who knew moving with a car was so complicated
August 17, 2011 7:39 PM   Subscribe

Some kind of sketchy questions about the legalities and insurance implications of moving from state to state and not switching car registrations over.

I'm planning to move for a year for a job from Indiana to RI. It is likely that I won't live in RI for longer than a year. If I switch my car registration over, I'll be looking at re-registering it, switching my drivers license, possibly having to take another driver's test (?), getting it inspected, switching the title etc, and then switching everything back again when I move out. It seems like a huge amount of hassle and a lot of money that I don't really have for a temporary move. (I really don't have it... I'm moving for an americorps position, the fees will likely come close to equaling my living budget for the month. but if I have to do it I have to do it I guess).

I know that not switching over the registration could get me a ticket, but I'm not sure how likely it is, so that's the first part of the question. (fwiw, I've never been pulled over or ticketed, so it's not like I'm a crazy driver likely to be stopped). I can renew the plates right now before I leave and they'll be current during the time I'm living there, so I'll never have expired plates.

However, the thing that worries me a lot more are the insurance implications-- is it possible to take out auto insurance in one state if the car is registered in another state?

Or, the title for the car is actually in my mom's name. If I kept the title in her name and had her take an insurance policy out on the car and add me as an additional driver but then lived for the year in another state, would that be grounds to deny any claim I made to the insurance? (If relevant, I'm 23, not a student).

Basically, I'm okay with a possibility of getting fined, but I'm not okay with getting into an accident and then finding out I have no liability insurance. I've see neighbors keep out-of-state plates forever... is there a way to do this and still be insured? Or is there no way around it and I need to bite the bullet and spend the necessary time and money at the dmv?
posted by anonymous to Travel & Transportation (9 answers total)
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posted by phunniemee at 7:52 PM on August 17, 2011

Insurance is not really tied to registration. I have, legit, gotten full coverage from a major ins company for a car that had out of state expired plates. They don't ask your registration number when youget insured, just your VIN and drivers license.

Some states require that you register if you move to a new state within a certain time limit. You can get ticketed if you get pulled over, but you won't get pulled over for having out of state plates (unless they expire). However, in the off chance that you get pulled over for something else and the cop asks you, you might say "I moved here 3 days ago." Obviously you shouldn't lie to cops.....

I'm not telling you to do anything illegal, but I think you'll be fine and if I were you I wouldn't go through the hassle of changing my plates. Especially if your license is also out of state, and you're only staying a short time. Hell, maybe you're just on an extended vacation?
posted by katypickle at 8:35 PM on August 17, 2011

IANAL, IANYL, etc. Most states have a law that defines how long you can be a resident before getting a new driver license, car registration, etc. In essence, they do not want you living there and paying your fees to another state. You could possibly get away with not re-registering. but you run a serious risk. First, your insurance company will ask you where the car is garaged. If you lie about this, you may find you have no insurance at just the wrong time. In regards to not having been stopped, consider this: You have not been driving an out-of-state car past the same donut shop every day for the past year. If there is a sharp officer somewhere along your regular commute route, he might start to notice and wonder why you have out-of-state plates. There is a penalty for this. If you got into an accident they would ask why you don't have current in-state registration.

If it were me, I definitely would not want to rope my mother into this deception. Again, if you get caught, you might be dragging her into a problem with the police and your (her) insurance company.

If your mother is that supportive of you, maybe she would loan you the money to do the right thing and you could pay her back when you can afford it.

If you are dead set against changing the registration, just do nothing and hope you don't get caught. However, if you do get caught realize that it is because you made this choice.
posted by Old Geezer at 8:35 PM on August 17, 2011

Just to add, if the title of the vehicle is in your moms name, then shouldn't the registration also be? And therefore wouldn't it HAVE to be registered to where she lives?
posted by katypickle at 8:36 PM on August 17, 2011

My car was registered in the state of Texas for six years while I lived in New York and Louisiana. Never had a problem. Never got a license in those two states either-figuring that as long as I kept my Texas one, I was a Texan, whatever that was worth. I got pulled over twice, couple parking tickets, one minor accident, auto insurance in my new homes, and several jobs during that six years and was maybe questioned three times that whole time. I told those three people that my Dad was on the title and as a TX resident preferred to keep it a Texas car-note that I did not have the title as TX was (is, I think) a title holding state but they all took my word for it. And everyone seemed to accept that okay.

