February 29, 2020

Register Car in Another State


Registering a vehicle in a state where you don't live can lead to serious legal consequences unless you have a good reason. Find out if you qualify and the easiest way to register out of state below.

© CreditDonkey

Generally, your vehicle must be registered in the state where you live. That's determined by any one of the following:

  • Your primary residence or where you live most of the time
  • The address on your driver's license
  • Your mailing address for bills and correspondence
  • Where you are registered to vote
  • The address listed on your federal and state tax returns

But there are some situations in which you can register your vehicle in another state. Keep reading to learn more.

When to Register Your Car in Another State

Many U.S. residents live in different states at different times of the year. From a legal and income tax point of view, you can only be a permanent resident of one state.

That means you should register your car in that place. But there are some exceptions. Read on to see if you're one of these special cases and where you should register your vehicle.

Moving Residences
If you permanently move to another state, you must register your vehicle in that state. This applies even if your current car registration has not expired.

But moving to an out-of-state college campus, temporary military assignment, or temporary work assignment does not constitute a permanent move.

You are usually allowed a certain time period to register your vehicle after you relocate to a new state (more on that below). But once you are considered a resident of the new state, you need to transfer your vehicle registration.

Depending on the expiration date of your current vehicle registration, you might qualify for a prorated refund. Call to the department of motor vehicles in your old state to inquire about their refund policy on registration fees.

Working in Another State
Owning a home in one state and working more than 184 days in another state makes you a resident of both. In this situation, you can register your car in either state.

Split Living Arrangements
If you own 2 homes in different states, register your car in the state where you live the greatest number of days in the year.

One common solution is keeping a car at each home that you own. In this case, you can register the cars in the applicable state.

Consider this example:
You own a home in Connecticut and a condo in Florida. You live six months in Connecticut and six months in Florida. You are registered to vote in Connecticut, so this home is your primary residence.

You have two cars. One car was purchased in Connecticut and remains in that state. The other car was purchased in Florida and remains there. So, register the Connecticut car in the Granite State and the Florida car in the Sunshine State.

Military
If you're a member of the military and are stationed in another state, most states allow you to retain your home state vehicle registration.

College Students
College students can register their car in their home state. Most U.S. states allow out-of-state students to retain the vehicle registration of their home state while living on campus.

When It Is Illegal to Register a Car in Another State

It is illegal to live in one state and register your car in another state unless you have good reason. In general, the car needs to be registered where it is garaged, which usually means where the owner lives.

Here are some reasons you cannot register a car in another state:

  • Registration is cheaper in the state where you work.

  • Using a friend's or family member's address lets you dodge expensive vehicle registration fees, license plate fees, title fees, auto insurance costs, or city and state taxes in your home state.

  • You can avoid long lines by registering your vehicle in the state you used to live.

  • You never changed the address on your driver's license after a move.

The department of motor vehicles in the state where you live can provide assistance when you're not sure if it is legal to live in one state and register your car in another.

How Do I Register a Vehicle in Another State?

Before registering your car in another state, you have to get a new driver's license and change or update your auto insurance. You need this information to complete your vehicle registration and obtain your new license plates.

Follow these steps to register a vehicle in a new state:

  1. Make an appointment at your closest DMV within the state's registration grace period.

  2. Research the state's policies on vehicle inspection and schedule an inspection if necessary.

  3. Gather and complete any required forms, documentation, and vehicle registration fees. Check the state's website to understand the requirements.

  4. Receive either a temporary registration or your license plates. With a temporary registration, your new license plates will be mailed to you.

  5. Check the department of motor vehicles in your previous state to see if you must return your old license plates. Some states charge you a fee if you do not return your plates.

  6. Check to see if you need to send your previous state a change of address form.

If you are paying a car loan, be sure to inform your financing company about your change of address. You may also have to provide a copy of your new vehicle registration.

Can I Register a Car in One State and Insure It in Another State?

