Re-registering my car out-of-state
August 22, 2012 5:59 AM   Subscribe

Registered car out of state and not living in that state. Will I run into any trouble?

I registered my car a year ago in MA. Since then I was living out of the country and the registration expired. I was hoping to just drive the car over the border, stop at the closest gas station and re-register it. Although I am no longer living in MA. Do I still need a valid address in MA or would it be possible just to re-register and continue living in new state until I figure things out and get settled again. I plan to eventually change the plates/license again, but once I have full-time employment in the long term.

Not sure how this works, I'm sure people do things like this all the time.
posted by melizabeth to Law & Government (9 answers total)
I'd be surprised if MA didn't require a MA address for this, but you also need to look at the law where you are actually living. I recently moved to PA, where one has to transfer the title to PA and get PA plates within a few months of moving to the state, regardless of when the out-of-state registration expires.
posted by jon1270 at 6:06 AM on August 22, 2012

Yeah, it matters more where you're living now than it does where you registered the car originally. Massachusetts won't much care if you pay them money to register the car and then don't keep it in-state.

I'm not sure what you mean about "stopping at a gas station to re-register it," though - do you mean getting your inspection sticker? That's different from registration. You can renew your registration online (at and they will send the registration to your address. You may even be able to specify a non-Massachusetts address (since, for example, you could register a car that you kept at a business or second home in Massachusetts but still have your home address in another state/country).

Some states crack down on people not getting their car registered in the state hard (Maryland is kind of notorious) and some municipalities may be more likely to turn you in than others. But the previous owner of my car kept it in New Jersey with Massachusetts plates for three years (I think he used his dad's MA address). I kept a car with Virginia plates and an expired inspection sticker in MA for a year or two and never got in trouble for it (admittedly not one of my finer moments).
posted by mskyle at 6:16 AM on August 22, 2012

I don't think you can re-register your car at a gas station in MA - you can get an inspection, if that's what you mean, but the registration comes from the RMV. And they insist on mailing it to you, per this, so you probably need a valid MA address. But that link looks like it should have the info you need as far as MA goes.
posted by ldthomps at 6:18 AM on August 22, 2012

Oh, and if you just need to get it inspected (which seems likely now that I think about it, since my MA registration lasted for two years before I had to renew, and you say you only registered this car a year ago) you won't need a MA address, you can just go get it inspected and no one will ask for proof of residence or anything.

But you should find out how New State feels about out-of-state plates - ideally both the actual law and how aggressively the law is enforced. If you're going to get ticketed in New State you might as well just register it there and save yourself the trip to get the car inspected in MA.
posted by mskyle at 6:21 AM on August 22, 2012

Car registration is about paying tax for the car in the place where it (and you) lives. You can get away with keeping it registered in a different place, but it can lead to trouble.

Here in IL, to re-register a car, they mail you a form that you either mail back with a check, or take to a Secretary of State office and they sell you a new sticker. If you don't have the form (because you no longer live where it was sent), you can sometimes get them to print you a new form. But sometimes not- if you slip up and say you didn't get the form because you don't live there anymore, they are probably not going to let you register the car until you give them a valid address. It may be similar in MA.
posted by gjc at 6:55 AM on August 22, 2012

You mentioned driving over the border - if you're living in CT now, you have 30 days to transfer your driver's license and 60 to transfer the registration on your car. (source) If you're in another state, then check the laws there.
posted by reptile at 7:02 AM on August 22, 2012

Keep in mind this could be insurance fraud and your insurance company can get real upset about this.
posted by majortom1981 at 8:31 AM on August 22, 2012

When you say "over the border", I get the impression you mean Canada. There are probably laws which specifically address being out of the country. You need to call or google to find out how that applies to your situation.

As a military wife, while in Germany, the car was registered in Germany. The driver's license was from a U.S. state. Back in the states, the rule of thumb for military members was that tag, title and driver's license could be split between two states but not three and renewal of registration could usually be done by mail (though I had a helluva time one year when hubby was in Saudi -- long story and not MA, so probably does not apply to your situation).

If you aren't in the military, as others have said, you need to be registered where you live, usually within X time of going there. But if you have been out of the country, there may be some special rules or exemptions. For example, you may qualify for an automatic time extension or grace period.
posted by Michele in California at 8:39 AM on August 22, 2012

You need to clarify whether you need to renew your registration, which as mskyle wrote, is normally for two years in Massachusetts, or simply have your car inspected, which is required every year.

You can figure out when your registration expires by looking at your rear license plate, which will have the month stamped on it in one corner and a sticker with the year it expires in another. The expiration date is also printed on your registration certificate. You can also verify your registration status online.

If it's a registration you need, you can renew online but the RMV will send the registration to your address on file. If you need an inspection, you can do it at any licensed MA inspection station.

All of this is completely separate from the requirements in the state to which you have moved. You usually have 1-2 months to change your license and registration, but it depends on the state.
posted by brianogilvie at 10:05 AM on August 22, 2012

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