If you are not a Michigan resident, but you drive your out-of-state vehicle for more than 90 days in Michigan, you will need to register your vehicle with the Michigan Secretary of State. Otherwise, you could be found guilty of a misdemeanor and ordered to pay a $100 fine and/or face up to 90 days in jail.
This is an important, but little known, law that affects the many drivers from Canada, Ohio, Indiana and Wisconsin who enter and drive regularly – perhaps daily – in Michigan. This can often be for work, or it can be to spend time with family, or to attend school or college in the state of Michigan.
What is the rule for registering an out of state vehicle in Michigan?
Michigan law requires that a “nonresident owner” of a vehicle who drives his or her vehicle in Michigan for more than 90 days must get the vehicle registered in Michigan.
Specifically, the Michigan Vehicle Code provides that 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))
The Michigan Vehicle Code states that “operate” means “[b]eing in actual physical control of a vehicle” (MCL 257.35a(a)) and an “operator” means “a person” who “[o]perates a motor vehicle upon a highway or street.” (MCL 257.36(a))
How to register an out of state vehicle?
The Michigan Secretary of State explains that if you are an out-of-state resident and you drive your own car in Michigan for more than 90 days, then you must obtain a Michigan registration for your vehicle. You will need to show proof of No-Fault auto insurance and proof of your out-of-state registration or title.
The Michigan Secretary of State explains the non-Michigan resident registration process as follows on its FAQs/Vehicles/Titles page (topic 37 of 48):
“I am going to be in Michigan for an extended period of time for work/school. Am I required to register my vehicle here? According to the Michigan Vehicle Code, a vehicle owner is required to register their vehicle in Michigan after staying in the state for 90 days. It is not necessary to title the vehicle in Michigan, however in order to comply with Michigan law, a Michigan certificate of no-fault insurance must be obtained in order to register your vehicle with the Michigan Secretary of State. If your out-of-state title is being held by a lien holder or leasing company, you may take your previous state registration (it can be recently expired) or proof of your out-of-state title to any Secretary of State office. The Secretary of State will issue a Michigan registration and plate to a vehicle with an out-of-state title. For a list of insurance companies authorized to issue Michigan no-fault insurance, please visit the DIFS website at: www.michigan.gov/difs.”
We recommend that if you are a non-Michigan resident who must meet the “nonresident owner” registration requirement, then print out and bring a copy of the SOS page with you when you go to apply for registration. It may also be helpful to have the link (and its URL) available to show the SOS staff in case they have questions.
Do you need to have auto insurance when registering an out of state vehicle in Michigan?
If you are an out-of-state resident and you must register your vehicle in Michigan because you drive your vehicle in the state for more than 90 days, then one of the requirements for registration is showing proof that you are maintaining a valid Michigan No-Fault auto insurance policy on your vehicle.
The auto insurance requirement applies to non-Michigan residents who drive their own vehicles in Michigan for “more than 30 days in any calendar year.” (MCL 500.3102(1))
It is very important that out-of-state residents who drive their own vehicles in Michigan for more than 30 days pay attention to and comply with the auto insurance requirement because the penalties for driving without insurance in Michigan are the harshest in the country.
You can simultaneously carry both a Michigan auto insurance policy and coverage from your home state on your vehicle if you are a nonresident of Michigan. From a cost perspective, it would make sense to find an insurer who can write policies in both your home state and in Michigan.
What are the penalties for not registering an out of state vehicle in Michigan?
If you are an out-of-state resident and you drive your own vehicle in Michigan for more than 90 days, the penalties for not registering an out of state vehicle in Michigan are the following: (1) it is a misdemeanor; (2) it carries a $100 fine; and (3) it could result in 90 days in jail. (MCL 257.215; 257.901(2))
What if my car is already registered in my home state?
A driver and automobile owner can have his or her car registered in multiple states. Registering your vehicle in Michigan because you are a nonresident who drives here more than 90 days does not affect your vehicle’s registration in your home state.
What “snowbirds” need to know about registering an out of state vehicle in Michigan
“Snowbirds” (folks who live in warm states during the winter and return north in the summer) who are not Michigan residents must register their out of state vehicle in Michigan if they drive here for more than 90 days. “Snowbirds” who are Michigan residents must register immediately as soon they drive here.
Non-Michigan resident “snowbirds” must obtain registration for an out of state vehicle from the Michigan Secretary of State if they drive their own out-of-state vehicle in Michigan for more than 90 days. (MCL 257.243(4)) In order to register, they will need to show proof of valid No-Fault auto insurance coverage for their vehicle. Michigan law requires non-residents who drive their own vehicle in Michigan for more than 30 days in a calendar year to maintain Michigan No-Fault coverage. Our recommendation for non-Michigan residents who will be driving their own vehicle regularly in Michigan is that they get their vehicle insured and registered immediately because in the event of a crash a non-resident is not eligible for No-Fault benefits unless he or she owned a vehicle that was both insured and registered in Michigan. (MCL 500.3113(c))
“Snowbirds” who are Michigan residents and own a vehicle that they intend to drive on Michigan roadways must immediately register their out of state vehicle with the Michigan Secretary of State (regardless of how long the vehicle will be driven in Michigan) and they must immediately maintain Michigan No-Fault car insurance on their vehicle. (MCL 257.216(1); 257.217(1); 500.3101(1))
As other states likely have similar registration requirements, it is important to know that a vehicle can be registered simultaneously in both Michigan and another state. (MCL 257.218(2))
Additionally, as we note above, the Secretary of State has stated that “[i]f your out-of-state title is being held by a lien holder or leasing company, you may take your previous state registration (it can be recently expired) or proof of your out-of-state title to any Secretary of State office” and the “Secretary of State will issue a Michigan registration and plate to a vehicle with an out-of-state title.”
Have you been injured in a car accident? Call Michigan Auto Law for a free consultation
If you or a loved one was injured in a car accident and you have questions about your legal rights to pain and suffering compensation, economic damages and auto No-Fault insurance benefits, you can call toll free anytime 24/7 at (800) 777-0028 for a free consultation with one of our experienced car accident attorneys. You can also get help by visiting our contact page or you can use the chat feature on our website.