Auto insurance companies require that your car is registered and insured in the same state. But you may be able to register a car in one state and insure it in another under certain circumstances.

Keep reading to learn more about your options.

Split Living Situations
You can insure two vehicles under the same policy if one of them is stored or has temporary or seasonal insurance on it. This happens when you own two cars and keep one registered in your home state and the other registered in the state where you live seasonally.

College-aged Children
Parents of a young adult who is moving to a new state can remain on the parents' auto insurance policy. Generally, this happens when the child is attending an out-of-state school. Insurance companies like to see that:

  • Your child is currently on your insurance.
  • The car is registered in both your names.
  • The parent is listed as the primary driver and the child is listed as a secondary driver.

Military Assignments
A member of the military temporarily stationed in another state for more than 6 months can usually keep the vehicle registered in their home state but insured in the state of their current station.

Working or Garaging in Another State
If you reside in one state, but either primarily work in another state or garage your vehicle in another state, you may be able to insure the vehicle in the state where it stays. But auto insurers may address this situation differently—be sure to double-check with yours.

Paying Insurance for an Out-of-State Family Member
This happens if the car is registered in that family member's name and the policy is issued in the state where they live, but you are still listed on the auto insurance policy as the billing address.

Purchasing a Car for a Family Member Who Lives in Another State
The car is registered in the family member's state but insured in your state. Some states allow this if proof of insurance coverage is reported to the family member's state as required. To avoid cancellation of your insurance policy, be sure your auto insurance company is aware of the arrangement and has approved it.

You cannot register your vehicle in one state and insure it in another if none of the above situations apply.

Having a car registered in one state and insured in a different state without a valid reason is considered fraud. It can lead to:

  • Voiding your insurance coverage
  • Policy cancellation
  • Causing a claim to be denied by your insurance company

Check with your auto insurance company if your circumstances call for registering your vehicle in your home state and insuring it in another state.

The agency that handles vehicle registrations differs from state to state. It might be called the department of motor vehicles, the registry of motor vehicles, the motor vehicle bureau, the division of motor vehicles, or the department of transportation.

Can I Keep My Car Insurance When Moving From One State to Another?

In many instances, your auto insurance policy moves with you to a new state. The exception is if your auto insurer doesn't do business in the state where you're moving.

Take these steps to find out if you can keep your car insurance when moving to a new state:

  1. Call your current insurance company and determine if they provide insurance at your new residence.

  2. Request a quote from your current insurance company with updated coverages, limits, and discounts for your new state.

  3. Obtain quotes from other insurance companies and compare costs to your current insurance company.

  4. Choose the best insurance policy based on coverages and costs.

  5. Cancel your old policy if you change insurers. Be sure the new policy's effective date begins as soon as your old policy is canceled to avoid a lapse in coverage.

  6. Print the temporary proof of insurance document your insurer electronically sends to you.

You'll need the temporary proof of insurance to register your car. The new policy and insurance card generally arrive within a week in the mail.

Do not cancel your auto insurance coverage until you buy a new one or update your existing policy.

Can I Register My Car Without Having Car Insurance?

No U.S. state allows uninsured vehicles on its roadways. In order to register a car, proof of automobile insurance is required.

Many states have minimum insurance coverage requirements. In states without mandated minimums, drivers have to show proof of self-insurance or financial ability to pay if an accident occurs.

In some situations, a state may allow you to register your car and then provide proof of insurance within a certain time frame. If time runs out, your registration will be suspended and you will face penalties.

Registration suspension and penalties are also enforced if you cancel your car insurance after registering your vehicle. Most states require auto insurance companies to report canceled policies to their department of motor vehicles.

How to Register a Car Purchased Out of State

You must register a car in your home state once the purchase is complete regardless of where you purchase it. You also pay your state's sales tax when you register your vehicle.

