In a NutshellYou can’t register your car in a different state from where you live to avoid higher registration rates or insurance fees. But some states allow nonresident vehicle registrations if you have a legitimate reason for doing so.
Many states in the U.S. require drivers to have a driver’s license and register their vehicles in the same state where they reside.
However, there are some exceptions.
Depending on your circumstances, you may have a legitimate reason for registering your car in a state other than the one you live in. For example, having vehicles in multiple states might make sense if you own a vacation home or are in the military.
- Can you register a car in a different state than your license?
- Which states don’t require your license to match your registration?
- How to register your vehicle as a non–U.S. resident
- Special situations for car registration
- How to register your car in a different state
- FAQs about nonresident car registration
Can you register a car in a different state than your license?
Many states don’t allow vehicle registration without a matching driver’s license. In fact, many states have laws requiring new residents to get a state driver’s license quickly — typically within 30 to 90 days. And states may also require you to present your license or other proof of residency when registering your vehicle in the state.
However, some states don’t require your license to match your registration, which means you may be able to register your car as nonresident in those states. Check out a list of the states that don’t require a matching license below.
Which states don’t require your license to match your registration?
Here are the handful of states don’t require your license to match your registration.
- California allows nonresidents to register a vehicle in the state if the car is based in California or primarily used on California highways.
- Colorado doesn’t require an in-state license to register a vehicle, although you need proof of Colorado insurance.
- Delaware doesn’t require an in-state license to register your vehicle, but instead, you must provide two documents proving your Delaware residency when registering your vehicle and it has to pass an inspection.
- Florida allows nonresidents to register vehicles in the state temporarily under certain circumstances. For example, if you’re temporarily employed in Florida, you can apply for a 90-day license plate. Nonresident Military members deployed in Florida can also purchase a Florida license plate and qualify for a fee exemption.
- Indiana doesn’t require an in-state license to register a vehicle, but you’ll need to show two documents with your name and an Indiana address.
- Kentucky doesn’t require an in-state license for vehicle registration, but you need a photo ID. Kentucky also requires proof of Kentucky car insurance unless you’re active-duty military stationed in Kentucky.
- Maine doesn’t require an in-state driver’s license. You must bring your out-of-state title and registration (if transferring from another state) and your Maine insurance card.
- Massachusetts only requires you to prove lawful presence in the U.S. to register a vehicle in the state. If you don’t have an in-state license, you can show an unexpired license from another state or country, a Social Security card or another document proving lawful presence in the country.
- New York allows nonresidents to register vehicles from out of state by mailing an application and the necessary documents to a New York DMV office.
- North Dakota allows nonresidents working in the state to obtain temporary vehicle registration. The temporary registration is valid for either six months or 12 months. You’re required to maintain current registration in your home state.
- South Dakota allows nonresidents to register vehicles in the state. You need your original out-of-state title, a copy of your driver’s license, Social Security number and a registration application.
You generally must show a current in-state driver’s license to register a vehicle in the remaining states.
How to register your vehicle as a non–U.S. resident
Some states allow non–U.S. residents to register vehicles. However, each state makes its own rules, so it’s a good idea to visit the state’s department of motor vehicles to review the requirements.
For example, you don’t need to provide a U.S. driver’s license to register a vehicle in Massachusetts — you just need to show proof of lawful U.S. presence.
If you don’t have a valid U.S. driver’s license, passport or birth certificate, you may be able to prove lawful presence in the U.S. with one of the following in some states:
- Permanent Resident Card issued by the Department of Homeland Security or U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
- Temporary I-551 stamp in a Foreign Passport
- Employment Authorization Document issued by the DHS
Special situations for car registration
Many states recognize that special situations might require people to have a vehicle registered in a state other than that of their legal residence. You may be able to register a car in a state you don’t live in permanently if you fall into one of these gray areas.
- Deployed military — Some states allow deployed military members in the state to obtain a nonresident vehicle registration.
- College students — Out-of-state college students likely don’t need to register their car in the state where their school is located unless they want to establish residency.
Each state has its rules for how and when nonresidents are required to register vehicles in the state. Some will only issue temporary registrations under special circumstances, so do your research before visiting the DMV.
How to register your car in a different state
Once you’ve confirmed that you’re eligible to register a car in the state, many states require you to visit a local DMV office in person. Check online or call ahead to make sure you’ll be able to get your vehicle registered when you arrive. Bring all the necessary paperwork and a form of acceptable payment for the registration fees and applicable taxes.
FAQs about non-resident car registration
South Dakota is one of the easiest states to register a car in. You can register online if you have a South Dakota driver’s license. Otherwise, you can register in person.
Generally, you should register your car in the state where you’re a legal resident — where you file tax returns, have a driver’s license and are registered to vote. However, if you keep a vehicle in another state, you may need to register that vehicle as a nonresident in that state, if required and allowed by state law.
Registering your car in another state might make sense when it is garaged and driven there. For example, if you’re military and outside your home state. You should not register your vehicle in another state solely to take advantage of cheap car insurance premiums, as this is considered insurance fraud.