Expired Registration Question.. looking for advice:
July 29, 2009 10:21 AM   Subscribe

What is the likelihood for being pulled over in a faraway state for expired tags and what are typical penalties? It would be one month overdue if that changes both answers.

I went out of the country for three months and in the middle of the trip realized that my car registration would be set to expire 2/3rds the way through.

I am in the midst of a move from one state to the other (IL to NC); I will be registering my car there as soon as I arrive. But I have to drive through three states (and around 10 hours of driving) to get to NC. (My car is parked in Northern Virginia.. the states would be WV, VA and NC).

I see my four options:

A)When I visit IL (with another car), pay the $100 to re-register my car for 2 weeks. This would simply require me to come with the renewal and pay and I get a sticker.

B)Register my car in VA. This would require me to retitle my car and get it inspected. Total cost ~$80, though I could get ticketed on the 1/4 mile ride to the station. When I get to NC, simply retitle and reregister car there. Would this be viewed with suspicion by NC DMV?

C)Illegal: drive car as is to NC, hopefully not get stopped; if stopped, explain situation, expect the worst, hope for a warning.

D) Other less savory options?

Really I'm analyzing my risk. $100 seems to be steep to pay for a couple weeks of registration-- but a $150 fine is worse. Impoundment is even worse. But what are those chances?

Note: let me know if this past the bounds of the forum and I apologize if so.
posted by sandmanwv to Law & Government (22 answers total)
You may have a much greater risk you're not considering: if you are in an accident, your insurance company may refuse to pay if the car was not being operated legally.

This is not something to mess around with. $100 is chicken feed compared to the outside risk.
posted by fourcheesemac at 10:23 AM on July 29, 2009 [3 favorites]

I accidentally let my tags run out for three months while in another state. When I returned, I updated the tags without a single question from the DMV. However, they were back-dated to when I should have paid up.

Consider registering your car in VA then registering it a year later in NC. You would not be the first person to do it. I don't really know how anyone would notice that you've been operating a car registered in another state from the one in which you live.
posted by saeculorum at 10:27 AM on July 29, 2009

Well, here's a data point. I once drove blissfully unaware for nine months with expired Florida tags on my car, both inside and out of the state. When I did finally get pulled over for it, it was in-state, and the price was a $50 ticket.
posted by dyslexictraveler at 10:28 AM on July 29, 2009

fourcheesemac is right. You're approaching this like insurance is a game (and, of course, it is to some degree) but if you mess up and cause an accident that involves severe damages to a third party (human or otherwise), you could be financially screwed for life. Not a risk I'd even consider taking.
posted by philip-random at 10:29 AM on July 29, 2009

A ticket for an expired registration will cost you more than $100, so go ahead and get your car registered before your trip. Then, when you get to your destination and re-register your car, you can send your old tag back to the original state (with proof that you've re-registered in your current state) and request a prorated refund. It may seem like a hassle, but it's far less of a hassle than the alternative scenarios, and at least you'll have peace of mind while you're on the road.
posted by amyms at 10:31 AM on July 29, 2009

Really I'm analyzing my risk. $100 seems to be steep to pay for a couple weeks of registration-- but a $150 fine is worse. Impoundment is even worse. But what are those chances?

This is in California, so take that into account: I've been pulled over for expired license - more than once (lets leave it at that for now). I'm a bit scatter-brained about stuff like that.

Anyways, in all cases, I was given a ticket by the officer. But also, in all cases, I didn't have to pay the fine if I took care of my registration within X days. There was no hard fine, no towing - certainly not within a 30-day window of expiration.
posted by vacapinta at 10:31 AM on July 29, 2009

oops, i meant 'expired registration' of course, not expired license.
posted by vacapinta at 10:38 AM on July 29, 2009

Do you have an address in NC yet?

You may be able to get temporary tags in NC to bridge the gap. (like when you're buying a car) You can get the temps before inspection. You will need to prove insurance.
posted by freq at 10:42 AM on July 29, 2009

It's impossible for us to predict the odds of you getting pulled over or in an accident or anything else that could lead to the police discovering your lapsed tags. And it's not really something you can control very well either.

When there's an unknown chance beyond my control, I imagine the worst most-likely result of doing or not doing something, and weigh that against the dismay I might feel about doing something I don't want to (in your case, registering your car before you leave).

If waiting to register your car is worth getting in an accident that might not be covered to you, than so be it. But that's not the choice I would make.
posted by elder18 at 11:00 AM on July 29, 2009

Without any comment on the pros and cons of doing this, I'll give you my data point --

I drove around in Texas for a year and a half with expired NY registration. In NY we have big square stickers in the bottom corner of the windshield, and besides being color-coded (obvs a Texas cop wouldn't know what color the registration is supposed to be this year), it had a big "06" on it, the year that it had expired. I luckily never got pulled over for anything, so no one ever knew. I don't think that cops are really paying attention to the registration of other states.

And actually, when I shipped the car back to New York, the shipping company pulled the outdated sticker out of the window, and I then drove around, not too much, but some, in New York without any sticker at all in the windshield, and never got pulled over for it. When I got stopped for something else in New York, I explained that I'd just gotten the car inspected and was planning to go renew the registration in the next few days (which was true) and I just got a warning.

