New to Massachusetts
Massachusetts offers the best of just about everything within a short car or bike ride, or even a walk. Like the beach? There are miles of beaches, from Cape Cod to Salisbury Beach. How about skiing? The world-class mountains of New Hampshire and Vermont are two hours away. A hip urban scene? Boston has the most colleges and universities of any major city in the country, and Harvard Square is a famous urban destination no one should miss.
The list goes on. Great restaurants? Check. History? Try the Massachusetts Freedom Trail and see Paul Revere's House, Old North Church, Bunker Hill and dozens of other attractions. Natural beauty? There's the Berkshires, Rockport and even the Public Garden in downtown Boston to name three.
You've picked a state with a lot to do. You've also picked a state known for a having a lot of laws, especially laws regarding motor vehicles and consumer protection. Massachusetts is the only state in the U.S., for example, that actually sets auto insurance rates yearly. It also requires minimum auto insurance to drive, and―don't forget this one―will not give you a license or registration if you owe parking tickets or child support, sometimes even from other states.
Seem complicated? Don't worry, we're here for you. We've put together this guide to help newcomers. Here we go, starting with a Q and A for new drivers:
How do I get a driver's license?
Most likely, you already have a driver's license from the state where you moved. If so, you can go to any Massachusetts RMV location and apply to have your license transferred to Massachusetts. You only have to take an eye test and pay a transfer fee. If you don't have a valid license, you will need to go through the process of applying for a permit and license. Minors are eligible for a junior operator's license.
More about applying for a Massachusetts driver's license.
How do I register my car?
Motor vehicle registrations are also handled by the Massachusetts RMV. You will need to obtain Massachusetts insurance, have the insurance agent stamp your application for registration, then take it to a Massachusetts RMV office for processing. You will be able to get a registration certificate, decal and plates that day at the RMV, but you'll have to put them on yourself. Registrations must be renewed yearly.
More about applying for a Massachusetts registration.
How do I transfer my title?
You will need to transfer your vehicle ownership title to Massachusetts. This will be done as part of the registration application process. If you have a loan for your car, the lienholder will continue to hold the title until the loan is paid off.
More about motor vehicle title transfers in Massachusetts.
How do I insure my car?
Insurance is a little different in Massachusetts than any other state. This is because Massachusetts state government sets all auto insurance rates yearly. So shopping around makes no difference. The rates are all the same. However, you do need to have minimum insurance to drive in Massachusetts and you must purchase this insurance before attempting to register your vehicles.
More about auto insurance in Massachusetts.
How do I register my boat?
Boat registrations are handled by the state Department of Environmental Police. Virtually all boats in Massachusetts waters need to have a valid registration or risk being ticketed. Also, anyone wishing to register a boat needs to make sure sales and excise taxes are paid first.
More about registering a boat in Massachusetts.
Do I have to actually go to the Registry?
The Massachusetts RMV has a very informative website, which allows many transactions to be done online. Also, many transactions can be done by mail or phone. However, your initial trips for license and registration transfers are unavoidable.
How do I pay a traffic ticket?
If you receive a traffic ticket in Massachusetts, you have a choice. You can agree to plead guilty to the violation and pay the ticket by mail or online. Or you can contest the ticket and receive a date in district court. If you pay the ticket, you don't have to go to court, but you will have an insurance surcharge (see below). If you contest the ticket, you might be able to get away without having it on your record, but you'll have to take time off from work to go to court.
What about parking tickets?
You pay parking tickets to the city or town where the violation occurred. But you need to pay them. If you don't, the RMV will be informed and will refuse to renew your license or registration until those tickets are paid. So it makes sense to pay them right away and avoid surcharges, since you're going to have to pay them eventually anyway.
What's an insurance surcharge?
Remember how Massachusetts sets insurance rates? Part of the deal with the insurance companies is that rates go up for bad drivers and down for good drivers. This means if you get a traffic ticket, you also get a surcharge.
More about insurance surcharges in Massachusetts.
How do I get more information?
The best place to start is here, or at the official Massachusetts RMV website, which has a Guide for New Residents. General government information can be found on the overall Massachusetts government site.