DMV Terminology Glossary


Administrative Per Se – Any person who operates a motor vehicle is presumed to have given their consent to a chemical analysis of their breath, blood and urine. Any individual failing an analysis test or refusing to take a chemical test is subject to an administrative suspension, following due process, of their operator’s license.

Assignment of Ownership – The transfer of a claim, right, interest, or property for the purpose of registering or titling a motor vehicle.


BAC – Blood alcohol Concentration. The amount of alcohol in the bloodstream used to determine whether or not a person is legally intoxicated. The BAC limit for operating a motor vehicle is .08.

Bill of Sale – Refers to a written exchange of a motor vehicle, from a seller to a buyer, for an amount of money or its equivalent.

Branded Title – A rubber stamp on the title of a vehicle that signifies something has happened (usually a serious accident) to alter the way a vehicle runs or looks. Examples: Salvage, Lemon, Rebuilt, Junked, Damaged


CDL License -  Refers to a Commercial Driver’s License issued by DMV to an individual and it allows that individual to drive a commercial motor vehicle.

Citation – An order to pay a state specified amount, a fine, issued by an officer of the law.

Class Codes – Refers to a collection of motor vehicle categories which stipulate the types of registrations that are issued for motor vehicles.

Combination Registration/Plates – Means the type of registration and plates issued to a motor vehicle which is used for both private passenger and commercial purposes if that vehicle does not have a gross vehicle weight in excess of 12,500 pounds.


Decreased Acuity – Inability to see clearly. This can cause a delay in responding to the environment. For example, a person with decreased acuity may be slow to recognize signs at a distance. The ability to see clearly decreases as light levels decrease.

Disabled Parking Permit – A placard hung from the rearview mirror that permits the disabled to use handicapped parking spaces.
Driver’s License – A state issued certification permitting a person to operate a motor vehicle.

Driving Under the Influence (DUI) – The most common terms used for drunk driving and driving under influence of drugs. All 50 states have strict laws prohibiting drivers from operating vehicles while intoxicated. Also known as DWI, OUI, and OWI.


Early American Plates (also know as antique plates) – Refers to a license plate which is given only to a motor vehicle 20 years old or older, is being preserved because of the historic interest and is not altered or modified from the original manufacturer’s specification.

Emissions Test – Refers to the Inspection and Maintenance (I/M) program test, which is conducted at official test stations. Emissions for vehicles that are 1995 and older are measured by analyzing pollutant concentrations in tailpipe exhaust. Some vehicles are driven on a dynamometer, a treadmill-type simulator of real-world driving conditions. For vehicles model year 1996 or newer, a scan tool is plugged into the vehicle’s On-Board Diagnostic Second Generation (OBDII) computer system to download data to determine if emissions components are malfunctioning.


Fleet Vehicle – Any reasonably priced vehicle purchased by a company for employee use. Examples: Police Vehicles, Rental Cars, Taxis, Semi-trucks.

Financial Responsibility Law – State law that demands any driver that causes bodily injury or property damage while operating a vehicle takes financial responsibility and may be held liable for all monetary compensations. In almost all states, the financial responsibility law requires drivers to carry auto insurance.


Go-Karts – Go-karts are motor vehicles of a class NOT eligible for registration and would therefore be prohibited from both roads and sidewalks.

Go-Peds – Go-peds fall under the same provisions as “bicycle with helper motors”. See moped definition.

Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) – A licensing system that expands the learning process for drivers in training and allows more time to learn the complex skills required to operate a vehicle. The GDL consists of three stages identified by the type of license: learners permit, intermediate (provisional) license, and full license. The three stages of the GDL system include specific components and restrictions to introduce driving privileges gradually to new drivers.


H-13 – Refers to a form entitled ” Application for Registration and Certificate of Title.” This form is used to register any motor vehicle for the first time.

Hardship License – A license issued by DMV for work purposes only and is given to an individual who has been suspended and who meets DMV’s criteria. This license is to be used only for the purpose of allowing an individual to travel to and from their respective workplace.

HTO, HTV, HV – Habitual Traffic Offender / Violator is a status given to driver’s, in some states, for habitually breaking traffic laws. Once a driver obtains this status their driving privileges are revoked for a period of several years.


Immediate Family – Refers to a direct relation as in brother, sister, mother, father, child or spouse.

In-Transit Registration – A temporary registration issued to an out-of-state resident by DMV, solely for the purpose of transporting a motor vehicle with the intent of registering that motor vehicle in another state.

Inspection Exemption Certificate – A valid legal certification that exempts a vehicle from inspections. Typically only offered to dealers when purchasing vehicles from the vehicle manufacturer, as they have been inspected previous to being sold.

International Registration Plan(IRP) – A cooperative agreement among 48 states, 10 Canadian provinces and the District of Columbia which allows a motor carrier to register a commercial vehicle for travel in all participating jurisdictions by filing paperwork with the home (base) jurisdiction. Typically used by long distance shipping companies.

