With all those fees, did you want something free?
You can use Insurify to compare the best car insurance rates, coverage options, and companies personalized for your price point. Get free, car insurance quotes today on America’s best-rated auto insurance comparison site.