A Complete Guide to Obtaining a Driver’s License, Insuring and Registering a Car in Massachusetts

The process of obtaining or switching a license and registration from another state to Massachusetts can be daunting for many newcomers. Massachusetts is a state that has different requirements from most other states. For example, not many states require motorists to obtain a stamped registration form before they are allowed to register a vehicle, however, Massachusetts does. Similarly, many states require you to carry an insurance card whereas Massachusetts does not. There is a list of differences that can be drawn on when registering a car here versus elsewhere.

If you are considering moving to Massachusetts, you will need to plan carefully. Once you become a Massachusetts resident you need to convert your license, get an MA registration and have your vehicle inspected at an approved inspection site.

In this article, we will discuss the tasks you will need to complete within 30 days of the date you officially moved to the state.

Driver’s License Conversion Process

To convert your out-of-state driver’s license to a Massachusetts license, you primarily need to decide whether you need a REAL ID driver’s license or Standard Massachusetts driver’s license. If you don’t know what type of license you need, you can always find out from the Real Answers Wizard.

Once you’ve determined the type of license you need, the next step is to take the original ID forms to a Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) office including the following:

You have to make sure that your out-of-state license is still valid, otherwise – in some circumstances – you may have to retake the driving tests. If your out-of-state license has expired in a period of less than one year, you are not required to take any tests. [SW1] If it has expired for more than one year, you will need both, a road and written test, along with a vision examination.

The fees for a license conversion are as follows:

  • For each Class D Driver's License Conversion – $115
  • For each Class M Driver's License Conversion – $115
  • For each Class combined D and M Driver's License Conversion – $130

Driver’s License Conversion Process for non-U.S. Citizens

For the folks moving to Massachusetts from abroad, the process of converting a Driver’s License from a foreign country is different from that of a U.S. resident from another state.

As a non-U.S. citizen, you will have to take the full driver’s test, meaning you have to pass the written test, the road test, and the vision exam. Additionally, you have to present identification documents, similar to the ones outlined above. You may be safe from all this hassle and drive freely in Massachusetts if you have a valid license from countries approved by the RMV. Some of these countries are:

  • Canada
  • Mexico
  • U.S. Territories
  • The Republic of Korea, and others.

If you come from any of these countries and you are over 18 years old, you can drive for up to a year in MA, starting from the date of your arrival. This is the position as long as the license meets Massachusetts ID requirements.

Registering a Vehicle

After the license conversion, the next step is to register your vehicle. The process differs according to whether the purchase was made from a dealer or from an individual.

To apply for registration from a dealer you will need:

  • A completed RMV-1 application
  • Proof of insurance
  • Proof of ownership
  • The correct payment

When registering a vehicle purchased from an individual, you first have to keep in mind that Massachusetts title law requires all purchased vehicles to be titled within 10 days of their purchase date. There are a few steps that you will have to take to successfully finish this process. It is also important to keep in mind that the registration process differs slightly based on whether the vehicle is purchased or gifted from an individual To complete the registration process you must:

  1. Obtain the bill of sale and certificate of ownership
  2. Obtain an insurance policy from a licensed insurance company
  3. Complete Application for Registration and Title (RMV-1)
  4. Start the registration process at Massachusetts RMV
  5. Payment for the registration fees, sales tax, and a $75 titling fee.
  6. Complete the inspection of the vehicle

Each of the above-mentioned steps have specific requirements, which will be examined below.

*Note: You may be exempted from a $75 titling fee if:

  • Your vehicle was registered in another state for over six months. In that case, you will need to complete an MVU-29 form;
  • You purchased a vehicle in MA, sent it to another state, then brought it back after moving;
  • The year of the model you purchased is 1980 or older;
  • It was purchased before November 26, 1990.

The Bill of Sale and Certificate Ownership

The first step is to obtain the bill of sale and the certificate of ownership. Whenever you purchase a car, you must obtain a bill of sale which proves that one party has purchased the vehicle from another. Vehicle sale agreements between the buyer and seller can be drafted, and there are several templates which can be found online.

Apart from the bill of sale, the seller must also transfer the certificate of ownership to the buyer to ensure that the vehicle is rightfully transferred. Both, the bill and certificate should be signed on the same date.

