Colorado Driver’s License & Vehicle Registration (for New Residents)

A breakdown of the steps required, and the estimated cost

I moved to Boulder, Colorado from Richmond, VA in February 2017. As with any move, you’ll want to update your address for the many services you use. One of the most important things to update is your driver’s license & vehicle registration.

Especially in Colorado (and perhaps more so for Boulder County, CO), a Colorado license & local county vehicle registration can save you money at the trailheads throughout the area.

The first trailhead in Boulder County that I visited charged out-of-county visitors a parking fee. For Boulder County residents, however, parking was free. This is fairly common in other areas of Colorado as well. While the money does go towards trail maintenance & preservation, it’s nice to be able to park at the trailheads with no limitations.

I’ve only been a resident for 5 days so far, but I wanted to share my experience with obtaining a Colorado driver’s license and Boulder County vehicle registration, in hopes that it might help someone else. I can’t guarantee the steps will be identical for you, but this should be a good starting point for new Boulder County residents, or anyone moving to Colorado for that matter.

As a quick overview, here is the order in which I was instructed to follow:

  1. pass an emissions test (only required if your car is more than 7 years old) ($25)
  2. obtain a VIN verification ($20)
  3. register your vehicle at the Boulder County Clerk & Recorder’s Office
  4. get a driver’s license at the Boulder County DMV

Steps for Obtaining Colorado Driver’s License

Before you head to the Colorado DMV to get a new driver’s license, you will need two documents that prove you’re a Boulder County resident. Because one of the accepted documents is a vehicle registration, I chose to get my car registered first; then go to obtain a driver’s license.

Before you get your vehicle registered in Boulder County, you need two things:

  • VIN verification
  • emissions test (only if your car is over 7 years old)

NOTE: If your vehicle is less than 7 years old (therefore NOT requiring an emissions test), proceed to step 2. You can acquire your VIN verification during the vehicle registration process.

1. Colorado Emissions Test & VIN Verification

You can acquire both things at the same place. I was instructed to go to Air Care Colorado to get my emissions test. You can also get a VIN verification at the end of the test.

Air Care Colorado (map)
5655 Airport Blvd
Boulder, CO 80301

The emissions test was quick & easy.

Wait time: 5 min
Test time: 5 min
Cost: $25

The VIN verification is an option you can choose when you’re paying for the emissions test.

Cost: $20

TIP: Go at off-hours (mid-morning, mid-afternoon, early Saturday morning, etc.) for the shortest wait times.

Total cost of the emissions test & VIN verification was $45, and it took 10-15 minutes.

NOTE: You can also get a VIN verification at the Boulder County Clerk & Recorder’s Office. However, since they don’t do emissions testing there, it makes sense to get them both at the place of your emissions test.

2. Vehicle Registration in Boulder County

Once you have passed the emissions test (if necessary) and obtained your VIN verification, you can proceed to the Boulder County Clerk & Recorder’s Office to obtain your vehicle registration.

Boulder County Clerk & Recorder’s Office (map)
1750 33rd St
Boulder, CO 80301

TIP: Bring cash or check. They accept cards, but there is a ~3% processing fee.

Required Documents

You must have proof that you own the vehicle. Two of the most common documents are:

  • the vehicle’s title
  • valid, out-of-state vehicle registration

It is recommended to bring the title. They will switch the vehicle title from your out-of-state title to a Colorado title. This is helpful if you choose to sell the vehicle and need to hand the title over to someone else, having an in-state (i.e. Colorado) title makes things easier. There is no additional charge to switch your title to Colorado.

Vehicle Registration Fee

I suspect this will vary greatly depending on what type of vehicle you have. My 2007 Hyundai Elantra (110,000 miles; retailed for $17k) cost $81.86.

License Plates

The standard Colorado license plates are included in your registration fee. You have the option to choose custom plates for an additional fee.

You will be given two license plates—one for the front, one for the back. You will also be given stickers that go on the back plate only. You will need to use your own screws to affix the plates to your vehicle; although, you should already have those for your current license plate.

