What It Takes to Acquire a Montana License Plate (When You’re Not From Montana)

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Imagine you’re on a cross country road trip. As a car enthusiast, you naturally have an eye out for exotic cars. On the first day, a Lamborghini speeds past you and you notice a Montana license plate. Strange–you’re driving in Georgia. They must be on a trip as well. Then later that day you see a Porsche parked at a rest stop, also with a Montana license plate. Two in one day, what are the odds? 


But as your trip continues, you notice that over half of the fanciest cars you see have these Montana license plates. Are Montanans big car people? But what are they all doing in the South? Is there another explanation?


What Is the Appeal of a Montana Car Registration?


So what’s this Montana license plate phenomenon about? Why not register your car in the state you call home? As it turns out, certain counties in Montana have no sales tax. And on a hundreds-of-thousands-of-dollars purchase, that sales tax is something that can cost you tens of thousands of dollars. There is certainly an appeal to avoiding that sort of taxation if you can.


Say you are buying your dream car–a 2019 McLaren 570S. It goes for about $240,000. If you live in the county of Atlanta in Georgia, sales tax sits at a pretty 8.90%. So to buy your dream car that you’ve saved and budgeted for, you’d have to pay and extra $21,360.


That’s pretty ridiculous. You could buy a nice starter car for your teenager with that money, but instead it’s going straight to the state. The notion of no sales tax begins to appear very appealing.


Can Anyone Register Their Car In Montana?


So your interest is piqued. It would be pretty awesome to save all that money. Perhaps you’re wondering how to register your car in Montana. But who can just register their car(s) in Montana when they don’t live there? Do those people have a second home in Montana? Do they have relatives there, parents maybe? Those circumstances might be helpful, but there are not necessary.


As it turns out, all you need to know how to register your car in Montana is a little thing called an LLC. You’ve heard of them. Perhaps you already have one, or even multiple. An LLC (limited liability company) is a type of business structure with flexible ownership and management and that allows the partners the choice to be taxed like a corporation.


With an LLC in a sales tax-free county in Montana, you’ll be able to get that Montana license plate for your car (which will technically be a business car) with ease.


How to Register Your Car In Montana


Car registration varies state to state. Montana car registration is luckily not the most complicated process. When you’re at the dealership and seal the deal, the dealership will send the paperwork for your new dream car to the County Treasurer’s Office.


You must register your car in the county where you live (or where your LLC is based). Next you’ll have to go into the County Treasurer’s Office to simultaneously title and register your vehicle.


Before You Arrive at the County Treasurer’s Office …


In order to get that Montana license plate for your new car you’ll need to have a few things prepared. First, you must provide a completed vehicle registration application.


To download the form, go to the Montana DMV office finder page, click on “DMV Forms and Publications” on the left-hand side, click on the “DMV forms” box, then scroll down and click on the “Application for Certificate of Title for a Motor Vehicle” (MV1) form. Download this, print it out, fill it in, and bring it to the County Treasurer’s Office.


Next, you’ll need proof of insurance. Insurance for a luxury car is nothing to be sneezed at. You’ll need it to operate your car and you’ll definitely want it if anything bad were to happen. See if the dealer has any recommendations on the best insurance to get for your car, but don’t leave all the sleuthing to them.


Research on your own to find the right insurance for your new car. Once you decide what type of coverage you want, compare several quotes to find the best deal. Some insurance companies have iPhone or android applications where you can create an account and view your proof of insurance with the swipe of a finger.


Others will send you insurance cards in the mail. Make sure to have either the application ready or your insurance card in hand when you visit the County Treasurer’s Office.


Next you’ll need to present the vehicle’s title. The title transfer and registration take place simultaneously for a newly-purchased car. If you have paid in full for your vehicle already, the dealership or private seller should have already presented you with the title. Make sure the private seller has signed over the title to you. If you’re taking out a loan, you’ll just need proof of purchase.


Taking out a car loan is a significant move. Be careful and consider your budget, correcting for any financial hiccups. Your monthly payment shouldn’t be exactly the amount of money you have left over after paying the rest of the month’s expenses.


Consider what would happen if you had an unexpected expense, like a medical bill, and make sure that you would still be able to make the car payment regardless. The dealership may offer you a payment plan. Look at it closely and calculate what your monthly payment would be and how much you would spend on the car with interest, over time.


Don’t accept their offer on the spot, even if it looks great. Shop around with banks and credit unions and see who can offer the best deal for you. Your lienholder will hold onto the title until it’s fully paid off, so as mentioned before, just make sure to bring in proof of purchase to the County Treasurer’s Office.


Be Prepared to Pay (Some) Fees


Once you’ve arrived at the County Treasurer’s Office and presented the completed vehicle registration application, proof of insurance, and title or proof of purchase, you’ll need to be prepared to pay some smaller fees.


First, you’ll pay the registration fee. This is based on the vehicle’s age and the length of time you want to register it for. Montana has several options to this end. You can register for one year, for two years, or permanently. Only vehicles over 11 years old are eligible for permanent registration. The fee for a one-year registration for a vehicle four years old or newer is $217.


Next, you’ll pay the county option tax. This varies county to county and is based on the MSRP, the type of vehicle, and the depreciation value of this vehicle. If you’re creating an LLC in Montana, choose a county where the option tax is the lowest.


Finally, you’ll pay the license plate fees. These are relatively cheap. New plates only cost $10 and personalized plates (more common for luxury cars) are very affordable at $25.


Montana Car Registration for Dummies


If everything listed above seems like a lot of work, you’re in luck. Even if you’ve never created an LLC before, you can register in Montana if you know the right place to look. There are companies like 5 Star Registration which can help you create an LLC, get your car registered, and drive away in your sales tax-free dreamboat.


You won’t need to hire a lawyer or travel all the way to Montana to visit the County Treasure’s Office. For an all-in-one price, you can hire a service provider to do all this for you.


The Bottom Line …


No one wants to spend money they don’t have to, whether you make $50,000 a year or $5,000,000, you don’t build your wealth by spending when it’s not necessary.


Cars are a necessity, but they can also be a luxury if you pick the right one and are willing to pay for it. When you finally decide on your dream car, you want all the money you’ve set aside for it to go to the car — the powerful engine, the sleek body, the plush leather interior — not sales tax.


If you know how to register your car in Montana you’ll be able to skip that tax altogether. If you don’t want to move your home or business to Montana, as most of you do not, you can still save all that money.


Simply find the right service provider and they will help you set up a Montana LLC, register your car, and save you thousands of dollars. No lawyers, no moving, no hassle. Registering your car in Montana is as easy as you want to make it.


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