Montana License Plates: The Ultimate Guide to Registering Your Car In Montana In 2023

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Mountainous Montana is an adventure minded individual’s dream state to live and drive through for many Americans. The nearby Rockies are home to some of the premier locales in the world to ski and snowboard in the winter and hike in the summer. The crown jewel of the treasure state is certainly Yellowstone – the first national park of the USA which over 4 million people visit per year.

From the resource rich mountains and rivers to the commerce minded capital city of Helena, there’s economic opportunity to be found as well.  Businesses based in the state grow by a healthy 2.5 percent annual rate and generate over $47 billion in gross state product.

Montana is an enticing area that begs to be explored, but before you hit the road to see all these natural wonders and possibilities, you will need to ensure everything is legal by registering your car. Luckily Montana car registration is a fairly quick and easy process, but gathering up all the relevant information beforehand will save you time and headache down the line at the department of motor vehicles.

Here’s a quick breakdown of all the vital information you will need to get your paperwork in order and get the wheels on the process turning. Before you know it you will be able to grab your very own Montana license plate, and hit those windy northern roads with a clear conscience knowing you have done all the due diligence to drive legally.

1. Montana Car Registration Processing Information

Before you ever go to the department of motor vehicles, the following are the key points of what you need to know in terms of where to go, what you will need and what to expect. New residents must register a new vehicle within 60 days of establishing residency, so don’t wait too long to take care of this or you run the risk of receiving a nasty fine of several hundred dollars.

There are 56 counties in Montana currently (here is a handy interactive map) and each one has its own county treasurer DMV office. Identify which one is closest to your location and consult their individual hours. Typically these offices open between seven to eight pm and close at five pm, but most do not process anything past 4:30 pm. Keep this in mind for when you decide to go, typically the earlier you can get to the office the better.

Initial registration transactions must take place at these physical offices. Renewals in some cases can take place online but for new registration, unfortunately there is no alternative to going in person currently available.

The vast majority of vehicles will fall under the category of “Light Vehicle” which includes passenger cars, pickup trucks (less than one ton in weight), vans and sport utility vehicles. There are three registration periods currently offered in Montana: 12-month, 24-month, and permanent. Individuals must bring their title and proof of vehicle sale to the county treasurer’s office for Montana car registration regardless of the desired registration period.

The registration rate varies in Montana based upon the vehicle’s age. New and vehicles up to four years old are required to pay $217 in total, those aged five to ten years $87 and all light vehicles aged 11 or more years $28. Notably, these fees include a three percent administrative fee that is incurred whenever the transaction is completed.

Another cost that bears mentioning is the county tax, which will vary depending on the area. Those in a hurry to receive their registration and Montana license plate can also opt for faster delivery for an additional charge at the discretion of the local treasury office.

For those applying for permanent registration, there is also a $10 fee for local law enforcement support and optional donations for state parks. If your vehicle falls outside the classification of “Light Vehicle” then you’ll need to be aware of a significantly different scale of payment, which largely has to do with size rather than age.

If for some reason you do not currently possess the title of your vehicle, then you must go through the titling process before you can properly register the vehicle. Often these require a separate appointment to assess and properly facilitate, so if this is something you are in need of, be sure to contact the office beforehand to explain your situation.

2. Options for Getting a Montana License Plate

After you have successfully registered your vehicle in Montana and paid all associated fees and costs, you can then decide what type of license plate you wish to receive from the county treasurer’s office.

There are hundreds of different Montana license plate options currently available, everything from standard plates to highly specialized sponsored ones with all kinds of artistic designs. These cost more than the standard-issue plates, but the funds directly go in support of an incredibly wide variety of causes relevant to the state’s needs.

Here’s a complete listing of all the current Montana license plate offerings:

  • Agriculture and Forestry
    • Thirteen different variants.
    • Cost range from $60 to $90.
    • The income from the sales of these plates goes to benefit farmers, wildlife and livestock communities located in Montana.
  • Antique
    • Three different variants.
    • Standard vehicle registration fee plus $5-30.
    • Only vehicles more than 30 years old are applicable.
  • Arts and Culture
    • Four different variants.
    • Cost range from $60 to $70.
    • Funds generated from these plates go to aid non-profit community groups that foster cultural and artistic activity in Montana.
  • Collegiate
    • Nineteen different variants.
    • Cost range from $70 to $80.
    • Proceeds go to support scholarships and schools of each associated collegiate institution.
  • Education
    • Thirteen different variants.
    • Cost range from $60 to $100.
    • The funds from each plate go to benefit specific educational programs located within the state.
  • Government and Communities
    • Sixteen different variants.
    • Cost range from $60 to $90
    • The income these plates generate goes towards a wide array of causes ranging from indigenous communities to local veterans.
  • Military
    • Twenty-five different variants.
    • Flat $10 production cost.
    • These plates recognize all major branches of the US military both active, retired and affected families.
  • Museums and History
    • Thirteen different variants.
    • Cost range from $60 to $70.
    • These colorful plates mark important moments of Montana state history, and proceeds go to fund related educational museums and foundations.
  • Parks and Environment
    • Thirty different variants.
    • Cost range from $60 to $90.
    • The income generated from the sales of these plates helps protect the local parks, wildlife, and unique environmental features of Montana.
  • Service Organizations and Associations
    • Forty-nine different variants.
    • Cost range from $60 to $90.
    • The widest range of any Montana license plate section, each one supports a unique cause that ranges from youth education, aid to the needy and protecting local endangered species.
  • Sports and Recreation
    • Twenty-two different variants.
    • Cost range from $60 to $90
    • The proceeds from the sales of each plate goes to support associations focused on activities ranging from backcountry hunting to golf.
  • Wildlife and Other Animals
    • Thirty different variants.
    • Cost range from $60 to $90
    • The funds raised from these plates go towards the various refuge and conservation centers of wildlife unique and important to Montana.
  • Youth Groups
    • Five different variants.
    • Cost range from $60 to $90
    • The incomes from the sales of these plates benefit individuals, teams and local organizations and communities dedicated to supporting children in Montana.
  • Other
    • No additional fees required
    • These plates cover those with physical disabilities or amateur radio operators.

As you can see, there are plenty of options to find a license plate that not only fits your budget and the personal style of your vehicle but also supports a worthy cause. Contact Us For a Montana License Plate

3. Temporary Tags and Special Circumstances

If you decide to purchase a plate that is not currently available at the local county treasurer’s office nearest to you, the office will likely grant you a temporary permit that is good for up to 40-days.

To use these temporary tags simply put the paper tags in the plastic container provided by the office and place it towards the rear of the vehicle, either the back windshield or the normal location of a license plate. You will need to remove and responsibly dispose of these tags as soon as your permanent tags arrive.

If you wish to purchase personalized plates this will incur an additional fee of $25 for standard plates, and to do so on a sponsored plate will require further costs and a special application. Be prepared for a longer wait period for these plates to be created and mail, and in the interim time, temporary tags will be used in their place.

After reading through all this information Montana car registration might seem like a mountain of an obstacle to overcome, but the reality of the process is far more manageable than that. Services exist that can help individuals process their applications, and this can simplify things, but ultimately the least expensive option is to research the process, identify your needs and follow the steps outlined by the Montana state government.

With a little due diligence and patience, your Montana car registration process can be completed in just a few hours. Once you have this and your license plate firmly affixed to your bumper, you can then drive anywhere you please in the Treasure state throughout 2022 and beyond.

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