Interstate – Means a connection between two or more states.

Intrastate – Refers to existing within the boundaries of a state.


Learner’s Permit – Sometimes referred to as a restricted license, learner’s permits are issued to new drivers that meet requirements and pass state issued testing. These permits have many stipulations or restrictions depending on the state. Some General restriction examples: Must be accompanied by licensed driver over the age of 21. Can not drive after sunset.

Lemon Law – Most states have a law preventing consumers from being sold faulty vehicles, also known as ‘lemons’. Check the legislation for your state to view the particular information regarding Lemon Law in your area.

License Plate – (see tag)


Marker Plates – Refers to a registration (license) plate that is required on a registered motor vehicle.

Minor Filing (Financial Responsibility) – Refers to insurance filing for a motor vehicle registered to a minor.

Mopeds – A “bicycle with helper motor” (also known as a moped or noped) includes all vehicles propelled by the person riding the same by foot, or by hand power, or a helper motor having a capacity of less than fifty cubic centimeters piston displacement and not rated more than two brake horsepower and capable of a maximum speed of no more than thirty miles per hour and equipped with automatic transmission.

Motorcycle – Motorcycle means a motor vehicle, with or without a side car, having not more than three wheels in contact with the ground.

Motor Scooters – Many motor scooters are motorcycles and would require a registration and motorcycle operator’s license to operate on the road. Some motor scooters fall under the definition of a “bicycle with helper motor’ (moped)


Odometer – Refers to an instrument located on a motor vehicle’s dash board, or a motorcycle’s instrumentation panel, that indicates the distance traveled by that motor vehicle.


Passenger Registration – The type of registration and plates issued to private passenger motor vehicle unless a more specific type of registration is authorized and issued for such class of vehicle.

Point System – A point system assigns point values to traffic violations for each state. When the DMV receives a conviction notice from the court, the offense is entered on your driving record and points are assigned. These points are counted during a specified time period. Once you accumulate a certain number of points, your license may be suspended, you may be required to attend a hearing, take a behavior modification driving course, or undergo a driver assessment reexamination.

Point Revocation/Suspension – A temporary suspension or revocation of driving privileges issued, in some states, when a driver accumulates a certain point total for traffic violations within a predetermined time period. ( see also point system )


Q-1 – Refers to a supplemental assignment of ownership form. The Q-1 is used when the back of the title is already completed and the vehicle still requires a transfer of ownership or can be used as a bill of sale.


Record Transfer – Adding or deleting of information contained on a motor vehicle registration.

Registration – A certificate that attest to the registering of a motor vehicle with the state. Registration is required for all motor vehicles and must be renewed annually.

Reinstatement – When a suspended registration or driver’s license is restored and becomes valid again. The reinstatement process is very involved and varies from state to state.

Restoration – Refers to the reinstatement of a suspended operator’s license or registration.

Revoke – An administrative action taken by the DMV to render a credential null and void.


Safety Inspection – An inspection of a motor vehicle to ensure the proper working condition of a vehicle’s mechanical equipment.

Salvage Title – A special title or branding issued for salvage vehicles.

Salvage Vehicle – A motor vehicle composed of discarded or damaged material. Also any vehicle that has been assigned to an insurance company is considered salvaged.

Special Interest Plates – License plates that are specially designed for a qualified, nonprofit organization and displays the organization’s unique logo.

Subreg – (sub-registration) The replacement of a current plate with another license plate. This procedure allows a customer to retain time on the existing plate and transfer that time to the newly issued plate.

Suspension – An administrative action disallowing continued use of an operator license or registration credential for a period of time.


Tag – Often referred to as a “license plate” or “Registration plate”, the tag is a metal or plastic plate with a unique alphanumeric sequence specific to that vehicle for registration identification purposes.

Tag Decal – A decal, or sticker, placed on the Tag, License plate, or windshield(depending on state/region) showing the expiration date of the vehicle registration.

Temporary Registration Plates – Temporary plates issued by DMV to a customer for a limited amount of time. Generally on newly purchased vehicles.

Title – A certificate explicitly stating legal ownership of a vehicle. Title’s are required for the sale, purchase, and registration of a vehicle.


Vanity Plates – A custom license plate bearing a combination of letters and/or numbers selected by a purchaser.

Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) – A 17-character alphanumeric identifier or a manufacturer’s serial number. VIN numbers are unique, like a fingerprint, to each individual vehicle.

Vehicle Statement of Non-Use – Some states allow you to issue a statement of Non-use for a vehicle that will not be driven or in use, so that you may cancel your insurance without receiving penalties incurred from breaking the financial responsibility law.

Vehicle Transfer – The transferring of marker plates from one vehicle to another.

Violation – Any instance or action that is against government and/or state policy or law.


Work Permit – ( See Hardship License )

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