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When must an out of state driver insure, register in MI?

Out of state drivers must get No Fault auto insurance if driving in Michigan for more than 30-days total; must register car after 90 days

When is it time for an out of state driver to insure and register in Michigan?

Does an out of state driver – somebody who doesn’t live in Michigan, but who drives here frequently – have to get auto No Fault insurance and register a car with the Secretary of State?

This will likely come as a surprise to many people – especially college students from out of state and commuters from Canada, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin.

But, the answers are “yes” and “yes”:

  • If an out of state driver is driving in Michigan for more than 30-days total in any given year, then she must obtain a valid No Fault car insurance policy to cover her vehicle; and,
  • If an out of state driver is driving in Michigan for more than 90 days, then he must obtain Michigan registration for the vehicle.

Specifically, under Michigan’s No Fault Law and Vehicle Code, the auto insurance and vehicle registration requirements for non-residents are as follows:

  • No Fault insurance: “A nonresident owner or registrant of a motor vehicle … not registered in this state shall not operate or permit the motor vehicle … to be operated in this state for an aggregate of more than 30 days in any calendar year unless he or she continuously maintains security for the payment of benefits,” i.e., a valid No Fault auto insurance policy. (MCL 500.3102(1))
  • Vehicle registration: “A nonresident owner of a pleasure vehicle otherwise subject to registration under this act shall not operate the vehicle for a period exceeding 90 days without securing registration in this state.” (MCL 257.243(4))

These rules are hugely important for the thousands of out of state students who attend college in Michigan. Registering your car is also very important for all the many people who regularly visit from Windsor and other parts of Canada, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin who commute to Michigan for work every day – only to return to their home states in the evening and on weekends.

This is potentially very serious. As one of the car accident lawyers here at Michigan Auto Law, I know from first-hand experience that very few out of state drivers – and very few out of state auto insurance agents – know about this.

Even worse, many insurance agents are giving people bad advice. This will leave them dangerously exposed and without insurance protection in some cases if a bad car accident does occur.

Failing to insure your car in Michigan can result in tragic consequences – both health-wise and financially – for an out of state driver, especially if he or she has been involved and injured in a Michigan car accident.

What happens if an out of state driver doesn’t obtain required No Fault car insurance?

If an out of state driver doesn’t get No Fault auto insurance as required by the No Fault rule above, then he or she will deemed an “uninsured” driver.

That’s something that no driver – Michigan resident or otherwise – wants to be.

Not only are there potential criminal sanctions, but there are substantial hardships that will befall an out of state driver if she is uninsured at the time she’s involved and injured in an auto accident.

As I noted in my blog post, “Top 9 risks of driving uninsured in Michigan,” the consequences that uninsured drivers face in Michigan are severe and long-lasting:

  • Uninsured drivers cannot sue for pain and suffering damages.
  • Uninsured drivers must pay for all of their own medical bills.
  • Uninsured drivers are not reimbursed for lost wages.
  • Uninsured drivers must pay for all of their own vehicle damage.
  • Uninsured drivers may be sued and held personally liable to pay for another person’s pain and suffering damages.
  • Uninsured drivers may be sued and held personally liable to pay for another person’s medical bills and lost wages.
  • Uninsured drivers may be sued and held personally liable to pay for another person’s vehicle damage.
  • Uninsured drivers could be sentenced to jail for up to one year and ordered to pay a fine between $200 and $500.
  • Uninsured drivers could have their drivers’ licenses suspended or revoked.

Can an out of state driver have car insurance in two states?

Not only is it possible, but it may be mandatory under the laws of both  states.

Notably, as an out of state driver travels back and forth from her home state to Michigan, she can simultaneously carry the insurance coverage required by her home state and the No Fault insurance required under Michigan law.

It will likely be most cost-effective for the out of state driver if he or she can find an auto insurer that writes policies in both states.

When must an out of state driver register a vehicle in Michigan?

As noted above, Michigan’s Vehicle Code requires that a non-resident get Michigan registration for his or her vehicle if it’s been driven here for more than 90 days.

The Michigan Secretary of State website confirms this rule:

“Every motor vehicle … moved on public roads must be title[d] and registered. Under Michigan law the following vehicles are exempt from titling and registering … Passenger vehicles registered in another state operated by a nonresident for up to 90 days (new residents must title and register their vehicles immediately).” (See: Frequently Asked Questions/Vehicles and Titles/ What vehicles are exempt from Michigan’s titling and registering requirements?)

It’s also important to note that, even though a car can be registered in multiple states, the vehicle’s owner does NOT need to have two plates and change them at the border. The dual state registration – on paper – is enough.

Failure to register a vehicle as required by the Michigan Vehicle Code is a “civil infraction.” (MCL 257.255(2))

This entry was tagged Tags: No-fault insurance
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Blog Author Steven M. Gursten
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