You can work with the seller or dealership to get a temporary registration from your home state's motor vehicle department. To obtain a temporary license plate for your new car, you'll need:

  • A title exchange
  • Vehicle registration
  • Insurance paperwork

Remember, it is illegal to drive your newly purchased vehicle from one state to another until you become its registered owner. Law enforcement officials can impound your vehicle if you cannot show proper vehicle registration and insurance. Read on to learn how to avoid that.

Save time and research online before the purchase. Check for the rules, regulations, and required paperwork for both the state where you are buying the vehicle and your home state where you are registering it.

Out-of-State Purchase Checklist

  • Check with your state's motor vehicle department to see what paperwork is required to transfer the title and register the car. For example, some states require a current emission certificate or a prepurchase vehicle inspection.

  • Obtain the signed vehicle's title and other required paperwork before taking the car back to your home state.

  • Check with the state's motor vehicle department to see if there's a lien on the title if it's a private, out-of-state sale. If there is, you won't be able to transfer the title or register the vehicle.

  • Follow the laws in the state where you purchase it to drive the vehicle back to your home state. Some states require a temporary plate or transportation plate. Most states require the vehicle to be insured with its minimum liability limits.

  • Register the car with your state's motor vehicle department. You'll need to provide the title and required vehicle registration paperwork.

  • Pay your state's sales tax and applicable fees to complete your registration. The state where you register the vehicle collects the sales tax, not the state where you purchase it.

State Laws for Car Registration for Non-Residents

Each U.S. state has motor vehicle laws outlining car registration guidelines for non-residents. Here's a brief look at each:

Alabama
Non-residents must register their vehicle within 30 days of entering the state or by the expiration date of the previous registration tag, whichever comes first.

Special requirements:

  • Vehicle must be in Alabama

  • Title, previous state registration, or certification from previous state

  • Vehicle inspection, unless owner is a college student or in the military

Alaska
Non-residents must register their vehicle within 10 days of accepting employment in the state. Alaska has no other special requirements.

Arizona
Non-residents must register their vehicle after 7 months of living in the state. This applies to students declaring residency to obtain state tuition rates, too.

Special requirements:

  • Vehicle must be registered for the current year in whichever state the person resides

Arkansas
Non-residents must register their vehicle after 6 months of residing in the state.

Special requirements:

  • Non-residents with temporary worker or visitor permit must register vehicle within 10 days of entering the state

  • Permit expires after 90 days

California
Non-residents must register their vehicle within 20 days after accepting employment or establishing residency in the state.

Special requirements:

  • Vehicle must be registered if the vehicle is based in the state or used more in California than any other state

Colorado
Non-residents must register their vehicle within 90 days of becoming a resident or accepting employment in the state.

Special requirements:

  • Supplemental unregistered vehicle surcharge of $25 per month applied after 90 days

  • Military personnel on duty do not have to register their car if it's registered in another state

Connecticut
Non-residents must register their vehicle within 60 days of becoming a resident in the state.

Special requirements:

  • Does not apply to military personnel stationed in state with out-of-state license plates

Delaware
No non-resident registration required as long as car is registered and displays license plates of state where owner resides.

Special requirements:

  • Non-residents can register their cars in Delaware if they primarily garage them in the state and can show proper documentation to the state department of transportation

District of Columbia
Non-residents must register their vehicle after 30 continuous days of being in D.C.

Special requirements:

  • Can extend requirement an additional 180 days by paying a fee

  • Can purchase a reciprocity sticker to operate the vehicle in D.C. for 180 days

  • Military personnel do not need to register their out-of-state car

Florida
Non-residents must register their vehicle within 10 days after accepting employment or enrolling a child in a state public school.

Special requirements:

  • College students can retain their home state car registration

  • Military personnel stationed in Florida can retain their home state's car registration

Georgia
Non-residents must register their vehicle after residing temporarily in the state more than 30 days or within 30 days of becoming a resident.

Special requirements:

  • Military personnel stationed in Georgia can retain their home state's car registration

Hawaii
Non-residents must register their vehicle within 30 days of operating a vehicle in the state.