I think if you explain that you're moving and are planning to re-register in the state you're moving to, I don't see any cop giving you a hard time.

As for the insurance, I have no idea how they'll treat you if you have an accident while the car isn't registered.
posted by thebazilist at 11:04 AM on July 29, 2009

Our out of state ticket for expired tags (family emergency, we were in the month grace period in our own state) was $95. When I moved from Maryland to California, I didn't register in California until my Maryland registration had expired. I had no problems doing this--despite being pulled over for speeding in CA at one point.
posted by Kimberly at 11:07 AM on July 29, 2009

Most states will issue a temporary or "trip" permit. Usually, they want very specific begin and end dates.
posted by bz at 11:10 AM on July 29, 2009

Data point: I got pulled over in Oklahoma with expired tags when I was in college, and they towed my car and told me to start walking.

but if you mess up and cause an accident that involves severe damages to a third party (human or otherwise), you could be financially screwed for life.

And, perhaps more importantly, you screw the other person by denying them the compensation they are rightly owed.
posted by jayder at 11:17 AM on July 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

Can't go register online anymore and print off the tag-thingy? This would not be much trouble at all.
posted by elder18 at 11:20 AM on July 29, 2009

philip-random: you could be financially screwed for life.

Worth repeating: for life. It's dead easy to do a million dollars worth of hurt in an accident you could never have foreseen. So to save a hundred bucks or so, you're willing to bet that you're one of the people to whom Bad Things Don't Happen Ever. Almost every driver will be in an accident at some point in her/his driving life, if I recall the statistics correctly. Let's say you drive for 40 years; one month driving uninsured is 1/12th of 1/40th of that time, or 1/4800th of your driving career, give or take and this is rough.

Your odds are much better of having an accident in any given month than that you'll win the lottery, or experience an ATM error in your favor (I'm leaving out actuarially significant factors -- any two given months in a driving life are not actually equivalent, although arguably your risk of a *serious* accident increases if, as it sounds, you'll be doing a lot of highway driving in that month.

And remember, someone else can make the mistake and cause the accident but leave you financially exposed. There are a million possible scenarios where that could happen, so you'll also be relying on the kindness (and competence) of strangers by taking this risk.

Checking how you think about risk is a key aspect of preparing to take it. But this is an easy one to underestimate.
posted by fourcheesemac at 11:23 AM on July 29, 2009

and what jayder said
posted by fourcheesemac at 11:24 AM on July 29, 2009

It's also important to note that out-of-state plates will subject you to much closer scrutiny by troopers on the highway. So for even minor infractions, you are much more likely to get stopped than in-state residents. Of course, this is in New Jersey, but I doubt other states are much different.
posted by crankylex at 12:04 PM on July 29, 2009

I recently discovered that I was driving around for almost month with an expired license. I thought it was up at the end of April, but it expired at the end of March. Drove for 25 days without realizing it but couldn't get to the DMV for 2 days after I realized. I was so paranoid driving for those two days and expected to get pulled over, even though I was doing nothing wrong. If you're anything like me, I think knowingly driving with expired tags would be very stressful and not fun. This isn't even to mention the very valid points about fines and insurance.
posted by tommccabe at 12:07 PM on July 29, 2009

In my state, you can't be pulled over for expired tags from another state. For this reason, I personally know people who maintain an out of state PO box so they don't ever get their cars inspected or registrations updated, because the other states don't care if you drive illegally so long as you pay your taxes.

I've often been concerned about the insurance question too---but then I spoke with an agent who assured me that as long as the insurance was paid up and the car was serviceable prior to the accident, it wouldn't be an issue. That's me, on my car, with my insurance, in my state. Your mileage may vary.

Also be aware that many states now limit liability in accidents. Florida, for example, limits a personal suit to $250,000 and you can't ever have your house taken away.

Honestly, if I had friends in the state I was visiting, I'd borrow a license plate. Still legal, so long as both cars are insured.

Last option---MOST states offer a "1 way trip ticket" that costs $1 and requires insurance on the vehicle. Basically you hang it in your window INSTEAD OF a license plate and you use it instead. You can get a varying number depending on your state.

For example, I've used them here to ...drive from the place I was picking up the car to my home ($1), drive from my home to the garage ($1), and then drive from the garage to the DMV ($1). $3 total, bought 'em all up front.
posted by TomMelee at 12:07 PM on July 29, 2009

What the insurance agent tells you and how they act after an accident are often two different things.

I know this personally.
posted by fourcheesemac at 1:32 PM on July 29, 2009

Honestly, if I had friends in the state I was visiting, I'd borrow a license plate. Still legal, so long as both cars are insured.

What in the world are you talking about? That is absolutely not true in any of the states I have lived in. License plates are registered to a particular car in ever state with which I am familiar.
posted by jayder at 5:25 PM on July 30, 2009

Nah. Same as when you buy a car and throw your old plates on it. In my experience, you have 14-30 days to register the tags for the new car.

I shouldn't say "totally legal" because, I guess, you didn't buy your car or your friend's not buying your car, but it's still what I'd do.
posted by TomMelee at 4:55 AM on July 31, 2009

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