Rhode Island law requires that motor vehicle owners must register their vehicle with the Rhode Island Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) before taking it on the road. Both new and second-hand vehicles must be registered, regardless of whether they are purchased from a dealer or an individual. In addition, new Rhode Island residents who have registered their vehicle in another state must register their vehicle in Rhode Island. The initial vehicle registration must be done in person, but registration renewals can be done online or by mail. Registrations are renewable every two years.
You are required to register your vehicle within 30 days of purchase or moving to the state.
If you are registering a motor vehicle in Rhode Island for the first time, you must complete the following steps:
- Rhode Island requires that you show proof of insurance when you register your vehicle.
- Collect the necessary paperwork. If you bought your vehicle from a dealer, then the dealer will have sent the necessary paperwork to the Rhode Island Division of Motor Vehicles. If you have bought your vehicle privately, or have just moved to Rhode Island, you will need the following:
- A completed Application for Registration form.
- The vehicle title and if you have bought the vehicle privately, a bill of sale.
- A Vehicle Inspection Number VIN inspection certificate from your local Police Department.
- Acceptable proof of residency in Rhode Island.
- A completed Tax Exempt form if the vehicle was bought out of state and sales tax was paid in another state.
- If you are leasing your vehicle, you will need a power of attorney form from your leasing company.
- Visit your local DMV office with your completed forms.
- You can collect your new plates when you register your vehicle, unless you have requested personalized plates - in which case you will need to return to the DMV office to collect them when they are ready.
- Place your month and year stickers on the license plates as soon as you receive them.
- If your vehicle does not already have an inspection certificate (they are valid for 2 years, except for motorcycles which must be inspected annually) and is not exempt from inspection, you have 5 days to have your vehicle inspected for safety and emissions.
Registration fees in Rhode Island are based on the weight of the vehicle and whether you require specialized license plates.
Typically the fees will include some or all of the following:
- The registration fee itself
- 7% sales tax - applicable for new vehicles (including motorcycles)
- License plate fees if you want personalized license plates.
RENEWING YOUR VEHICLE REGISTRATION
Owners of motor vehicles in Rhode Island are required to renew their vehicle registration once in two years, and can do so online or by mail. See our Registration Renewal section for complete details.
- The process for registering a motorcycle is generally the same as a car registration. However, motorcycles must undergo a safety and emissions test each year before 30 June.
- There are different procedures for boat registration and custom car registration.
- Auto Insurance is needed to legally operate all vehicles in Rhode Island.
- See also Renewing Your Vehicle Registration.
- See also Title Transfers and Car Insurance.