Special requirements:

  • Must obtain an out-of-state vehicle registration permit from the state's director of finance

  • The issued certificate of registration for an out-of-state vehicle is valid for the unexpired portion of your home state's car registration

  • Military personnel on active duty in Hawaii can retain their home state's car registration

Idaho
No registration required as a non-resident.

Special requirements:

  • Military personnel stationed in Idaho and college students can retain their home state's vehicle registration

Illinois
No registration required, as long as non-residents have valid vehicle registration from their home state.

Special requirements:

  • Must obtain a valid Illinois reciprocity permit

Indiana
Non-residents must register their vehicle within 60 days of becoming residents in the state.

Special requirements:

  • Non-residents don't have to register their car if it is registered in their home state and that state has a reciprocating exemption for Indiana residents

  • Military personnel on active duty in Indiana can retain their home state's car registration

Iowa
Non-residents must register their vehicle as soon as they become employed or conduct business in the state.

Special requirements:

  • Not applicable if you commute to Iowa from another state or work seasonally or temporarily in Iowa and your vehicle has a valid home state vehicle registration

  • Armed services personnel stationed in Iowa can retain their home state's vehicle registration

Kansas
Non-residents must register their vehicle within 90 days of becoming a state resident.

Special requirements:

  • Military personnel on active duty in the state can retain their current vehicle registration on a reciprocal basis with their home state

  • Full-time college students can retain their home state's vehicle registration

Kentucky
Non-residents must register their vehicle within 15 days unless vehicle is mainly operated in another state.

Special requirements:

  • Proof of insurance is required with certificate of registration application

  • Full-time college students and armed services personnel can retain their home state's car registration

Louisiana
Non-residents must register their vehicle within 30 days of being employed in the state.

Special requirements:

  • Military personnel on active duty in the state and their spouses can retain their out-of-state vehicle registration if the license plates are from their home state, both the registration and license plates are in the active duty member's name, and there is proof of insurance or financial responsibility

Maine
Non-residents must register their vehicle within 30 days of becoming a state resident. Maine has no other special requirements.

Maryland
Non-residents must register their vehicle within 60 days of becoming a resident.

Special requirements:

  • Non-residents who own a home in Maryland for at least 30 days but less than 1 year must obtain a non-resident's permit from the state motor vehicle administration within 10 days after the 30-day period

  • Military personnel on active duty in Maryland do not need to register their vehicles if they are registered in their state of residence

Massachusetts
Non-residents must register their vehicle in any of these situations:

  • Vehicle is operated in state for more than 30 days in any one year
  • When you buy a home in the state
  • When you become employed in state
  • You own a business in state

Special requirements:

  • Non-resident college students must file an approved Massachusetts registry of motor vehicles form in triplicate with the local police department that provides: name and address of the vehicle's owner; names and addresses of all insureds; legal residence of the non-resident; address while attending the Massachusetts college

  • Military personnel on active duty in Massachusetts can retain the vehicle registration of their home state

Michigan
Non-residents must register their vehicle if operating the vehicle in the state for 90 days or more.

Special requirements:

  • Military personnel on active duty in Michigan must register their vehicle in the state within 90 days

Minnesota
Non-residents must register with a 31-day temporary vehicle permit when buying a vehicle in the state.

Special requirements:

  • Non-residents registering their cars in Minnesota must provide the vehicle title or registration card from their previous state of residence

  • The odometer reading must be included on the title and registration application if the vehicle is 9 years old or newer

  • Military personnel on active duty in Minnesota can retain their home state's vehicle registration if: the vehicle is properly registered in the owner's name and displays the license plate of the other state; the owner is a resident of the other state; the vehicle is used for personal transportation

Mississippi
Non-residents must register their vehicle after 60 days of operating their car in the state.

