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Colorado vehicle registration: You're on the hook for that temporary license plate, too

A viewer reached out to Denver7 claiming the DMV is to blame for expired temporary license plates. We took his concerns straight to the Colorado DMV.
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DMV technology upgrades will affect title, registration and driver license services Aug. 1-5
Posted at 9:27 PM, Mar 16, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-16 23:27:53-04

DENVER – A Denver7 viewer named Ralph reached out to Denver7’s The Follow Up about a new Colorado law that states drivers will need to pay up more when they register their vehicle if they failed to do so after a certain amount of time, saying it should be on the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) – not Colorado drivers – to take responsibility for not issuing license plates in a timely manner.

We took those concerns to the DMV to ask what the guidance was for paper license plates vs. registration tags, and asked if there’s any backlog that would protect drivers from getting fined for not properly registering their vehicles in a timely fashion.

As it turns out, paper license plates in Colorado are the same as temporary tags, according to a DMV spokesperson.

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“Paper license plates are our temporary tags which are given to customers, either through a dealership or a county motor vehicle office, when they purchase a vehicle and are waiting for their paperwork to be processed,” the spokesperson wrote in an email. “Once the paperwork is processed, customers can either go online or visit a motor vehicle office to register their vehicle and select a license plate. The registration stickers are provided at the time of initial registration and then during a registration renewal in subsequent years.”

The law, which went into effect at the beginning of the year, states the following:

  • Coloradans purchasing a vehicle must register their vehicle within 60 days (unless additional temporary tags are issued). Failing to do so will result in a late fee of $25 for each up, up to $100, as well as back taxes and fees dating back to when the tag expired. If the temporary registration expires prior to Jan. 1, 2023, the vehicle owner will only pay back taxes to Jan. 1, 2023.
  • New Colorado residents have 90 days to register their vehicle or they will be subjected to late fees. New residents “must provide documentation proving when they became a Colorado resident and previous vehicle registration or the vehicle’s bill of sale,” If their documents show they are registering their vehicle after 90 days, they will have to:
    • Pay a late fee of $25 for each up, up to $100.
    • Pay prorated taxes and fees from when the person became a Colorado resident. If they became a resident prior to Jan. 1, 2023, the back taxes and fees will only be calculated back to Jan. 1 since that is when the law went into effect.
  • Colorado residents renewing their registration late have a one month grace period following their expiration date, after which a late fee of $25 will be added for each month they do not pay, up to $100.

Denver7 also asked about any backlog at the state level to process vehicle registrations after concerns from viewer Ralph. Here’s what the spokesperson told Denver7:

“The state does not process regular, personal vehicle registrations, and there is no backlog at the state; however, Denver County is behind on processing title paperwork and should catch up in the next week or two,” the spokesperson said.

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What about the differences between processing temporary tags for new-car purchases vs. new vehicle registrations?

“For vehicles purchased via an auto dealer, the dealer provides the temporary tag to the customer. The dealer then mails the required documents to a county motor vehicle office to issue a title. Once the title is complete, the customer can register and choose a license plate. The time from when the dealer submits the paperwork to the county and the final title complete notice times varies by county,” the DMV spokesperson wrote. “…people who purchase their vehicle private party or who are new to Colorado must visit their county motor vehicle office and deliver the documents directly.”

So what happens if a driver doesn’t receive proper tags before the temporary tags expire? What additional measures are in place for Colorado drivers under the new law?

The DMV spokesperson told Denver7 that if there’s a delay in permanent license plates, your dealership can issue a second temporary tag, but only if they issued the first. The driver’s local county DMV office can also issue up to two subsequent temporary tags, which each one lasting for a period of 60 days, for a total of 180 days, or 6 months.

“We highly encourage customers who are about to expire to get an additional temporary tag to reduce the chance of receiving a late fee,” the spokesperson wrote. “We’ve never had a delay in permanent license plates that has lasted longer than 6 months.” If you encounter an issue with an auto dealer providing the appropriate titling documentation, Coloradans can, and should, file a complaint with the Colorado Auto Industry Division, the spokesperson said.

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