If you need financial help with car registration, then you already know that vehicle registration is expensive. The costs of vehicle registration make it hard for low income households to safely and legally drive. This can make it difficult to go to work, go to school, buy groceries or really do anything at all.
Fortunately, there is help. Our team of researchers have spent a lot of time looking into this and we’ve found a few ways that you can get help with the high costs of vehicle registration.
Disabled veterans don’t need financial help with car registration – they get it free!
It’s true! When my husband was finally awarded a 100% rating through Individual Unemployability in October 2017, this was one of my very favorite perks. We never have to pay to register our car ever again!
In Washington State, certain disabled veterans are eligible for a special Disabled American Veteran license plate. This plate can only be ordered through the mail from the Special Plate Unit in Olympia, WA. You have to submit a completed application and proof of your disability.
In order to be eligible for this, the veteran must meet ONE of the following criteria:
- Be compensated at the 100% rate for a condition that is expected to exist for more than one year OR
- Be blind in both eyes due to military service OR
- Have lost the use of both hands or one foot
Washington State is not the only state that offers free vehicle registration to certain disabled veterans, either! I found this program in other states, too.
If you need financial help with car registration and you’re a veteran, pay special attention to this section. I’ve done a lot of research but sometimes the laws are confusing. Sometimes, they except the plate issuance fee, the registration and the taxes… but sometimes, it only waives one or two of those things. You will need to talk to your local county and state government for more information about the specific laws in your state.
Veterans rated 100% disabled are exempt from vehicle registration fees in the following states:
- California (includes POWs, Medal of Honor recipients and surviving spouses)
- Mississippi (costs $1)
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- Washington DC
- West Virginia
Veterans rated at least 60% disabled can receive free vehicle registration in these states:
Veterans rated at least 50% disabled are eligible for free vehicle registration in these states:
- Illinois (50% or a doctor’s certification that you qualify for disabled parking privileges)
- Kentucky (costs $1)
- New Mexico
- Oklahoma (only a discount; must be 100% for full exemption)
These states simply request a letter stating that you have a service-connected disability. It appears that there is no minimum disability rating requirement although other criteria may apply.
In some states, only veterans who have suffered from loss (or loss of use) of at least one hand, foot or eye can receive an exception. These state adhere to this strict standard:
- Connecticut (also provides the exception to former POWs, Congressional Medal of Honor recipients and veterans with traumatic brain injuries)
- New Hampshire
- South Dakota
Finally, these states are even more restrictive. In these areas, you must have received an adaptive vehicle or vehicle modification grant from the VA to qualify.
Check for other exemptions and waivers.
Some states offer exemptions for other groups, also! Because these are so varied and time-consuming to research, you’ll need to look into your own state laws or call your vehicle registration office for this information.
Alabama provides free vehicle registration to active duty members of the United States Armed Forces, Alabama National Guard and Alabama State Guard. Members of the Alabama National Guard who served for 20 or more years can also get free registration.
In addition, Alabama also provides free vehicle registration to disabled veterans who resided in Alabama at the time they joined the military and are still Alabama residents when claiming the exemption.
The exemption also applies to:
- Gold Star families who receive the “Alabama Gold Star Family” plate will also be exempt from registration fees.
- Members of a volunteer rescue squad
- Members of the Civil Air Patrol
- Volunteer firefighters.
Challenge your vehicle’s value to negotiate a lower registration.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, there are several ways that states calculate the registration fees:
- Flat rate
There’s not much you can do to negotiate the flat-rate, age-based or weight-based calculations… but you may be able to negotiate a lower registration fee if you dispute the value of your vehicle.
According to NCSL, the following states have value-based registration systems:
In these states, you may be able to argue the stated value of your vehicle to negotiate lower fees. Here’s a great example of this.
Still need financial help with car registration? Read this!
There are agencies nationwide that can assist if you need financial help with car registration. These agencies are usually small local charities.
The easiest way to find them is to contact your local United Way Resource Directory. You can find yours at 211.org.