Special requirements:

  • Mississippi car registration is not required for out-of-state students, military personnel, or tourists

Missouri
Non-residents buying a car in Missouri must get a temporary permit from the state department of revenue within 30 days from the purchase date in order to operate it.

Special requirements:

  • Required permit application must include a description of the vehicle, the manufacturer, and other identifying numbers

  • Proof of ownership and car insurance are required to receive the permit

  • Military personnel on active duty in Missouri may retain their home state's vehicle registration

Montana
Non-residents must register their vehicle when purchasing a vehicle or temporarily employed in the state.

Special requirements:

  • Non-residents temporarily employed in the state pay a fee in lieu of taxes to the applicable county

  • Once the fee is paid, a decal is provided to display on the vehicle's windshield

  • Decals expire at the end of the year, with reregistration required by February 15 of each year

Nebraska
Non-residents must register their vehicle after 30 days of operating vehicle in the state.

Special requirements:

  • Exemption applies if non-resident's home state grants reciprocal immunity from such requirements to Nebraska residents

Nevada
Non-residents must register their vehicle within 30 days of establishing residence in the state or before out-of-state registration expires, whichever comes first.

Special requirements:

  • Tourists, seasonal residents, out-of-state students, and border state employees only need to register their vehicles if they have been driving in the state for more than 30 days

  • Military personnel on active duty in Nevada may retain their home state's vehicle registration

New Hampshire
Non-residents must register their vehicle within 60 days of establishing residency in the state.

Special requirements:

  • Non-residents who garage a vehicle exclusively in the state must receive approval from the town or city clerk before registering the vehicle

New Jersey
Non-residents must register their vehicle within 60 days after establishing residency in the state. New Jersey has no other special requirements.

New Mexico
Non-residents must register their vehicle after being employed in the state for 30 days or more within a 60-day period unless commuting to New Mexico from their state of residence.

Special requirements:

  • Non-residents who operate their vehicles in New Mexico for more than 180 days must register them in the state

  • Non-residents who own a business in New Mexico and regularly use their vehicle in that business must obtain a New Mexico vehicle registration

New York
Non-residents must register their vehicle within 30 days of becoming a resident.

Special requirements:

  • When driving in New York, non-residents must prominently display their out-of-state car registration numbers

North Carolina
Non-residents must register their vehicle according to the same requirements as those extended to state residents.

Special requirements:

  • Military personnel on active duty in North Carolina may retain their home state's car registration

North Dakota
Non-residents must register their vehicle in North Dakota once becoming residents or being employed or stationed in the state.

Special requirements:

  • Must display current registration and license plates from your home state

Ohio
Non-residents must register their vehicle within 30 days of obtaining employment in the state or becoming an Ohio resident.

Special requirements:

  • Military personnel on active duty in the state can retain their home state's car registration

Oklahoma
Non-residents must register their vehicle within 30 days of becoming employed in the state.

Special requirements:

  • Full-time, out-of-state college students do not need to obtain an Oklahoma vehicle registration

  • Non-residents with a mobile home or other vehicle must register it if it remains in Oklahoma for more than 60 days

  • Military personnel on active duty in the state may maintain their home state's car registration

Oregon
Non-residents must register their vehicle after being employed or living in the state for 6 months.

Special requirements:

  • Residents of an adjoining state with a valid vehicle registration can operate a vehicle in Oregon without registering it

  • Military personnel on active duty in Oregon do not need to register a vehicle registered in their home state

Pennsylvania
Non-residents must register their vehicle when using an out-of-state vehicle for conducting business in Pennsylvania or performing transportation services for hire.

Special requirements:

  • Non-resident vehicles must prominently display the registration of their home state
  • Military personnel on active duty in Pennsylvania can retain their out-of-state car registration

Rhode Island
Non-residents must register their vehicle 90 days after becoming a resident of the state.

Special requirements:

  • Military personnel on active duty in Rhode Island can retain their home state's vehicle registration

South Carolina
Non-residents must register their vehicle after operating a vehicle in the state for over 45 days or becoming a resident.

