Help me drive a car in Massachusetts
October 15, 2013 4:14 PM   Subscribe

I live and work in Massachusetts, but my car is owned by another party and registered in another state, and my license is also in that state. What do I have to do to make right with the MA RMV, and how much will it cost me? Snowflakes inside

I have lived and worked (formerly as a grad student, now as a regular employee) in MA for 3 years now. I wasn't expecting to stay very long, but it seems I will be here for at least another few years. My car (also 3 years old) was purchased in PA a few months before I moved to MA. My father took out the loan for my car (because he could get a better credit rate) and put the title of the car in his name in case I didn't pay the loan. 1.5 years ago he paid off the loan with the bank because he had some cash lying around, and I have been sending him payments directly to pay off the car. My car is registered and insured in PA, I am the sole driver of the car. Being registered and insured in PA worked out ok 2 years ago, when I got in a minor accident with no other vehicles (car slid off road in a storm and hit a tree).

Fast forward to the present day. My PA license is going to expire in a couple months and I'd like to get a Mass license. I think I would also like to register my car in Mass for an eventual day when I'd like to live in Boston proper, and would need a Mass registration to get a street parking permit.

(you are not my lawyer, accountant, etc)

My questions are:
1) Am I required to register my car in Mass when the owner is in another state, and it's mostly only being driven here?

2) Is it possible to register my car when I don't own the title and the owner is in another state?

3) Even if I don't register my car in Mass, am I required to get Mass insurance if I'm driving around here all the time?

4) If I get a Mass license, am I going to have to register my car right away?

5) Will I have to pay excise tax / back taxes?

Thanks for any help!
posted by permiechickie to Law & Government (3 answers total)
I don't know exactly all the answers but if you do decide to transfer title and register locally just mumble that your father dropped the car off a few weeks ago. But yes technically there are n-months after which it's all supposed to be put in order. But there is quite a long "tradition" of NH registered cars spending a lot of time in Somerville while registered at their parents home.... So I wouldn't worry too much but if you get caught (get current tabs one way or another) it shouldn't be too egregious.
posted by sammyo at 4:30 PM on October 15, 2013

Your Dad is the lein holder. You can register the whole shebang in MA and name your dad as the lein holder. Call the DMV to see what paperwork they'll want to do it.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 4:31 PM on October 15, 2013

Best answer: I know some of this but I will also say that I have had decent luck emailing the RMV to get answers that I can phrase plainly. Like, seriously, emails back in a day or two most of the time. I grew up in MA and recently went through a complex re-titling and registering of a MA auto. I do not live in MA but I have a summer place there that has a car.

Just in case you don't know this: the processing MA is different than for a lot of states because MA has compulsory insurance which means you have to have insurance before you register a car in MA. Some companies (USAA) won't insure you in the state of MA if you are not a resident of MA. So, it can be complicated. Here are my answers and annotations.

1. If you're the person driving in MA and you have a MA license, you will get hassled driving a car in MA that is not registered in MA. Technically, once you become a Massachusetts resident you are required to transfer the registration for any vehicle you own. If you ever need neighborhood parking you will probably need to have this. That said, people do this all the time.
2. Not sure? I think you'd need to retitle it in MA with your dad still on tht etile and/or you on it also. Details on this page.
3. If you call your insurance they will give you the straight legal answer to this. People blur these lines all the time but your insurance company will have the straight answer.
4. No. You should because if you're pulled over that's usually when people get dinged for having an out of state car if they are residents. But the license and registation stuff aren't linked.
5. I don't think so if your family transfers the car to you (see the above link). But excise taxes will just be on the car moving forward, they won't be all "You moved here in 2012, you owe us a year of back taxes" if that is what you are asking.
posted by jessamyn at 4:34 PM on October 15, 2013

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