Car Registration in Michigan

SUMMARY: How to Register Your Vehicle in Michigan

To have your vehicle registered with the MI SOS, you'll need to provide your vehicle title, driver's license, proof of insurance, and payment for your registration fee. If you purchased a new vehicle from a dealership, the dealer will generally handle the paperwork for you. You can also obtain a temporary registration permit if you only plan to drive your vehicle for a short period of time.

If you've recently taken up residence in Michigan or purchased a new car, you must register your vehicle(s) with Michigan's Secretary of State (SOS).

If you already have a registered vehicle you need to renew your registration, please visit our page on Registration Renewals.

NOTE: There are separate registration requirements for other vehicle types, such as custom-built cars and ATVs. Visit our page on Other Vehicle Registrations for details.

Just Moved?

Find all the information you need to finish your moving requirements with the DMV.

New to Michigan?

After establishing residency in the Great Lakes state, you must immediately register your vehicle with Michigan's Secretary of State (SOS).

Vehicle registration and titling generally occur simultaneously. To learn more about titles, visit our page on Title Transfers.

To obtain a Michigan vehicle registration certificate, visit your local SOS office with:

  • Proof of Michigan no-fault car insurance (your former out-of-state auto insurance coverage cannot be used).
  • Current out-of-state vehicle title.
    • All owners must be present. If an owner listed on the title is unable to appear, they must:
  • Out-of-state vehicle registration, if your title is being held by a lienholder (certificate can be current or recently expired).
  • A completed Application for Michigan Vehicle Title (TR-11L).
  • Proof of identification (out-of-state driver's license, photo ID card, birth certificate).
  • Payment to cover registration and titling fees (see “Vehicle Registration Fees" below).

Your Michigan car registration certificate expires on the owner's birthday.

Registering a Vehicle in Michigan

The process for vehicle registration differs based on whether your vehicle was purchased from a dealer, bought from a private individual, or transferred/gifted to you from a family member.

Make sure you have an active car insurance policy when registering your vehicle.

Compare rates and buy your policy online: Visit the Insurance Center >>

Vehicles Purchased from a Dealership

If you purchase from a dealership, the dealer will submit your title and car registration documents for you.

Hold onto copies of these documents until your title, registration certificate, and Michigan license plate all arrive in the mail. These will serve as temporary proofs of ownership.

Vehicles Purchased from a Private Party

If you purchase from an individual, the responsibility falls on you to handle the titling and vehicle registration, which go hand-in-hand. The Secretary of State recommends that you and the seller visit an SOS office together for this process.

You have 15 days from the date of purchase to title and register your vehicle. You may drive without plates for the first 3 days in order to register your vehicle. Your assigned title will serve as proof if stopped.

To register, visit your local Secretary of State office with:

  • The signed-over title.
    • All new owners must appear in person. If an owner is unable to appear, they must provide an Appointment of Agent/Power of Attorney form (TR-128), along with a photocopy of their identification.
    • The title should include the following:
      • Odometer reading.
      • The buyer's and seller's signatures.
      • The signature of the lienholder, if applicable.
      • The vehicle identification number (VIN).
  • Proof of identification (driver's license, U.S. passport, photo ID card).
  • Proof of Michigan no-fault auto insurance.
  • Payment for all applicable fees and taxes (see “Vehicle Registration Fees" below).

Vehicles Gifted/Transferred from a Family Member

The process for vehicle registrations when purchasing or transferring between family members is the same as those mentioned above for purchases from a private individual.

However, you are exempt from paying use tax on the vehicle if you are buying/receiving it from any of the following immediate family members:

  • Parents (including adoptive or step-parents).
  • Siblings (including half- and step-siblings).
  • Children (including adopted children).
  • Grandparents and grandchildren.
  • Legal guardians or wards.

You will not need to bring proof of your relationship to the SOS in order to qualify for the tax exemption. However, the Department of Treasury may contact you to ask for proof.

NOTE: For the purposes of assessing taxes and exemptions, all “step" relationships end in the event of a divorce.

Transferring a Michigan Vehicle Registration

You can transfer your existing license plates to a newly-purchased vehicle, provided the SOS has it in its files as being under your name.

To complete the vehicle registration transfer, visit any SOS branch office with:

  • Your current Michigan vehicle registration certificate.
    • If the SOS can verify your license plate number in their database, that will suffice.
  • The title of the new vehicle.
    • If the title is being processed, the SOS will accept a copy of the title application.
  • Proof of MI no-fault car insurance, only if you changed insurance carriers since last registration renewal.
  • Payment for the $15 transfer fee.