They did not ask for my old plates. I’m not sure if these should be turned into my old state’s DMV, but unless they ask for them, I’m going to hold on to them. I think it’s fine to keep them.

Vehicle Registration Card

You will be given two copies of your vehicle registration. One has your address on it; the other does not. For safety reasons, they recommend you place the one without your address in your car. Keep the one with your address in a safe place at home.

3. Obtain a Colorado Driver’s License

Now that you’ve obtained your vehicle registration in Boulder County, you can use this as one of your form’s of proof that you’re a Colorado resident. Here is a list of the accepted documents to prove your residence.

Required Documents to Prove Colorado Residence

You need to provide two (2) of the following:

  • Vehicle registration or title
  • Bank or credit card statement
  • Mortgage document or rent receipt
  • Insurance policy
  • Utility bill (electric, water/sewer, cable/internet, etc.)
  • Tax document
  • Pay stub
  • Transcript
  • First class mail with postmark

Since a postmarked piece of mail counts as proof of residence, it’s a good idea to have a few pieces of mail sent to you (using your legal name) at your new address ahead of time. Putting in a change of address request with USPS is one way to go. Updating the address with your bank, credit union, cell phone provider, etc. will also send a piece of mail to your new address.

In addition to proof of residence, you’ll also need the following documents to obtain your Colorado driver’s license.

Required Documents to Obtain a Colorado Driver’s License

  • Current, valid driver’s license
  • Birth certificate -or- Passport
  • Social Security Card
  • 2 documents to prove Colorado residency (see above)

You will need to forfeit your current driver’s license in order to get your Colorado license. They punched holes in my Virginia license, but did give it back to me.

Visit Colorado DMV

Boulder, CO DMV office building
The entrance to find the DMV in Boulder, CO

Colorado DMV, Boulder (map)
2850 Iris Ave.
Suite F
Boulder, CO 80301

As you can see from the picture above, the Boulder DMV is in a bit of a weird spot. Upon entering a little strip mall, find the “Mall Entrance” near the middle of the building, and enter through those double-doors. The DMV office is located all the way in the back-right of the mall.

Have all of your documents ready and show them to the greeter. I was called up in 10 seconds to begin the process.

TIP: You will get your picture taken, so dress appropriately, get a haircut, etc. 🙂

TIP: They also charge an extra processing fee for cards, so have cash or check ready.

Be ready to answer the following questions:

  • your height
  • your weight
  • if you’d like to be an organ donor
  • if you wear corrective lenses
  • if you have a motorcycle provision
Eye Exam

You will be required to take a very brief eye exam. You’ll read one line of 12 letters, and be asked to identify a flashing light on the right & left sides of your face. Super easy.


I waited about 3 minutes until I was called up to take my picture. You are allowed to smile, but not allowed to show teeth. Use those 3 minutes to practice 😉

Colorado Driver’s License Fee

For a standard, non-commercial driver’s license, the fee is $26. You can optionally choose to donate $1 to help organ donation. The processing fee for using a card will be about $1.50.

Temporary License

You will be issued a temporary license that is good for 30 days. You will receive your official license in the mail.

4. Renewing Your Colorado Driver’s License

I obviously haven’t renewed my license yet, but you’ll be happy to know that you can do this process online. It should be much simpler and you shouldn’t have to visit any offices. I’ll post an update here once I’ve gone through the process.

Summary of Colorado Driver’s License & Registration

  1. Get a VIN Verification
  2. Pass an emissions inspection (if car is older than 7 years)
  3. Acquire vehicle registration at County register/clerk’s office
  4. Acquire driver’s license at local DMV

Total Cost

$20  VIN verification
$25  Emissions test
$82  Vehicle registration* (will vary)
$26  Driver’s license

This assumes you pay in cash/check. Extra fees for using a card.
* The VIN verification, emissions test & license fee should be uniform. However, the registration fee will depend on year, make, model & mileage of your vehicle.

2 thoughts on “Colorado Driver’s License & Vehicle Registration (for New Residents)”

  1. Thanks so much for the walk through. Everyone is super nice to work with. It’s a pleasure to be here.

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