Car Registration & Auto Papers -- What to Keep & How to Keep It!
Organizing Your Car Paperwork
Car registration/records/paperwork can be just about anything – from the gas receipt the last time you filled up the tank to the original purchase paperwork and everything in between. The paper can pile up!
If you’re not sure what to keep or how to keep it, this page will give you some great tips and ideas for keeping track of and organizing your car registration records and associated paperwork.
I’ve been asked, why keep any of it at all? Great question!
Just like your home, your car is an expensive purchase. Maintaining accurate car registration information on your vehicle(s) is important for many reasons:
- Keeping basic information about your vehicle’s VIN, license plate and other pertinent information will come in handy if your vehicle is stolen, damaged in a wreck, flood, fire, etc.;
- Keeping record of your car registration, service and maintenance will make it more attractive to buyers if you wish to sell it and can help you obtain a higher sales price;
- Keeping records on replacement tires, batteries, wiper blades, etc. will be advantageous if something under warranty needs to be replaced.
- Keeping accurate mileage records (while not necessary for everyone) does come in handy for tax deductions if you qualify.
Car Registration Papers -- What to Keep
It may not be necessary to keep every scrap of paper associated with your vehicle. However, you should keep a separate file on each vehicle with the basic car registration information such as:
- Yearly car license and car registration receipts
- Yearly state inspection records (if appropriate)
- Original odometer information at time of purchase
- Purchase documents (Bill of Sale, etc.)
- Service records (oil changes, repairs, etc. – should include date and mileage at the time of service)
- Replacements (tires, batteries, windshield wiper blades, etc.)
- Mileage records (if needed and applicable)
Car Registration Papers -- How to Keep It
There are many different ways to keep your car registration paperwork handy and organized. There are High-Tech, Medium Tech and No-Tech versions. What method you choose is up to you! The important point is to keep appropriate documentation, keep it safe and keep it handy.
No computer skills? No problem! You don’t have to be computer savvy in order to keep your vehicle information safe, easy to get to and easy to find.
- Folders & Binders The most obvious way is simply to keep a file folder with the important documents listed above. They can also be stored in a 3-ring binder. I recommend using plastic sheet protectors so you won’t punch holes in original documents. They also work well to keep your paperwork clean in the event repair or maintenance records have oil and grease on them.
- Notebooks Most new vehicles (and some used vehicles) have car maintenance notebooks. They are usually kept in the glove box. This is a handy place to record oil changes and other routine maintenance. Keeping a copy of replacement purchases (tires, batteries, etc.) will help if you’re away from home and need warranty information at your finger tips.
If you have a moderate amount of computer skills, you can keep information on your vehicles in one of two ways:
- Scanning Keeping the original of vehicle titles is very important. Keeping a scanned version on hand is great for back up purposes. I would recommend putting the originals in a safe deposit box or fireproof container. It is possible to obtain a lost title, but it requires extra time, work and money.
Many records can simply be scanned and kept in PDF format on your computer. You can create a folder for “Autos” and sub-folders for each vehicle and store the information there. You can even subdivide it by year (if you want to go that complex). Neat Receipts scanners from Neatco not only scans your receipts and keeps them neat, but their organizing software offers advantages to store and search not only auto records, but other paperwork as well.
- Spreadsheets Some auto information can simply be kept on a spreadsheet. This can help you at tax time because all the information you need is in one easy location. While you can’t keep your car title on a spreadsheet, you can keep track of oil changes, fuel records, mileage, etc.
If you are more of a “techie” or simply like to use online data base information services, there are several websites out there to help you keep track of your vehicle information. I have no personal preference and am not endorsing these companies. I simply wanted to make you aware of them in case they suit your record keeping/organizing needs.
- eCarLog This is yet another website where you can log, track and check vehicle maintenance records. You can sign up to have email maintenance reminders sent to you. The basic account is free (for now). The free account provides access to the Check-My-Car feature for oil changes and Log-n-Track for other routine maintenance items. You can upload a picture of your vehicle and set up one classified ad. There is an upgraded version (with a fee) that offers other advantages.
- Fuelly For those who travel a lot, Fuelly might come in handy to help you keep track of and compare fuel costs and mileage information. Fuelly can assist you with your fuel efficiency (you can make driving adjustments and make better budget decisions about vehicles and maintenance). For now, the account is free. You can keep track of miles between fill-ups by using your car’s trip odometer. They even offer you the ability to download information from your smartypants iPhone using Fuelly Mobile.
- RepairPal This website is run by auto enthusiasts. You can locate repair shops in your area and see their ratings (3 star, 4 star, 5 star, etc.). There is a section where you can obtain information on various vehicles. Under the “My Car” section, you can create an account (for free at the present time). Using drop-down menus, you can enter information on your vehicle and find links to commonly reported problems, recalls and tech bulletins. You can “add a service” at the bottom of your card to keep track of your vehicle maintenance. You can also get an impartial estimate on a repair type, review complaints about cars, fill in self-diagnostic forms and review an encyclopedia of car care articles or visit their Blog for more auto information.
- Service Beacon This website is somewhat fancier than the others, but is free (for now). You can enter basic information about your vehicle (year, make, model, VIN, etc.). The system then provides you with an electronic version of your car’s official maintenance schedule, recall notices, monthly email reminders of upcoming routine maintenance, an option to book an appointment with your service provider and online storage record of all vehicle maintenance performed.
- Your Garage Online This website helps you track information related to your vehicles. At the present time, you can store information for up to three vehicles for free. It offers you a “Virtual Garage” for keeping basic data on your car (VIN, license, color, make, model, etc.). The “Searchable Repair Forms” section allows you to use search terms to locate repair and maintenance record information. You can even store technical service or recall notice information. There is also a “Comprehensive Service History” section that allows you to keep up with all repairs you make to your vehicle (when, where, etc.).
Regardless of the method you choose, keep up with your car registration papers and keep your vehicles in good shape. You’ll be glad you did!
Take pride in your ride!
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