Note that if you also apply for a new title at this time, additional fees will apply.

Temporary Registration Permits

If you don't plan on driving your vehicle for an extended period of time (if, for example, you are in the military and out of the country frequently), the state does offer temporary vehicle registration permits valid for 30 days and 60 days.

The permit will cost you a certain portion of what your full registration fee would be:

  • 30 days permit: Either a portion of the annual registration rate, or $20 (whichever is higher).
  • 60 days permit: Either a portion of the annual registration rate or $40 (whichever is higher).

In addition, both permits come with a $10 service fee.

Apply by visiting any SOS office with:

  • Proof of Michigan no-fault car insurance.
  • The vehicle's MI title.
  • Payment for the $10 temporary permit fee.

Military & Non-Resident Vehicle Registration

Military Members

MI Military Stationed In State

The state does not offer any vehicle registration exemptions or waivers for Michigan military personnel living in the state. Simply follow the processes listed above based on your specific vehicle purchase.

MI Military Stationed Out of State

To register a vehicle while deployed outside of the state, submit:

  • A completed Application for Michigan Vehicle Title (TR-11L).
    • If you need the title/registration mailed to an address other than the one specified on your application, submit a Special Mailing of Title Request (TR-114) with your application.
  • A copy of the title.
  • Proof of Michigan no-fault car insurance.
  • Payment for registration and title fees and taxes (see “Vehicle Registration Fees" below).
    • Make check or money order made payable to “State of Michigan."

Mail documents and payment to:

Michigan Department of State
Special Services Branch
7064 Crowner Drive
Lansing, Michigan 48918

NOTE: Vehicle registration renewal late fees are waived for all Michigan military members stationed outside of the state on active duty.

Jump over to our Drivers in the Military page for additional information.

Non-Resident Military in Michigan

Out-of-state military personnel stationed in Michigan are allowed to drive with their out-of-state plates. Make sure you keep your registration current in your home state.

If you choose to make Michigan your residence, you may register your out-of-state vehicle using the methods described in “New to Michigan?" above.

Michigan Vehicle Registration for Non-Residents

If you're an out-of-state student attending college in Michigan, in most situations you do not have to register with the SOS. However, if you take a part-time or full-time job, your exemption is negated, requiring Michigan license plates for your vehicle.

If you're a non-resident living or working in the state, you must register your vehicle with Michigan's SOS if you establish residency in any of the following ways:

  • Register to vote in Michigan.
  • File a Michigan income tax statement.
  • Open a Michigan business.
  • Obtain a Michigan driver's license.
  • Pay in-state college tuition.

Michigan Vehicle Registration Fees

How your registration fees are calculated is based upon your vehicle's age:

  • Model year 1984 and newer: Fees are based on the manufacturer's suggested retail price (MSRP).
  • Model year 1983 and older: Fees are based on the vehicle's weight.

Other base fees that may apply:

  • Title fee: $15.
  • Vehicle registration late fee: $10.
  • Vehicle title late fee: $15.
  • Vehicle registration transfer fee: $10.
  • Use tax: 6%.
  • License plate fee: $5 (standard plate).

Obtain a Duplicate Michigan Vehicle Registration

If your MI registration certificate is damaged or goes missing, the onus is on you to replace it immediately.

Fortunately, the state makes it easy to apply with an online replacement form.

To apply, you'll need to provide your:

  • Social Security number.
  • MI driver's license number.
  • Eye color.
  • Date of birth.

A MI duplicate registration certificate is free. For more information, visit our Replacing a Lost Registration page.

Michigan License Plates

When it comes time to obtain a MI vehicle registration certificate, you'll also be given a choice of license plates. You can opt for a standard plate, or one of the state's many specialized plates. Our License Plates & Placards page gives the full scoop on your choices.

Replace Your MI License Plate

If your license plate has been lost, stolen, or damaged, visit any Michigan Secretary of State office with:

  • Proof of identification.
  • Either the car's registration certificate or the license plate number.
  • Payment for the $5 plate replacement fee.
    • Expect to pay additional fees for specialized plates.

Notify your local law enforcement agency immediately if you suspect the license plate was stolen.


Special Mailing of Certificate of Title
Give the Secretary of State permission to release your MI vehicle/watercraft title to another party.
Application for Michigan Vehicle Title
Apply for a Michigan car title with the SOS.
Appointment of Agent/Power of Attorney
Power of attorney form giving someone else permission to sign SOS documents on your behalf for the buying, selling, OR titling of a vehicle, motorhome, OR watercraft.
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