Can I Register a Car in a Different State Than My License?

Last Updated on January 5, 2022

Can you live in one state but register a car in a different state?

Typically, you must live in a state to register a car in that state. However, eight states do not require your registration and license to match.

Keep reading to discover everything you need to know about registering a car in a different state than your license.

Table of Contents:

How to Register a Car in a Different State

There are certain situations where you may need to register your car in a different state.

In most cases, however, you register your car in the state where you reside, which means your car registration matches your license.

If you live in Minnesota and want to register your vehicle, for example, then you would take your Minnesota driver’s license to the DMV (or, in this case, the DVS) to register your vehicle as a Minnesota vehicle.

However, if you have a second home or multiple homes, or if you own a car exclusively for use in a different state, then you may want to register your car in that different state.

Let’s say you live in Minnesota but own a place in Hawaii. You own a car in Hawaii even though you don’t live there. You have a Minnesota driver’s license, yet you’re trying to register a car in Hawaii. In this situation, you may want to register your car in a different state than your license.

Keep reading to discover some of the situations where you may need to register your car in a different state than your license.

States Where License and Registration Don’t Need to Match

First, some states do not require your license and registration to match.

In eight states, the only requirement is that you can prove residency in the state where you register your car. You don’t need to provide a local driver’s license. You only need to prove residency. You are not obligated to pick one state over the other, and some of these states even allow you to register a vehicle simultaneously in two states.

The eight states where license and registration don’t need to match include:

  • Delaware
  • Indiana
  • Kentucky
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • New York
  • North Dakota
  • Pennsylvania

In all other states, however, it’s more challenging to register a vehicle without a local driver’s license. In most states, your driver’s license and registration need to match each other.

Moving to a New State

If you’re moving to a new state, then you may need to register your vehicle in that state before switching your license.

However, all states require you to get a new driver’s license soon after establishing residency. Most states require you to obtain a new license within 15 to 30 days of moving to the new state, for example. Once you have your new license, you can register your vehicle in the new state.

In other words, you would change your license and registration when moving to a new state. You would not change one or the other. If you have moved to a new state with the intention of being a resident, then you need to switch your driver’s license and registration to match your new state.

Temporarily Visiting a State

If you’re only visiting a state temporarily – say, if you’re on vacation – then you may or may not need to register your vehicle in that state.

Some states require you to register a vehicle if you stay in a state for more than one month, for example. You register your vehicle with a “non-resident” permit, for example. In this situation, you registered your vehicle with one state despite having a driver’s license from another state.

In most states, however, you do not need to register your vehicle when visiting a state temporarily. Instead, you maintain registration in the state where you have your license.

When to Register Your Car in a New State

Most states require you to register a vehicle within 10 to 90 days of arrival.

Even if you don’t plan to permanently move to that state, the state may consider you a resident after just 10 to 90 days of residing in the state, which means you need to switch over your license and registration.

Remember: it’s illegal to leave your car registered in a state where you no longer live.

Let’s say you move from North Carolina to Virginia. You keep your old North Carolina registration but switch your driver’s license to Virginia. You avoid getting new license plates and registration for your vehicle. This is illegal. You must switch your registration to your new state within a certain period – typically within 10 to 90 days of your move.

Does Insurance Need to Match Registration?

If you’re changing around car insurance and driver’s license information, then remember to make sure your car insurance matches everything. Your car insurance needs to match your registration.

Let’s say you moved to a new state but your car insurance company still has your old address. You are no longer a resident of your old state, but your insurance company still believes you are. If you get into an accident in your new state, then your insurer may decline your claim because you did not notify them of the move. Although this is an extreme situation, it could occur if you fail to switch car insurance to match your new driver’s license, registration, and state.

Moving for Short-Term Jobs or School

If you are moving to a new state for a temporary job, school, or other short-term purposes, then you are not considered a resident of that state.

In this situation, you do not need to switch your vehicle registration, get a new driver’s license, or move your insurance to your new state. Instead, you are still considered a permanent resident of your original state.

Other Situations with Unique Registration Requirements

There are more people than ever working in one state but living in another. Here are some of the unique requirements where your license and registration may not match:

Military: If you are a member of the military and are stationed in another state, then you should be able to retain vehicle registration in your home state without getting a new driver’s license or registration. In this situation, you are considered to be temporarily working in your new state while still being a permanent resident of your old state.

Multiple Homes: If you own two homes in two different states, then you need to register your vehicle in the home where you spend most of the year. If you spend 2/3rd of the year in Illinois, for example, before spending the winter in Florida, then you would register your vehicle in Illinois even though you spend a significant amount of time in Florida each year.

You Use a Car Exclusively in One State: If you have a second car you use exclusively in one state, then you may be able to register your car to that state even if you’re not a resident of that state. If you bought a car in Hawaii, for example, then you might register that car in Hawaii even though you are a resident of a different state. If you have a second car that remains at your resident in a different state, then you should be able to register your vehicle to that address instead of registering it to your home state.

Working and Living in Different States: Some people live close to state borders or have unique living and working arrangements. If you own a home in one state and work more than 184 days in another state, then you are considered a resident of both states. In this situation, you can register your vehicle in the state of your choice.

Final Word on Registering a Car in a Different State Than Your License

In most cases, your driver’s license and registration need to match. However, you may be able to register a vehicle in a new state in certain situations, and eight states do not require your license and registration to match each other.

Contact your insurer or your local DMV to determine if you can register your car in a different state than your license.

James Shaffer
James Shaffer James Shaffer is a writer for InsurancePanda.com and a well-seasoned auto insurance industry veteran. He has a deep knowledge of insurance rules and regulations and is passionate about helping drivers save money on auto insurance. He is responsible for researching and writing about anything auto insurance-related. He holds a bachelor's degree from Bentley University and his work has been quoted by NBC News, CNN, and The Washington Post.
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