Special requirements:

  • Military personnel on active duty in the state can retain their out-of-state car registration

South Dakota
Non-residents must register their vehicle after staying in the state for more than 90 days.

Special requirements:

  • Non-residents must be in compliance with their home state's vehicle registration procedures

  • Vehicle registration must be prominently displayed on the out-of-state vehicle's license plate

  • Military personnel on active duty in South Dakota can retain their home state's car registration

Tennessee
Non-residents must register their vehicle if operating a vehicle in the state for more than 30 consecutive days.

Special requirements:

  • Non-resident owners of mobile homes or house trailers must register them after 60 consecutive days in Tennessee

  • Military personnel on active duty in the state may retain their home state's car registration

Texas
Non-residents must register their vehicle after making more than 5 occasional trips in a calendar month that exceed 5 days.

Special requirements:

  • Residents of adjoining states or countries who work or shop in Texas do not need to register their vehicles in the state

  • Out-of-state, full-time students are exempt from registering their out-of-state vehicles in Texas

  • Active military personnel are exempt from registering their out-of-state vehicles in Texas as long as their home state registration is current

  • Non-resident vehicles must have valid license plates

Utah
Non-residents must register their vehicle within 60 days of being in the state or after becoming a Utah resident.

Special requirements:

  • Military personnel on active duty in the state can retain their home state's car registration

Vermont
Non-residents must register their vehicle after becoming a resident of the state.

Special requirements:

  • Military personnel on active duty in Vermont can retain their home state's vehicle registration

Virginia
Non-residents must register their vehicle after 6 months of being in the state.

Special requirements:

  • Non-residents operating their vehicle in the state 4 times in any 1 month must register the vehicle in Virginia

  • Military personnel on active duty in Virginia can retain their home state's vehicle registration

Washington
Non-residents must register their vehicle after becoming a Washington resident or if their home state does not grant similar non-resident vehicle registration privileges to Washington residents.

Special requirements:

  • Military personnel on active duty in Washington have the option of retaining their home state registration or obtaining a Washington license and registration

West Virginia
Non-residents must register their vehicle after operating the vehicle in the state for more than 30 days.

Special requirements:

  • Vehicle cannot be operated for commercial purposes

  • Home state vehicle registration must be current

  • Out-of-state college students are exempt from registering their vehicles if they have a valid home state license and registration

  • Military personnel stationed in West Virginia do not have to register their vehicle if it is properly registered in their home state

  • Non-residents conducting business in the state and owning or operating a company vehicle must have it registered

Wisconsin
Non-residents must register their vehicle after moving to Wisconsin or renting/leasing their vehicle to a Wisconsin resident.

Special requirements:

  • Registration is required if the non-resident's home state does not provide similar non-resident vehicle registration privileges to Wisconsin residents

  • Vehicle's license plate must indicate valid home state registration

  • Military personnel on active duty in Wisconsin can retain their home state's vehicle registration

Wyoming
Non-residents must register their vehicle if employed in the state and not commuting from another state, vacationing in the state for more than 120 days, or establishing residency in Wyoming.

Special requirements:

  • Non-resident vehicles must display valid registration numbers or plates

  • Non-resident vehicles cannot be operated for gain or profit in Wyoming

  • Out-of-state college students do not have to register their vehicles in Wyoming

  • Non-residents transporting seasonally employed agricultural workers do not have to register their vehicles in the state

  • Military personnel on active duty in Wyoming can retain their home state's car registration

Bottom Line

There are several situations where a car can legally be registered in another state. But doing so is against the law in some cases.

To avoid legal and financial consequences, do some research before registering a vehicle in a state other than the one where you live. Most states have motor vehicle registration laws online and provide the forms to perform motor vehicle registration transactions.

Also, keep in mind that your vehicle's registration impacts your insurance coverage. Check with your auto insurance company for clarification when your car is registered and insured in different states.

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