The Boring Stuff
So, it’s time to talk about life’s little paper cuts – all the bureaucratic things you have to do when you move to a new location.
Are you ready?
Car & Driving Stuff
- You need a North Carolina Driver License.
- You need to Title & Register your vehicles with the state.
- You cannot do these two things together in Raleigh.
You will need to get your Driver’s License first, then you can Title & Register your vehicle. Important: You must have liability insurance from a company licensed to do business in North Carolina before you can do either. And bring that insurance proof – and all of your required documents – to the DMV in paper form – nothing digital.
(There is a list of required documents on the DMV website. Do not be thrown by the “New Driver” title and young girl photo – this section is for every person getting their first North Carolina Driver License.)
DRIVER LICENSE: If you are new to North Carolina, you must apply for a Driver License in person at a Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) office. You can enter your zip code on the DMV website to determine which offices are closest to you. (Make sure you toggle only for “Driver License” offices.)
Make an appointment online and gather all the documents listed on the DMV website before heading to the office. Bring your best, most patient, self and listen carefully to all of their instructions. Hand them your documents only when asked and be prepared for a brief vision and road signs test.
The cost of a Driver’s License varies based on whether you’re driving a standard passenger car/truck, commercial vehicle, motorcycle, etc. A standard Class A license, valid for 8 years, will cost you around $44. If you are 66+ your license is valid for 5 years, so will be about $27.50. At the DMV you will receive a Temporary Driving Certificate good for 60 days – your actual license will be snail-mailed to you in an unmarked envelope.
Here are a few Pro Tips:
- There are DMV offices that do Driver Licenses only and DMV offices that do Title & Registration (license plates) only. BE SURE you’re heading to the right one or you’ll be angry before you even start. If you made an appointment online, you will get a text or email confirmation – be sure the address on that confirmation is exactly where you show up. (Don’t just go stand in a line without checking the address – two DMV offices for separate things can be close together.)
- Make an appointment online for your Driver’s License if possible. We can’t emphasize this enough. Don’t be picky about the specific office location as appointments are hard to come by. If there are no appointments available at the DMV Driver License office closest to you, keep widening your search until you find an available date and time somewhere and grab it. (We realize this is not an option for everyone – another reason for better mass transportation in the Triangle.)
- Double-check that you have the required documents and bring them with you. Every…single…one. Hard paper copies. That goes double if you are applying for the N.C. REAL ID Driver License. DMV employees don’t play around – they’ve heard every excuse and they don’t make exceptions, no matter how charming (or rude) you are. If your name has changed in any way, have the document(s) that prove it such as a certified marriage license, divorce decree, or name change document from the courts.
- Do NOT let your current out-of-state license and registration or vehicle insurance expire before getting your NC one. That will make the whole process messier.
- You may register to vote and/or indicate your decision to be an organ/eye donor and/or register for Selective Service when you apply for your license. Save yourself some time and register to vote at the DMV!
TITLE AND REGISTRATION: After you have a new N.C. Driver License (or your NC Temporary Driving Certificate and your unexpired out-of-state driver license), it’s time to take care of your Title and Registration (aka get your car license plate).
You must apply for your Title and Registration in person at a Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) office. You just show up – you cannot make an appointment online for some strange reason. You can enter your zip code on the DMV website to determine which offices are closest to you. (Make sure you toggle for “Plate and Vehicle” offices.) Gather and fill out all the documents listed on the website before heading to the DMV office.
The Title and Registration process is not cheap. A standard license plate will run you $53.75 PLUS North Carolina’s Highway-Use Tax of 3% of the vehicle’s value (not to exceed $250 for vehicles purchased out-of-state) PLUS the Certificate of Title (if moving to NC) is $56.
ANNUAL TAX & TAG TOGETHER PAYMENT:
Yes, you pay both an annual vehicle registration fee AND a vehicle property tax in North Carolina. Your vehicle registration (license plate) renewal fee and vehicle property tax will be due the same month each year. The NC DMV will send you a “NC Combined Vehicle Registration Renewal and Property Tax Notice” a couple of months before it’s due which specifies how much you owe for both. Before you pay this bill, you will typically need a Vehicle Safety and Emissions Inspection.
ANNUAL VEHICLE SAFETY AND EMISSIONS INSPECTION: According to the DMV website, “Although new residents can initially register vehicles without an inspection, North Carolina requires a vehicle inspection before they can renew their vehicle registration.” So, when you receive your annual Tax & Tag bill, you’ll typically see in red letters NC INSPECTION REQUIRED. This can be done at most service stations, auto dealerships and vehicle repair garages that are licensed inspection stations. You can search this list of inspection stations by zip code. The cost of an inspection is about $30-$50 give or take.
Voter Registration Stuff
Save yourself the time – register to vote while you’re at the DMV getting your Driver License. You can register with the Democratic, Libertarian or Republican party or as an Unaffiliated voter. If you don’t want to do that, the North Carolina State Board of Elections has instructions on its website for registering by mail.
Trash/Recycling & Fall Leaf Collection Stuff
If you’ve purchased or rented a home, hopefully the people who sold/rented to you were kind enough to fill you in on the trash, recycling and fall leaves pickup schedule. If not, ask a neighbor – it’s an easy way to break the ice and you will have made one connection in your new city! Or check with the city or town website:
Public School Registration Stuff
Schooling is complicated in Wake County. We have public schools, private schools, charter schools, magnet schools, year-round schools, traditional calendar schools, religious schools, STEM schools, Montessori schools, early-college schools, homeschooling, etc. We have schools that require an application in January. We have schools that are capped due to over-enrollment because lots of people are moving here.
If you have kids, it’s never too early to start figuring out their school situation! If your children will attend public schools, everything starts when you register them online with the Wake County Public School System.
As you’re doing that, go to the Programs section of the WCPSS website to learn about Alternative Schools, Career Academies, JROTC, Magnet Schools, Preschool Programs & Early Learning, STEM Schools, and Virtual Academy. If you are interested in any of these, jump into the qualification and application process outlined on the website. WCPSS also offers virtual Magnet Program Virtual Parent Info Sessions.
If you are interested in private schools, you’ll find local schools with ratings at Niche. (They also rate public schools.)
But your best bet in figuring out Wake County Schools may be to search for local parent groups on Facebook and dive into the discussion. As we said, it’s complicated here!
Snail Mail Stuff
If you haven’t already, complete a Change of Address with the US Postal Service either online or at a nearby post office. This will ensure your mail is forwarded from your old address. (When a long-lost relative leaves you a fortune in their will, you want to be sure the notification goes to the right address!)
Property Tax: The Wake County Department of Tax Administration appraises real estate and personal property within Wake County, as well as generates and collects tax bills. Property is appraised once every four years. If you are a property owner, you will receive a Property Tax Notice annually. If you like the math of it, here’s how to calculate your property taxes.
Sales Tax: The combined sales tax rate for Wake County is 7.25%. (This is the total of state sales tax 4.75% and county sales tax 2% and a transit county sales and use tax of 0.50%.) Most non-prepared grocery items are taxed only at the county rate of 2%. The sales tax on restaurants or other prepared meals is 8.25%.
State Income Tax: Yes, you will pay state income tax here (sorry former Floridians and others). North Carolina has an individual state income tax rate of 5.25% (2020). It may change slightly for 2021-2022. You can pay online.