What Are the Different Types of Vehicle Licensing?

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  • Written By: Helen Akers
  • Edited By: Jessica Seminara
  • Last Modified Date: 05 March 2020
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Vehicle licensing regulations are determined by the size, type, weight and use of the vehicle. Each local jurisdiction is responsible for establishing the fee structure as well as proof of insurance and emissions testing. Vehicles may need to be licensed according to primary use or category, such as passenger cars versus motorcycles. Government-owned vehicles are typically self-licensed.

Some local jurisdictions require a separate type of vehicle licensing depending upon the use of the vehicle. For example, some jurisdictions have different requirements for recreational vehicles than they do for tractor trailers, hybrid engine vehicles, motor homes and so forth. Other local licensing regulations simply separate commercial from non-commercial vehicles. In some areas the licensing fees are actually a property tax that is applied each year based on the depreciating market value of the vehicle.

Depending on the jurisdiction, vehicle types might have different licensing regulations based on the weight of the vehicle. For instance, in some countries a commercial passenger bus might fall into one of two vehicle licensing categories. If the bus weighs over a certain amount it might be subject to a higher fee schedule versus a commercial vehicle that weighs less. Commercial vehicles that are used for personal use might also result in an exemption from the category in certain circumstances.


Many vehicle licensing requirements have separate provisions for motorcycles and similar types of vehicles. The fees associated with licensing a motorcycle are typically less than those for a full passenger car. License plates may only be available in a standard format or there may be additional personalized options to choose from.

Tractors and trailers are another common type of vehicle licensing category that some local jurisdictions separate from normal passenger cars. They may fall under a standard requirement for pull vehicles or be classified based on their weight. A few jurisdictions maintain different requirements for light and heavy trailers.

With the advent of new vehicle technology, some local areas have created separate licensing requirements for electric vehicles. They may be classified by speed, size or engine type. Other jurisdictions simply place them in one category based on their primary source of fuel. For example, one local jurisdiction has separate licensing requirements for gasoline, diesel and low-speed electric powered vehicles.

Different regulations might exist for special use vehicles, such as racing and all-terrain. Some jurisdictions might just recommend a title for vehicles such as snowmobiles, but do not actually require it. Typically, a separate title and registration fee structure exists for special interest vehicles.


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Post 1

Another kind of motor vehicle licensing that prospective buyers should be aware of is a reclaimed salvage title. How this works varies from state to state and I'm not sure that all states make the distinction, so you definitely want to research the laws in your state.

Basically, a reclaimed salvage title is a special registration to indicate that a car was "totalled"; that is, that the insurance company decided it wasn't worth repairing. Two things then happen: the owner takes the money and the insurance company takes the car, or the owner takes most of the money and keeps the car.

Some owners will then repair the vehicle themselves and may later sell it, or the insurance

company may sell the car at auction and it might wind up being repaired (as opposed to taken apart for parts). If you're buying a used car, you definitely want to know if it was in such a bad accident that it was totalled!

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