Until recently, Alberta mailed drivers reminders about vehicle registration. In 2017, they discontinued the service as a cost-cutting measure. The number of drivers ticketed for expired registrations promptly shot up by more than 40 percent.
The fines and penalties for driving without a current registration are steep. Fortunately, keeping your car registered doesn't have to be costly or time-consuming. Here's what every driver in the province needs to know about the process.
What Do I Need to Register a Vehicle in Alberta?
To register a vehicle in Alberta, drivers need:
- At least one form of legal ID
- Proof that they own the vehicle
- Proof of valid and current car insurance
In almost every case, applicants should use their driver's license as their legal ID. If this is not possible, equivalent IDs may be accepted.
Proof of Ownership
To prove ownership, drivers can submit any of the following:
- The original bill of sale
- Their lease agreement
- The will of the person bequeathing them the car
- An original New Vehicle Information Statement (NVIS) from a dealer
In all cases, documents must be originals. Applicants may not substitute faxes, photocopies, or other duplicates.
Proof of Insurance
To prove that they hold insurance, drivers must submit a valid and current Alberta liability insurance form, also called a "pink card." The name on the card must match the name to be shown on the vehicle registration.
If registering a vehicle formerly registered in another province or the United States in Alberta for the first time, applicants will also need one of the following:
- Out-of-province inspection report
- Salvage inspection report
- Commercial inspection report
Applicants must also bring with them:
- Any other persons to be co-listed with them on the vehicle's registration
- Any other persons listed on the bill of sale if the vehicle is newly acquired
Applicants under 18 years of age must also do one of the following:
- Have their parent or guardian accompany them to register the vehicle
- Bring a completed and signed parent/guardian consent form with their other documents
Finally, drivers registering at an AMA office must have their AMA membership cards available at the time of registration.
Does Registration Mean Ownership?
It is important to note that registering a vehicle does not necessarily mean that you own it. This is why an existing vehicle registration does not count as a proof of ownership document.
This works in drivers' favour, however. It enables drivers who cannot register their vehicles in person to have someone else register the vehicle for them. To do this, owners simply need to complete and sign an Authorization for Vehicle Services form and send it, along with the other required documentation, with the person registering their vehicle on their behalf.
How Long Is the Registration Process?
All drivers must file for new registrations in person. This means that there is no waiting involved and makes the registration process essentially instant.
Alberta Vehicle Registration Cost
Alberta vehicle registration fees in 2020 vary by vehicle type and transaction type.
- Standard passenger vehicles cost $93 to register for a single year
- Motorcycles cost $54 to register for a single year
- Trailers cost $163 to register for a single year
- Antique vehicles cost $39 for a one-time, non-expiring registration
- Transferring a registration costs $28
- Requesting a personalized Alberta license plate with a registration costs $225
When drivers register vehicles for the first time, their registration fees will be pro-rated in accordance with their expiry month.
Vehicles That Do Not Need to Be Registered
Not all vehicles need to be registered in Alberta. These include vehicles that cannot be legally driven on public roads and farm equipment, including some that can be operated on public roads.
Vehicles Prohibited On Public Roads
Small, lightweight vehicles that are not approved for use on public roadways and therefore cannot be registered include:
- Small mopeds and electric scooters
- Golf carts
- Miniature all-terrain vehicles regardless of whether they have three or four wheels
Vehicles purchased exclusively for parts and titled as such also cannot be operated on public roads or registered.
Exempt Road-Worthy Vehicles
A few types of vehicles that can be legally operated on public roadways do not have to be registered. These include:
- Farm equipment used with livestock or for agricultural purposes
- Mobile homes
- Tractors, backhoes, street sweepers, and other heavy industrial equipment
- Some trailers carrying permanently mounted equipment such as concrete mixers, welders, air compressors, and tar buckets
When in doubt, drivers should check with authorities to verify the registration rules that apply to their vehicles. This extra step takes only a few moments but has a high payoff since the fines for failing to register a vehicle are often three to six times higher than the applicable registration fee.
Alberta Vehicle Registration Renewal
There is no grace period on vehicle renewals in Alberta. If drivers do not renew their registration before it expires, they become subject to fines and other penalties. The minimum fine is $230 but drivers often face charges of more than $300 for expired registrations.
Importantly, drivers with outstanding fines, fees, or penalties cannot renew their vehicle registration until all charges are paid off in full.
As such, it is essential that drivers pay attention to their renewal dates. Drivers who are unsure of their renewal date can find it:
Drivers can also sign up to receive email or text reminders of their renewal dates.
Renewing In Person
Drivers can renew a vehicle registration at any time with an Alberta Registry Agent. Many drivers choose to AMA registration renewal for their personal convenience. Drivers must choose in-personal renewal if:
- Their registration expires in 10 days or less
- They have outstanding fines to pay off
- They need to make changes to their registration
Renewing By Mail
To renew by mail, drivers must complete the required mail-in renewal form. They can then mail the form, along with their payment information and any required supplemental documentation, to the address listed on the form.
In general, drivers should only use the mail-in option if they still have 30 days or more on their current registration. Applying by mail with less than 30 days of valid registration remaining puts drivers at risk of not having their registration renewed before it expires.
Renewing online is often the quickest and most convenient option. Applicants will need the same documents and information to apply online that they would if applying in person or by mail. They will also need a valid debit or credit card with which to pay.
Drivers intending to renew online should check their registrations in advance. If the information on record for them contains errors or does not match the information they attempt to provide at the time of renewal, they will not be able to complete their renewal online. Rather, they will need to visit a Registry Agent or AMA Centre in person to correct or update their records.
When applicants renew online or by mail their new registrations will be mailed to them within 10 days. Drivers who do not receive their new registration documents should visit a Registry Agent within 30 days of submitting their renewal for a free replacement certificate. Beyond the 30 day mark, Registry Agents may charge a fee to provide replacement certificates.
When Can You Not Renew Online?
Not all drivers qualify to renew their registrations online. Online renewal is not available if:
- Drivers have outstanding fines or fees
- Drivers' registrations expire in 10 days or less
- Drivers need to make changes to their registrations
Alberta License Plate Renewal
Alberta license plate renewal is automatically included in vehicle registration renewal.
Drivers who cancel their registrations or move to another province should return their defunct license plates to an Alberta registry agent office. They can do this in person or by mail.
To return a plate by mail, drivers must complete the Licence Plate/Parking Placard Cancellation Declaration form and send it with the plates. They should then verify that their official records are updated to reflect that they no longer possess the plates.
Trailer Registration in Alberta
Trailer registration in Alberta does not differ substantially from the registration of any other type of vehicle. The costs are slightly lower, but all legal requirements and registration terms remain the same.
Registration Locations in Alberta
There are more than 200 Alberta vehicle registration locations throughout the province. Drivers can find the location closest to them by referencing the official list.
Drivers who prefer to use an AMA Centre can refer to the complete list of those locations instead.
Staying on top of your Alberta vehicle registration helps you save time, money, and stress. Discover more great ways to save money in your life today by checking out our blog.