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A Complete Guide to Obtaining a Driver’s License

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

You’ve decided to move to Massachusetts? Fantastic! Can’t wait to welcome you – you’re going to love it.

Once you get over how lucky you are, it is time to get down to the practicalities; one of which is to obtain or switch a license and registration from another state to Massachusetts. It can be a daunting prospect for many newcomers, primarily because Massachusetts has different requirements compared to many other states.

For example, few 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 are many differences to be aware of when registering a car in the state 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 a MA registration, and have your vehicle inspected at an approved inspection site.

Read on to discover the steps you need to complete within 30 days of the date you officially move to the state.

COVID-19 Information

In Massachusetts (Mass), following Governor Charlie Baker's declaration of a State of Emergency on March 10th, the Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) has seen substantial delays due to the restriction of services. The Mass RMV is no longer allowing customer visits to their Service Centers and AAA offices.

As such, residents are required to make a reservation online or via phone (at 857-369-8000). Friends and family are not permitted to attend the meetings, except in the case of Learner's Permit applicants, who are allowed an accompanying parent or guardian.

Only 10 RMV centers are currently open: Boston/Haymarket, Brockton, Fall River, Lawrence, Leominster (for Learner's Permit only), Pittsfield, Plymouth, South Yarmouth, Springfield, Worcester, Watertown (for Learner's Permit only), and Wilmington (for Commercial Driver's License/Permit Only).

At the Wilmington RMV Service Centers, they are exclusively open to commercial transactions on a walk-in basis, including commercial driver’s licenses (CDLs) and permits (CLPs). CDL road tests are also continuing to be administered.

All Mass RMV customers must wear face coverings upon entering the Service Center. Social distancing within the Service Centers limits the number of customers allowed into the Service Center at any one time.

Due to the demand and relative shortage of appointments, it can take a minimum of two hours to receive an appointment via phone. Then you'll have to wait a further 7 to 10 days for your appointment date. However, we may be able to help you. Please see our helpful guide.

Driver’s License Conversion Process

Driver’s License Conversion Process

Wouldn't it be so easy to keep the same license no matter what state you live in? Sorry, no such luck. When converting your out-of-state driver's license to a Massachusetts license, you need to decide if 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, use the Real Answers Wizard.

Due to the State of Emergency, the RMV has suspended the issuing of new REAL IDs, except for the first-time issuance, out of state conversion, or other limited circumstances.

Once you've determined the type of license you need, the next step is to take the original ID forms to an RMV Service Center, including the following:

  • Lawful presence (1 document)
  • Two documents that prove you are a MA resident, i.e., a bill addressed to your home (2 documents)
  • Your Social Security number (SSN) (1 document)
  • Out-of-state license

See the RMV's list of acceptable documents.

When transferring your license, ensure that you have valid immigration status for at least 12 months. If your legal immigration status is less than 12 months, then you are ineligible for a MA driver's license.

If you do not have your out-of-state license to turn-in to the RMV, you will need either:

  • Acceptable photo ID from the list of acceptable documents
  • Certified copy of Driving Record, not more than 30 days old

If your out-of-state license expired more than a year ago, you will need to take a road test, a written test, and an eye test.

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 D and M Driver's License Conversion – $130

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

For folks moving to Massachusetts from abroad, converting a Driver's License from a foreign country is different from that of a US resident from another state.

You may be safe to drive freely in Massachusetts if you have a valid license from countries approved by the RMV, which includes:

  • Canada, Mexico, or the US Territories
  • Republic of Korea
  • Federal Republic of Germany
  • Republic of France
  • Taiwan

If you have a license from Canada, Mexico, or a US territory (including Puerto Rico), you need to provide a driving record that is not more than 30 days old. If the driving record is not written in English, then the RMV may require a certified translation to be provided.

For non-US citizens not from a country approved by the RMV, drivers’ licenses cannot be converted. Therefore, they will need to meet all the identification requirements and take a learner’s permit exam and road test.

If you come from any of these countries and possess a foreign driver's license, then you are allowed to operate a vehicle provided you

meet the 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 an individual.

