Where can/should I register my car?
January 19, 2009 6:18 AM   Subscribe

From Washington state, but going to college in Massachusetts. What state should I register the car I just bought?

I bought the car in Mass, and am currently there. However, it looks like I need a Mass driver's license to register the car here. Also, it probably doesn't make sense to register the car here since I am leaving as soon as I graduate.

However, if I want to register the car in Washington, it needs to be notarized in Washington state or done in person at a DoL office.

What to do? I want to be able to drive as soon as possible!
posted by Maia to Law & Government (9 answers total)
The easiest way is probably to register your car in Massachusetts. As long as you have a valid WA drivers license, getting an MA one should be pretty trivial. You can probably get your new license and register you car at the same time. Granted, you'll need to reregister your car and switch your license back once you move back to WA, but that beats an extra cross-country round trip, no?
posted by valkyryn at 6:26 AM on January 19, 2009

You don't need a MA license to register a car in MA. You need insurance coverage,(from a company authorized to do insurance in MA) title, and indicate the city or town where it will be primarily garaged.
posted by Gungho at 6:31 AM on January 19, 2009

If you register your car in MA, don't forget to get a "Vehicle Inspection". Every car in MA has to get inspected once a year (you can do it at any garage). They'll let you register your car without it, but you'll get pulled over if you don't have a valid vehicle inspection sticker.
posted by originalname37 at 6:38 AM on January 19, 2009

You should consider applicable taxes and fees (sales tax, registration fees, property taxes, and insurance) and where your legal/actual residence is, but if it's easier to register in MA for the time being and then moving back to WA and getting new plates in a few years I'd do that. Though WA has a pretty comprehensive site on how to register a vehicle, even by mail. You can also call an DoL office and ask if another person can register the vehicle for you in which case you could overnight all the documents to another person which in my experience is pretty common. And there a many states that don't require a local driver's license to register a car. I think the bill of sale/title or other ownership documents will be more important.
posted by Science! at 6:39 AM on January 19, 2009

Seems like MA would be the easier choice. Also, if like in certain cities (like Boston) that do resident parking stickers, you can't get one unless you're registered in that neighborhood.
posted by emd3737 at 6:54 AM on January 19, 2009

Hell, I'd get the MA tags, just to maybe get less shit from cops. On many highways, they're more likely to pull over out-of-state-ers because they're less likely to fight the ticket.
posted by notsnot at 7:08 AM on January 19, 2009

FYI, If you register and garage it in Mass you have to pay an excise ("luxury") tax each year on it. Depending on how old a car it is, it can be a few hundred dollars... I think I pay between $175 and $200 for my two year old car (see here for the breakdown). But, if you weigh that against the cost of a trip back to Washington, it's easier to do it here.

But seconding the MA tags = less crap from cops. However, it also makes you a giant blinking target for NH cops if you ever drive up there.
posted by olinerd at 7:25 AM on January 19, 2009

As far as I know, you don't need a Mass driver's license to register -- the dealership did it for me with a Canadian license. However, my insurance carrier threatened to cancel my policy after a year if I didn't get a Mass license, prompting me to switch.
posted by Krrrlson at 8:45 AM on January 19, 2009

When I was in college (permanent residence in NJ, college in OH), I chose to get an Ohio license and re-register my car with OH plates - why? Cheaper. Way cheaper and my insurance rates went down. And the inspection was minimal compared with NJ (NJ anecdote: my car always failed emissions - it was 25 years old, no surprise. The NJ inspection center would fail it, then I took it to my mechanic who was allowed to reinspect and he'd do a tune-up and pass it. I tried to time the necessity for a tune-up to inspection time).

Be careful about MA inspections - they've changed. They're no longer done by "any garage" - they've phased in a requirement for new equipment that attempts to make it harder for the garages to pass failing vehicles as well as being hooked into your local state trooper dispatch (from the regulations for an inspection station: "Air, power and phone lines or communication link to operate the inspection equipment properly."), which allows troopers to come and drag your sorry ass to jail (this according to the guy who ran the shop - he said that, for example, if you're overdue in paying child support, the system calls the state troopers who come and arrest you on the spot and impound your vehicle).

Here is a link about vehicle inspections, with a link to a list of inspection stations. Wish I had known about this list before I went out for an inspection and found that my two favorite inspection places gave up on being inspectors when the new regs went into place.
posted by plinth at 8:53 AM on January 19, 2009

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