Montana Car Registration: 6 Tips for Making This a Simple Task
Getting a new car is exciting — the new smell, the new feel, the new features, the new aesthetic, etc. However, the prospect of getting it registered is not. Collecting paperwork, waiting in line only to be missing something important, then waiting in line again, these are all too familiar when it comes to this historically arduous task.
Plus, it can cost thousands of dollars to get your new license plates, depending on the worth of your vehicle. Getting a new Montana license plate shouldn’t be the hassle to end all hassles. Here are some quick tips for taking this dreaded task and making it a simple to-do.
First, Why Registering Your Car In Montana Might Be Beneficial
In most states, registering your car means paying hundreds, or more likely, thousands of dollars in sales tax before you receive your plates. Especially with luxury or exotic cars with higher ticket prices, the sales tax can get huge, quick.
For example, registering a $1,500,000 car in California can mean around $120,000 in sales tax. That’s a lot of money. You could buy a new, high-end Tesla with that sales tax.
Montana is a rare and beautiful find in that it has no–that’s it, none–sales tax. In addition to an easy registration (think: no car inspection, no emissions tests), you will also pay absolutely zero sales tax on your new car.
Why You Might Be Someone Who Wants to Register In Montana
Are you in the market for a high-end vehicle? Maybe a sports car or a new RV? You may be splurging on this buy, but you want that money to go towards the car, not its sales tax. Montana may be the place with the kind of tax laws you’re looking for.
If you don’t live in Montana, that doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t take advantage of this great deal. You don’t need a Montana driver’s license to register a vehicle in that state! You do, however, need to prove residence in the county that you’re registering the car in.
You don’t need to pack up and move to Montana for that purpose, though. You could do something like register an LLC in Montana and buy the car with that company’s money. Your new ride would be a company vehicle — your company’s!
1. What You Need
The Boy Scouts have something right: when it comes to Montana car registration, you need to “Be Prepared.” Go into the process of getting your vehicle registered with the right paperwork in hand. On the DMV’s website, there’s a list of things you’ll need to provide in order to get your new Montana license plates.
First, you’ll need the vehicle title. Second, you’ll need proof of auto insurance. Next, you’ll need to pay various fees and taxes. If you’re a Montana resident, that’s all you’ll need. The story is a little different for temporary residents: you’ll also need to provide their current out-of-state vehicle registration.
2. Obtaining Your Vehicle Title
Whether you’re buying a new or a used car, you should work with the dealership to obtain your vehicle title. If you pay in full for your new car, the dealership should give you the title right away. Keep this safe so that you can bring it to the DMV when it’s time to register your car.
If you took out a loan on your car, your lender puts a lien on the title and becomes the lien-holder. You can finance through the dealership or through a bank or credit union. Choose the right lender for you (read: the lender that will cost you the least money) by starting the car-buying process early. Go to your bank or credit union and ask for pre-approval on a car loan.
Once you get to the dealership, ask them to run quotes, too. Go with the option that will cost you the least in the long run. Remember, a lower monthly payment just means that you will have a loan with a longer life, and the longer the life of your loan, the more interest you will pay over its course.
So, your lender is your lien holder. It has the title and the right to repossess your car should you fail to make payments on it. Most loans take at least a year to pay off. So, what do you do in the meantime? To register your vehicle, you don’t necessarily need the title as long as you have proof of payment. Make sure to keep the bill of sale for your car so you can present it to the DMV when the time comes.
Once you’ve paid off your car, you can apply to have the lien removed from your title. To do this in Montana, you’ll need your current title, a payment of $10.30, and either 1) a filled-out Notice of Security Interest/Lien Filing/Lien Release/Repossession form, 2) the generic Release of Security Title or Lien, or 3) a security interest/lien release on letterhead with a complete description of the title and lien information. You can bring these to the DMV yourself or mail them to get your new, clean title.
3. Proof of Auto Insurance
After presenting your title or proof of sale, you’ll need to show proof of auto insurance. Before you can show proof, you’ll need to obtain auto insurance. You don’t need the title to purchase auto insurance, but you will need your driver’s license, social security number, banking information and VIN. Get quotes from several insurers before choosing the right coverage for you.
Sometimes insurers will send you a card with your policy number on it. This can be brought in as proof of insurance. Other times, they won’t send you a card, but will ask you to download their app. Once you download the app and create your account, you will be able to pull up information about your auto insurance on a moment’s notice. The DMV will often just have you give them your policy number and you’re all set!
4. Be Prepared to Pay Necessary Fees
Montana car registration is unfortunately not free. You can register your car for 12 months, 24 months, or in some cases, permanently. In all cases, however, you will be required to pay a registration fee. For vehicles four years old or newer the fee is $217. Five to ten years old is $87, and eleven years or older will cost you $28 — all these rates are according to the 12-month registration fees.
To obtain new Montana license plates, you will be charged an additional $10. Personalized plates will cost you $25. You will also be required to pay the county option tax which is calculated from the type of vehicle, the depreciation value of the vehicle, and the Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP).
You won’t be able to register your vehicle if you are unable to pay these fees and taxes. Consider factoring these into your budget when purchasing your new or used car.
5. Keep it Organized (and Prompt)
Once you have all these components, it’s imperative to keep yourself organized. It’s a good idea to have a file for each of your cars. Buy a file or even just a manila folder for this purpose.
In it, keep your title or bill of sale, your insurance information, tax receipts, financing documents, and maintenance documentation once you have it. Bring the title or bill of sale and your insurance information to the DMV to register your vehicle.
To avoid the inevitable lines, show up about ten minutes before they open.
6. Consider a Third Party for Your Montana Car Registration
Some third parties can help save you hassle and money as you register your car. If you’re looking for someone to walk you through this process, save you the trip to the DMV, and mail the ready plates and registration to you, consider a third-party agency.
If you don’t live in Montana, you’ll need to contact a lawyer to set up an LLC. There are companies who can set up your Montana LLC, get your car registered in the state, and send your plates and registration straight to you — all without you ever stepping foot in the state!
After all we’ve covered, there’s nothing like the peace of mind knowing you’ve done everything correctly and what you need is coming to your doorstep.
The Final Word …
A note on insurance: often insurance companies will require vehicles to be insured in the same state in which they are registered. This may cause problems if you are found operating a Montana-insured and registered car in say, Georgia. Luckily, if you are buying a luxury car, its insurers will know exactly what to do to avoid this situation.
Registering your car in Montana isn’t free, but it is a heck of a lot cheaper than the same process in other states. In order to get your Montana license plates, you’ll need the title of the car (or proof of purchase), proof of insurance, and be ready to pay the associated fees and taxes — sans sales tax, of course.
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