Registering and titling your car in Illinois is a fairly simple process (especially compared to neighboring states) and can be done at any Secretary of State's office that provides driver services. To find an office near you, go to the Secretary of State's website.
The process is even easier when you buy a new car from a dealer, which will usually take care of all the titling and registration paperwork for you. The dealer will also collect the appropriate sales tax (see below for more details on the Illinois sales tax).
Applications and Forms
If the dealer didn't take care of it, or you're registering a used car, you'll need to complete form VSD-190. This form covers both registering and titling of your car. You can access the form online. Once you fill it out, you need to take it to your nearest Secretary of State's office within seven days, along with other required paperwork. You can also mail all of your documentation to the following address: Vehicle Services Department, ERT Section Rm. 424, 501 S. Second Street, Springfield, Illinois 62756.
When titling a car for the first time, you need to bring the title of the car, properly signed over to you, with the mileage indicated on the back. All drivers registering vehicles in Illinois must also have liability insurance, although there's no requirement to show proof of insurance during the registration process.
Taxes and Fees
The fee for a first-time registration or renewal in Illinois is $101. If you are also titling a car you just bought, the title fee is $95.
You'll also need to pay sales tax, which varies depending on where you live in Illinois. But expect to pay between 6.5 and 7.5 percent of what you paid for the vehicle. If you buy a car from a dealership, they should automatically calculate and collect all required taxes and fees.
If you're buying from a private individual, things are slightly more complicated. Your tax bill will vary depending on whether the cost of the car is less than or greater than $15,000. If the selling price is less than $15,000, the amount of the tax is based on the model year. If the selling price is more than $15,000, the tax is calculated based on the selling price. Luckily, they will calculate this tax for you at any Secretary of State's office, where you'll need to go anyway to register the car.
Car registrations in Illinois must be renewed every year, but it's pretty simple process to renew. The Secretary of State's office should once again be mailing you the renewal paperwork you need before your license plates expire. There was a time when paperwork was not mailed because of the state budget crisis. You can actually renew online, over the phone or in person at the Secretary of State's office.