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How Canadian residents can register a motor vehicle in Michigan

A to-do list for drivers from Canada on how to register a car

Canadians who live in Michigan for extended periods of time are putting themselves at great risk if their vehicles are not registered properly according to the Michigan No-Fault law.

Last week, I wrote about why this can be so dangerous for Canadians who will be driving in the state of Michigan for an extended period of time (see registering your out-of-state vehicle in Michigan).

The problem is that registering a motor vehicle can also be tricky because of the Michigan No-Fault law. This blog focuses on Canadians who drive and sometimes stay in the state of Michigan for extended periods of time. It offers some tips as to auto insurance and registration.

What is the law in Michigan for registering motor vehicles for out-of-state drivers?

Michigan law – as it relates to all out-of-state drivers, including drivers from Canada – is as follows:

  • Insurance: If your out-of-state vehicle is in Michigan for a cumulative period of 30 days or more in any calendar year, you are required to have Michigan No-Fault insurance coverage on your vehicle. Remember, the consequences for driving uninsured in Michigan can be extremely severe.
  • Registration: Additionally, if your out-of-state vehicle is in Michigan for 90 consecutive days, you are also supposed to register your motor vehicle here in Michigan.

Unfortunately, since most people know nothing about this, they don’t comply with these registration provisions.  And since many of the people who work in the Michigan Secretary of State branch offices are also unfamiliar with this, I’ve even seen them turn people unwittingly away. I’ve  then told them they have to go and register their cars because they’ve been in the state for more than 30 days.

This matters. And it matters even more for Canadian residents who may have to be in Michigan for an extended period of time.

There is no reason that Canadian residents cannot still simultaneously register their vehicles in Michigan while maintaining their regular vehicle title, registration and insurance in Canada.

To avoid a problem at the Secretary of State branch office, drivers who need to comply with the law should do the following:

  • Call the Michigan Department of State, Office of Program Support and Development in Lansing at 517-322-5195.
  • You should know which Secretary of State branch office you want to go to in advance of the phone call.
  • Tell them that you want to arrange for a “memo registration” and they will coordinate with the appropriate personnel at that particular branch office, so that you can complete the transaction and comply with the law.
  • Once you have successfully registered your vehicle in Michigan, you should keep your Michigan and your home state/province vehicle documents in separate places, so that you don’t unnecessarily confuse any law enforcement or customs officials.  This is especially important for Canadian residents.

If you have any questions about this confusing issue, feel free to call our attorneys at . There is no cost or obligation.

Related information:

Can a Canadian driver collect Michigan No-Fault benefits after a car accident in Michigan?

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Blog Author Steven M. Gursten
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