A Massachusetts car registration must be completed by all vehicle owners living in the state. Vehicle registration and similar services for drivers are managed by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) and more specifically the Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV). The registration process for vehicles in MA varies according to a few different criteria, such as whether the vehicle owner is a current resident of the state or a new resident and whether the vehicle has been purchased from a dealer or used from an individual.

All applications for the DMV registration of motor vehicles must be accompanied by the necessary material and application processing fee. Drivers who are in Massachusetts temporarily with the military or for another valid cause have specific registration guidelines to follow, as well. In Massachusetts, drivers are expected to renew their registrations every one or two years, depending on their license plate type. Keep reading to learn more important information about RMV registration in Massachusetts.

Massachusetts Car Registration Requirements

The requirements for registering a car in Massachusetts can be met by gathering a few important materials. There are two main categories of car registration requirements that drivers must adhere to, which are categorized based on how the owner acquired his or her vehicle. Drivers who recently purchased a used vehicle from an individual will need to provide the following materials to register their cars in MA:

  1. A completed and signed Massachusetts Department of Transportation RMV-1 Application Form.
  1. The Certificate of Title from the vehicle’s previous owner OR the previous owner’s registration AND a Bill of Sale for vehicles that are exempt because of the owner’s age
  2. The application fee by check or money order.

Car registration requirements in Massachusetts are somewhat different for drivers who have recently purchased a new vehicle from a dealer. In these cases, owners must register a car within the automatic seven-day grace period extended by the RMV that allows them to immediately begin driving new purchases. The following application material is required for drivers registering vehicles just brought home from the dealer:

  • A completed and signed Massachusetts Department of Transportation RMV-1 Application Form
  • Adequate proof of insurance
  • Proof of ownership
  • The application fee

Car Insurance Requirements for Registering a Car in Massachusetts

An important part of how to register a car in Massachusetts is providing proof of valid auto insurance on the application form. Unlike in many states where drivers must provide additional forms of proof with their vehicle registration application, MA applicants are required to get a signature from their insurance agent testifying to the driver’s status as an active insurance policy holder on their actual application form.

To apply for and pay a car registration, MA drivers are required to have a minimum level of auto insurance that includes four basic types of coverage. All vehicle owners must own an insurance policy that includes the following types of coverage:

  1. Bodily Injury to Others
  2. Personal Injury Protection (PIP)
  3. Bodily Injury Caused by an Uninsured Auto
  4. Damage to Someone Else’s Property

Vehicle Inspection Requirements in Massachusetts

In addition to completing the application and paying the car registration fees, MA drivers must get their vehicles inspected before they will be permitted to be driven on state roadways. Known as the Massachusetts Vehicle Check program, the state’s vehicle emissions testing and safety inspection program requires that all vehicles driven in the state pass an annual check to be legally operated.

Upon passing the necessary DMV registration emissions inspection, the driver will receive an inspection sticker with a validity of one year from the date of issuance. This sticker expires on the last day of the month shown. Drivers of motorcycles which fail inspection will receive a “reject” sticker instead. Inspections are carried out at over 1,800 licensed inspections stations throughout Massachusetts.

Registering a Vehicle in Massachusetts

To get a vehicle registration in Massachusetts, all types of vehicle owners are expected to complete the requisite application, provide supporting material and pay the application fee. Vehicle registration renewals must be completed on an annual basis in Massachusetts. How much is car registration for vehicle owners in Massachusetts? The price to register depends on the type of vehicle and license plates that are being added to the system. The most significant differences in application procedures exist between owners of used vehicles and newly manufactured cars. Military personnel and temporary nonresidents also follow specific registration guidelines.

How to Register a New Car in Massachusetts

In Massachusetts, owners of new vehicles cannot complete a car registration online but instead must visit an RMV service center in person. Unlike in some states where the dealer can pay car registration fees and submit the application on behalf of the new owner, drivers in MA are expected to have the dealer complete a portion of the registration application form and then submit the registration request to the RMV themselves. Owners of new vehicles can take the following steps to get new car registrations for their recently acquired cars:

  1. Make sure the dealer completes and signs the necessary portions of the MA Department of Transportation RMV-1 Application Form.
  1. Go to an insurance agent licensed in Massachusetts to buy an adequate auto insurance policy. Have the agent stamp and sign the RMV-1 application.
  2. Gather the other necessary car registration documents, including the Bill of Sale and one of the following documents: the Manufacturer’s Certificate of Origin, the vehicle’s previous registration form or the dealer re-assignment form (as applicable). The back of the Certificate of Origin and any previous titles must include the date sold, the odometer reading and the purchase price in addition to the signatures of both the buyer and seller.
  3. Prepare the necessary application fee.
  4. Package the application form, supporting material and processing fee and take it to your nearest RMV service center for submission.
  5. You will then receive a registration certificate, new license plates and a year of expiration decal for the rear license plate. Your new title will be mailed to you in six to eight weeks.

If the dealer who sold the vehicle lives outside of Massachusetts, he or she can send relevant vehicle registration information by mail to the MA RMV. The necessary documents can be mailed to:

Registry of Motor Vehicles
Registration Department
P.O. Box 55895
Boston, MA 02205-5895

Registering a Used Car in Massachusetts

Registering a used car in Massachusetts is a somewhat simpler process than registering a new car. Vehicle owners in this situation can submit a car registration form to the RMV without getting it signed by the dealer or seller. Owners of used vehicles can complete registration by taking the following steps:

  1. Print out and complete the MA Department of Transportation RMV-1 Application Form.
  2. Get an adequate auto insurance policy and have the agent stamp and sign the RMV-1 application.
  3. Prepare the previous owner’s certificate of title OR the previous owner’s registration and Bill of Sale, signed and dated by both the seller and buyer.
  4. Prepare the necessary application fee.
  5. Package the application form, supporting material and processing fee and take it to your nearest RMV service center for submission.

How to Register a Car in Massachusetts as a New Resident

New residents to Massachusetts must register cars and trucks being transferred to the state shortly after permanently taking up residence. The car registration application requirements for new residents are similar to those for existing residents but do not require any supporting material. New residents need to simply complete the RMV-1 application, get an insurance agent to verify that the driver’s policy is up to state standards, prepare the application fee and submit the packet in-person to a nearby RMV services location.

Vehicle Registration for Military Members in Massachusetts

A new vehicle registration is not necessary if you are residing in Massachusetts as part of the military. In fact, active duty military personnel and their family may retain their home state car registration indefinitely as long as they hold auto insurance that meets MA standards. Military members who registered their vehicle in their last post instead of in their home state are required to apply for a new MA registration within 30 days of moving to the state.

Massachusetts License Plates

Once an owner has paid the car registration cost and submitted the necessary application materials, he or she will immediately receive license plates for the vehicle unless requesting special plates. In most cases, drivers receive two plates for placement on the front and rear of the vehicle.

Decals must be placed on the correct plate to be valid. Drivers requesting special plates will have to wait to receive their final plates in the mail.

Massachusetts Car Registration Fees

Car registration services in Massachusetts can vary in cost depending on the category of driver and class of vehicle. Most passenger vehicles cost $60 to $80 a year to register. In addition, the annual inspection fee is $35 for most types of vehicles. These fees can be paid in a variety of payment methods.

Last updated on Friday, March 6 2020.