3 Cars+ 3 States = Total Confusion
October 23, 2011 2:06 PM   Subscribe

Long and complicated question about car registration involving three cars and three states, where one of the cars is used by our son who might not be a resident of any of the three states - I'm really not sure

We are Virginia residents and own three cars, all of which are legally registered to us at our address in VA. My son has one of the cars and attends school in Kentucky and keeps the car there. Whenever we have to register his car, its done over the internet and we just mail the stickers to him to put on the tags.

In about a months time my company is relocating me permanently to Colorado and our cars are going with us. We are selling our house in VA and buying one in CO which will make us Colorado residents. We will be (eventually) registering our cars in Colorado and have CO tags on them.

But what about my son in Kentucky? He will still have a Virginia drivers license with our old address on it and his car will still have VA tags. It is unlikely his car will ever be in Colorado and he will possibly never live there permanently. He's not a Kentucky resident as he is only a student and he won't be a Virginia resident as his parents will no longer live there. Do I register his car in Colorado? Will they let me as it won't physically be there? Can he get a Kentucky drivers license if he is only a student? Should he register his car there, even though it is legally owned by us (and we are still making payments on it)? As he is our dependent will our son be considered a Colorado resident even though he doesn't live there?

This is making my head spin and I have a feeling it will cause confusion in any of the DMV's concerned.

Anyone ever had this kind of situation before, or does anyone have advice or ideas how I can best deal with it?
posted by 543DoublePlay to Grab Bag (7 answers total)
Perhaps you could give the Colorado DMV a call.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:09 PM on October 23, 2011

Virginia is clearly going to be wrong; he will need a new license and registration.

My guess is that Colorado is going to be the way to go (and I second calling the Colorado DMV), but I wouldn't be shocked if Kentucky is also an available option for him.
posted by J. Wilson at 2:11 PM on October 23, 2011

Call the Colorado and Kentucky DMVs. (I'm pretty sure Virginia is indeed out of the deal, but I'd guess his residency and the registration will probably both be Kentucky.)
posted by easily confused at 2:14 PM on October 23, 2011

Best answer: (unless that car your son drive is legally YOUR car, not his, in which case it'll most likely be your state of residency.)
posted by easily confused at 2:16 PM on October 23, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for the suggestions. I will indeed call the Colorado DMV, but having dealt with the DMV here on a simpler question, it really was going to be my last resort. Virginia DMV at least wasn't very helpful or patient with answering questions.

I am guessing that the car (which is legally owned by me) will indeed need to be registered in Colorado, I just wonder if the fact it will never actually physically be in Colorado may be a problem.
posted by 543DoublePlay at 2:31 PM on October 23, 2011

This sort of scenario is much more common than you would expect because students deal with it all the time. Let's take it in pieces.

1. Your son. Does he need [or can he get] a Kentucky driver's license? Kentucky says...

A college student may drive on their valid out-of-state license and is not required to transfer that license to Kentucky if:

They are a citizen of the United States;
They are enrolled as a full-time or part-time student at a university, college, or technical college located in Kentucky; and
They must have a student identification card from the university, college, or technical college located in Kentucky in their immediate possession at all times when driving in Kentucky.

So the answer is he can get one but does not NEED to get one. He will need to make a choice about whether it is more hassle getting a CO or KY license or keeping his VA license.More from Kentucky vehicle licensing here.

2. Your son's car, can it be registered in Colorado if it's not there? Looks like you have 90 days to make a decision. Otherwise, Colorado says this. The big sticking point is going to be emissions testing which will be a real headache if the car is not in the state. Does your son drive it home for holidays?

3. Virginia? They appear to let you renew registrations online, but this seems quasi-legal if you're not living there. And, again, there's the emissions thing though I'm not totally clear if you need to do that at any point after purchasing it.

My best guess would be that it makes the most sense for your son to register the car in Kentucky if it's living there. Permenant residency is not as important as where the car resides most of the time. That said if it were me I think I'd call my insurance company first and ask them since there may be some sort of overlap between where the car is insured and where they'd like it to be registered. I used to move a car back and forth between Seattle and Vermont and it made my insurance company somewhat uncomfortable changing the primary location of the car so you may also want to make sure that works for you as well as you contemplate this change. And as someone who has dealt with this a lot, I think if you're determined to do the right thing, there will be some path that will become clear even though it may take a few annoying phone calls to figure that out.
posted by jessamyn at 2:46 PM on October 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Good point about the emissions test, jessamyn: here in Virginia, all vehicles must pass a safety inspection every year PLUS an emissions test every other year. The testing locations send the data electronically to the DMV, and yeah you can renew your registration online BUT only if they've received that testing data. So if he wanted to keep the Virginia registration, he'd have to bring it back to the state yearly for the tests.
posted by easily confused at 4:05 PM on October 23, 2011

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