As for gifted vehicles, registering your gifted vehicle is pretty much the same as registering a purchased vehicle. However, since you cannot provide a bill of sale, you have to provide the Certificate of Title of the previous owner that includes:

  • Mileage statement
  • Signatures of both yourself and the previous owner
  • Date of transfer
  • A purchase price titled as “GIFT"[SW2] .


Obtain an insurance policy from a licensed insurance company

All vehicles in Massachusetts – purchased or gifted – must have at least a minimum auto insurance policy attached to them. There are countless insurance companies that can provide you with an insurance policy for your vehicle. Finding the right insurance policy, namely, one that is affordable and matches your needs can be tricky. It requires research and shopping for quotes for different insurance policies. Minimum legal insurance requirements include:

  • Bodily Injury Liability Coverage: $20,000 - $40,000
  • Property Damage Liability Coverage: $5,000
  • Uninsured Motorist Bodily Injury Coverage: $20,000 - $40,000
  • Personal Injury Protection: $8,000

However, those rates depend largely on several factors, including:

  • The vehicle you own
  • Your place of garaging
  • Your driving experience
  • Your driving history
  • Past claims
  • Past cancellations

It is highly important to know how to find the right insurance company by comparing different quotes. If that seems too much to handle on your own, you can always hire an independent broker to find personalized deals for you. Independent brokers, such as Econosurance, can provide you with a free quote to save you an average of $500 annually. We create a personalized profile for all our clients by looking at their age, job, interests and their general life direction. Then, we get numerous policy combinations from different insurance agencies to find the most suitable one for your situation.

Completed Application for Registration and Title

The Application for Registration and Title is known as an RMV-1. The RMV-1 application form can be directly accessed on the MA government website.

It requires specific information, such as:

  • Your personal information,
  • Type of vehicle,
  • Type of gasoline,
  • Date of purchase, and so on.

Once the form is completed, it has to be signed and stamped by your insurance agent before submission. If you hire an independent broker, they will take care of completing the application that you have to sign in the end.

Complete the registration process at Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV)

Once your application is taken care of, you have to visit the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) to complete the registration process and submit the required documents. The RMV has computers and printers inside the service center, which you are allowed to use for printing the necessary forms for registration.

Documents you have to submit at RMV for purchased vehicles include:

  • The Application for Registration and Title (Form RMV-1) signed and stamped by your insurance agent;
  • The certificate of title from the previous owner signed by both parties;
  • Bill of sale;
  • Exemption form (if applicable)
  • Registration fee, $75 title fee and a 6.25% sales tax.

If you are registering a gifted vehicle, the documents you have to provide at the local MA Registry of Motor Vehicles services centers include:

  • The Application for Registration and Title (Form RMV-1), signed and stamped by your insurance agent;
  • Claim for Exemption of Sales Tax form:
  • If the vehicle has been transferred from any person, MVU-24, or
  • If the vehicle has been transferred from a family member, MVU-26
  • The name and address of the party who gifted the vehicle;
  •  A document that proves previous ownership, which can be either of the following:
  • A bill of sale, if the vehicle is exempt from titling, or
  • Certificate of Title from the previous owner.

For gifted vehicles, you may be free from paying a sales tax if the vehicle was gifted to you from:

  • Either parent
  • Spouse
  • Siblings
  • Children

However, you still have to pay for the registration fees, $75 titling fee (if applicable), and the $25 gift fee.

Once the registration process is finished, you will receive a registration certificate and the plates within about 10 days.

Completing the inspection of the vehicle

The last step is the inspection of your vehicle. This is a requirement that must be fulfilled within 7 days of your vehicle’s registration. This is a very important step because it will ensure that your vehicle meets the required standards of safety and emissions. Your insurance broker can help you find licensed inspection stations across Massachusetts.

Once these steps are finished, you will be done with the registration process. There are some things you also need to keep in mind after registering your vehicle, such as:

  • You have to renew your registration yearly
  • You have to re-inspect your vehicle yearly
  • You have to maintain an active insurance policy

You may need an RMV-3 form if you are thinking of:

  • Changing your insurance company
  • Having an insurance reinstatement
  • Swapping to a different plate number or plate type
  • Amending the information on your current registration
  • Renewing the current registration if:

- You did not receive a printed renewal by email

- You received a renewal with incorrect information

Registering your vehicle is a very important process as it allows you to move freely in Massachusetts.

For additional information not covered in this article, you can always contact the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles (DMV/RMV) through their customer service number on 857-368-8000.

In-need of help finding the right insurance policy?

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