From a Dealer

To apply for registration from a dealer, you will need:

Once you have the complete documentation, you will need to:

  1. Visit a licensed MA insurance agent to obtain an active insurance policy. The agent should complete and stamp a Registration and Title Application
  2. Completed Registration and Title Application needs to be accompanied by the Bill of Sale and one of the following:
  • A manufacturer's certificate of origin (new vehicles only),
  • The previous owner’s certificate of title, dealer re-assignment form, or
  • The previous registration for vehicles that are exempt from the title because of their age.
  1. A reservation must be placed for the transaction with the RMV
  2. Take the completed application and supporting documents to the nearest RMV Service Center
  3. Finally, obtain a vehicle inspection sticker within seven days of the registration date

Note: Vehicle inspections due to expire in March, April, and May have been extended 60 days for non-commercial vehicles.

A 6.25% sales tax will be collected based on the purchase price of the dealer sale. If the dealer is not registered with the Department of Revenue, sales tax will be calculated at 6.25% of the purchase price or the National Automotive Dealer Association (NADA) trade-in value. Whichever is higher.

You will receive a registration certificate, new plates, and a year of expiration decal for the rear plate. The title will be mailed in approximately six to eight weeks.

From an Individual

When registering a vehicle purchased from an individual, remember that Massachusetts title law requires all motor vehicles and trailers to be titled within ten days of their purchase date. To register and title a vehicle purchased from an individual, you will need:

  • A completed Registration and Title Application
  • The previous owner’s certificate of title or the previous owner’s registration and Bill of Sale for vehicles that are exempt because of its age
  • Applicable fee

Note: Certificate of Title Fee - $75.  Registration fees vary by plate type; see the RMV’s schedule of fees. Sales tax for a private sale is calculated at 6.25% of the purchase price or the National Automotive Dealer Association trade-in value, whichever is higher.

When registering and titling a vehicle purchased from an individual, you must:

  1. Visit a licensed MA insurance agent to obtain an active insurance policy. The agent should complete and stamp a Registration and Title Application (RTA).
  2. Alongside a completed RTA, please provide the previous owner’s certificate of title or the previous owner’s registration and Bill of Sale for vehicles that are exempt because of their age.

Note: Sellers are required by Federal and Massachusetts laws to provide the mileage upon transfer of ownership. The transfer document should contain a signature and printed name and date from both seller(s) and buyer(s).

  1. A reservation must be placed for the transaction with the RMV
  2. Take the completed application and supporting documents to the nearest RMV Service Center.
  3. Finally, obtain a vehicle inspection sticker within seven days of the registration date.

Note: Vehicle inspections due to expire in March, April, and May have been extended 60 days for non-commercial vehicles.

You will receive a registration certificate, new plates, and a year of expiration decal for the rear plate. The title will be mailed in approximately six to eight weeks.

The Bill of Sale and Certificate 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. Several templates 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.

Gifted Vehicles/Vehicle Transfers Between Family Members

As for gifted vehicles or transfers between family members, registration is mostly the same as registering a purchased vehicle.

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

  • Either parent
  • Spouse
  • Sibling
  • Child

To complete registration, you will need to provide:

  • A completed Registration and Title Application. The owner must sign this, and your insurance company must stamp it.

Note: If presenting the previous owner’s title, ensure it contains: date transferred, odometer reading, purchase price (‘Gift’ if applicable)

  • Previous owner's certificate of title assigned to the new owner. If your vehicle is exempt from title due to age, you must present the prior registration and the Bill of S
  • A $75 title fee and 6.25% sales tax
  • Registration fee (fees vary by plate type, see the RMV’s schedule of fees)
  • Sales tax exemption form completed and signed by the previous owner
  • A family MVU-26 or gift MVU-24.
  • $25 gift fee, if applicable

Please remember to obtain a vehicle inspection sticker within seven days of the registration date.

Obtain an insurance policy from a licensed insurance company

Countless insurance companies can provide you with an insurance policy for your vehicle. Finding an insurance policy 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 per person; $40,000 per accident
  • Damage to Someone Else’s Property: $5,000 per accident
  • Uninsured Motorist Bodily Injury Coverage: $20,000 per person; $40,000 per accident
  • Personal Injury Protection: $8,000 per person, per accident

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

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

It is essential 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. 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 general life direction. Then we get numerous policy combinations from different insurance agencies to find the most suitable one for your situation.

Completing the inspection of the vehicle

Completing the inspection of the vehicle

Before registration can be considered complete, you require a vehicle inspection within seven days of the vehicle registration. It is a crucial step because it will ensure that your vehicle meets the required safety and emissions standards. 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 a Registration and Title Application if you are thinking of:

  • Changing your insurance company
  • Getting 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 an essential process as it allows you to move freely within 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?

or Call at 617-864-2444

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