Now, I know you are supposed to change it. But telling the cop that pulled me over that I was only in his state temporarily seemed okay to him. YMMV.
posted by supercapitalist at 8:48 PM on August 17, 2011

Well, Rhode Island cops don't care all that much--at least in my experience. So on the one hand, you could probably drive around with expired plates (much less good plates from another state) for a long time and not get pulled over for that. So, if everything goes hunky-dory for you all year, you'll probably manage to get away with it.

However, Rhode Island drivers aren't always the best drivers, and depending on where you live, there will be a chance your car could get broken into. So if you get into an accident, or something happens to your car, you'll want your insurance up to date. And since insurance rates change depending on the state you live in--and believe me, there will be a change in your rate from Indiana to Rhode Island--I'm not sure that the insurance companies would be all that happy with you if they think they've been insuring you in Indiana and it turns out you've been living in Providence.

Also, I think you're building it up to be more of a hassle to switch it all over than it really is. If you did want to switch absolutely everything over, it would take 3 trips total and one phone call. One phone call to your insurance to say, "Hey, I'm going to be in Rhode Island this year." One trip to drop off your car at a local gas station that does insurance inspections (if I remember properly it's about $30). One trip to the DMV with your original title, new insurance papers, inspection report, an electric bill (maybe?) and maybe your old driver's license. That will get you new plates and a new title in one fell swoop. And one trip to (possibly a different) DMV to hand over your old license (with a couple of other documents, probably) and get a new one (no new test required). If you can manage to go to the DMV early in the morning in the middle of the week, you won't even have to wait that long.
posted by colfax at 8:58 PM on August 17, 2011

As a Data Point...

My ex (living in Connecticut at the time) got caught in some crazy speed trap in Rhode Island and never paid the fine. He drives the 95 all the time and holds great loathing for the hwy police in Rhode Island but drives very very carefully through that very long state to this day. His take on it is that they targeted him for having out of state plates because he wasn't breaking the speed limit at the time of his ticket. Under the circumstances, he didn't feel he could fight it in court because he didn't live there. Your out of state plates might make you a juicy target, especially in these tough economic times when municipal govt's are keen for any income. So there is that.

What address is on your Driver's License? Does it match the address your insurance company has?

I live in California, and despite the law, plenty of my neighbors have plates that correspond to their home states.

I think as long as your tags and insurance are up to date and match, eh. You'll get away with it. You could just as easily be in Rhode Island on vacation, visiting a friend, driving through the state, or temporarily there on business driving your own car vs. actually living there for any length of time in the event something insurance-worthy happens. If you keep most/all of your "stuff" centered in your home state at the same address - I really don't see a problem here.

I am not telling you to break the law! This is not legal advice!!

What if you get there and you don't like the job? Or you get laid off in a few months after moving? That's a lot of hassle to go through for a temporary living situation. Avoid if possible. Stay legal at your home address while you are out of town.

According to my ex (who would know because he commuted between Connecticut and Massachusetts quite a bit) out of state plates are targets for Rhode Island police. This is true in the southern states, too, from my experience.

posted by jbenben at 9:38 PM on August 17, 2011

I drove in California on Alabama plates for eight months with no problems ever. I had a legit reason to not change my plates but no police ever stopped me or asked me about it.

Like others, I was afraid I would be constantly stopped or hassled for other reasons but nope, never a problem. I was commuting a lot too -- about two hours per day, so there were plenty of opportunities. I drove very, very carefully though and I drove the speed limit everywhere I went.

As to insurance, I can't help you with that. That's the part I would be worried about myself. I think I changed mine to California online and I don't recall them even asking if the car was going to be registered there or anything, but of course, YMMV. With insurance companies (having done some fringe work for a few) I have found that they are pretty lax about details when it comes to taking money, but extremely punctilious when it comes to giving people money. Anything to avoid paying a claim.
posted by ZeroDivides at 2:07 AM on August 18, 2011

Yeah I wouldn't worry about it. As long as your registration is current in *some* state you can get insurance wherever you live.
posted by radioamy at 8:17 AM on August 18, 2011

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