Inspections, renewals, and vehicle registration in NC


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#Asked: How do I get a car inspection safely during the pandemic, and what rules around inspections + renewals have changed?

We’ve heard this question from a few readers, so today we’re giving you the scoop on all things license- and inspection-related. So when it’s finally safe to take that road trip, here’s what to know to be prepared as you’re driving off into the sunset.

Earlier this month, Governor Roy Cooper extended expiration dates for NC DMV credentials. Here’s what you need to know.

Renewals + Expirations

  • Anyone whose credentials (aka drivers license or vehicle registrations) expired or will expire between March 1-Aug. 1 has been given a one-time, five-month extension to renew driver licenses + handle vehicle registrations.
  • Fines + fees related to expired credentials are being temporarily waived. If you have already paid a $15 late fee in Mar. or April, you will be reimbursed.
  • Since this is a one-time extension, next year’s expiration date will revert back to the original date. So, if your expiration date is Mar. 31, your new date (for 2020 only) will be Aug. 31. Next year it will be Mar. 31 again.


Already completed your inspection?

  • An inspection is valid for 90 days, so if you do not complete your registration within that period you will need to get another one. Note: Residents of Buncombe County (and 21 other NC counties) are required to get an emissions inspection as well as a safety inspection. Both are done at the same time.
  • After your inspection, you can complete your registration online.
  • Ready to get your inspection? Repair shops + inspection stations are open. Check out DMV-certified inspection stations here.
  • The NCDMV does not advise that people at high risk for complications due to COVID-19, or who are self-quarantining, get inspections at this time. Someone else can take your vehicle in for an inspection as long as they have your most recent registration card. Protip: Many inspection stations are offering no-contact inspections, and you can call ahead to make an appointment.

Expired plates

  • You can drop the plate off at a local DMV tag office or mail it to: DMV Vehicle Registration, Section 3148 Mail Service Center, 1100 New Bern Avenue, Raleigh, NC, 27699-3148. Include a note about why the plate is being returned and ask for a receipt.

New drivers

  • Road skill tests are still required to get a limited provisional license or a first-time drivers license, but will not be offered until the DMV deems them safe.

Here’s the full list of credentials affected by this extension – it includes info on drivers licenses, vehicle registration, dealer license plates + more. The DMV is also offering these online services: