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Can I drive my car while waiting for registration sticker in Georgia?

Getting your vehicle properly registered in Georgia is important for all drivers. However, there may be times when your registration is expired while you wait for your new sticker to arrive in the mail. This can leave drivers wondering if they can legally operate their vehicle during this interim period. In this article, we’ll break down the rules around driving with an expired registration in Georgia and steps you can take if you find yourself in this situation.

Driving with Expired Registration in Georgia

In Georgia, it is generally illegal to drive a vehicle with expired registration. According to Georgia law (O.C.G.A. § 40-2-8), all vehicles must be properly registered in order to be legally driven on public roads. This means displaying a valid license plate and having a current registration sticker.

If you are caught driving a vehicle with an expired registration in Georgia, you may face penalties such as:

  • Receiving a citation and fine
  • Having your vehicle impounded
  • License suspension

However, there are some exceptions that allow drivers some leeway if their registration has recently expired and they are awaiting their renewal.

Grace Period

Georgia offers a grace period if your registration has been expired for less than 30 days. During this 30 day grace period, you may still legally drive your vehicle while waiting for your new registration card and sticker to arrive.

This grace period only applies if you have already submitted your registration renewal application and fees to your county tag office before the previous registration expired. As long as you have proof of paying for your renewal, such as a receipt, you can show this to law enforcement if you get pulled over within the 30 day window after expiration.

Weekend and Holiday Extensions

If your registration expiration date falls on a weekend or holiday when the county tag offices are closed, you automatically receive an extension through the first available business day when the office reopens. This prevents drivers from being penalized during periods when they are unable to renew their registration right away.

For example, if your registration was set to expire on Saturday, July 1st, which was a holiday weekend, your registration would automatically remain valid through the following Tuesday, July 4th in order to provide you time to make it into the tag office.

Steps to Take if Registration is Expired

If you realize that your registration is expired and you do not qualify for the 30 day grace period, here are some steps to take:

  1. Renew your registration ASAP. Make getting to the county tag office and renewing your registration a top priority. This will get you legal and avoid further penalties.
  2. Drive only when absolutely necessary. Avoid driving your vehicle unless you absolutely must until you can get your registration renewed. This will help limit your risk of getting ticketed.
  3. Carry proof that you are in the renewal process. Keep your renewal application paperwork or temporary permit with you while driving so you have proof if you get pulled over before your new registration materials arrive.
  4. Consider alternate transportation. Using public transportation, getting rides from others, biking, or walking can help avoid driving an unregistered vehicle when possible.

As soon as your new registration card and sticker arrive in the mail, be sure to promptly affix the sticker to your license plate to remain compliant.

Temporary Operating Permits

If you need to drive your vehicle for an extended period while waiting for your registration to renew, you may be able to get a temporary operating permit (also called a temporary tag).

Temporary operating permits are valid for 30 days and allow you to legally drive your vehicle while your registration application is being processed. They can be obtained for a $12 fee at your county tag office.

Situations when you may qualify for a temporary operating permit include:

  • Waiting for your metal license plate to arrive
  • Waiting for registration renewal to be processed
  • Just purchased a vehicle and waiting for paperwork

The permit must be clearly displayed in your rear window and allows you to legally drive while waiting for your permanent registration materials.

Penalties for Driving Unregistered

If you are caught driving a vehicle without valid registration in Georgia, here are some penalties you may face:

Offense Penalty
First offense Fine up to $100
Second offense Fine up to $1000
Third or subsequent offense Misdemeanor charge punishable by up to 12 months in jail and/or $1000 fine

In addition to fines, having your vehicle impounded is also a possibility if caught driving an unregistered vehicle. Police have the discretion to impound any vehicle being operated without valid registration.

You may also face license suspension through the Georgia Department of Driver Services if you accumulate points on your license for registration violations.

Registration Renewal Tips

To avoid the hassle and penalties of an expired registration, be sure to renew your vehicle registration in a timely manner. Here are some tips:

  • Mark your registration expiration date on your calendar with a reminder 1-2 months prior.
  • Return your completed renewal application to your county tag office up to 90 days prior to expiration.
  • Allow 2-3 weeks for your new registration materials to arrive in the mail.
  • Consider renewing for multiple years at once if your county allows, to avoid annual renewals.
  • Sign-up for renewal reminders by email or text alert through your county, if available.

Keeping up with your vehicle’s registration status is important for all Georgia drivers. While there are some provisions for a grace period if recently expired, driving an unregistered vehicle still poses substantial risks of citations, impound fees, and other penalties. Following the registration requirements and proactively renewing on time will help motorists avoid legal trouble and keep their driving privileges intact.


Driving with expired registration in Georgia can lead to fines, impound fees, and license suspension. While a 30 day grace period exists for recently expired registrations, this only applies if renewal steps were initiated on time. Obtaining a temporary permit is an option if you need to drive while waiting for renewal. To avoid issues, be sure to renew your registration several weeks before expiration and keep your new sticker and registration card with you when driving.