A Michigan vehicle registration is documentation provided by the Michigan Secretary of State (SOS) for vehicles registered in the Great Lakes State. This document connects registered vehicles with their owners.
To have a vehicle registered with the MI SOS, residents of this state need to provide their vehicle title, driver’s license, proof of insurance, and payment for all applicable registration fees.
If residents purchased a new vehicle from a dealership, the dealer will generally handle the paperwork. MI residents can also obtain a temporary registration permit if they only plan to drive their vehicle for a short period.
Registering a Vehicle in Michigan
Individuals who’ve recently taken up residence in Michigan or purchased a new car must register their vehicle(s) with Michigan’s Secretary of State (SOS). Residents who have already have a registered vehicle need to renew their registration.
NOTE: There are separate registration requirements for other vehicle types, such as custom-built cars and ATVs.
New to Michigan?
After establishing residency in the Great Lakes State, new residents must immediately register their vehicle with Michigan’s Secretary of State (SOS). Vehicle registration and titling generally occur simultaneously.
To obtain a Michigan vehicle registration certificate, MI residents must visit their local SOS office with:
- Proof of Michigan no-fault car insurance (the 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:
- Complete an Appointment of Agent/Power of Attorney (Form TR-128).
- Provide a photocopy of their driver’s license or ID card.
- Out-of-state vehicle registration
- If the title is being held by a lienholder
- Certificate can be current or recently expired.
- A completed Application for Michigan Vehicle Title (Form 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).
The Michigan car registration certificate expires on the owner’s birthday.
Registering a Vehicle in Michigan
The process for vehicle registration differs based on whether the vehicle was purchased from a dealer, bought from a private individual, or transferred/gifted to an individual from a family member. Residents of MI need to make sure they have an active car insurance policy when registering their vehicle.
Vehicles Purchased from a Dealership
For residents who purchase a vehicle from a dealership, the dealer will submit your title and car registration documents. MI residents need to keep copies of these documents until the title, registration certificate, and Michigan license plate all arrive in the mail. These documents will serve as temporary proof of ownership.
Vehicles Purchased from a Private Party
Residents who purchase a vehicle from an individual, have to handle the titling and vehicle registration, which go hand-in-hand, on their own. The Secretary of State recommends that residents of Michigan and the seller of the vehicle visit an SOS office together for the registration process.
Residents have 15 days from the date of purchase to title and register their vehicle. Individuals may drive without plates for the first 3 days in order to register their vehicle. The assigned title will serve as proof of registration.
To register a vehicle in MI, visit a 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, residents are exempt from paying use tax on the vehicle if they 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.
MI residents will not need to bring proof of their relationship to the SOS in order to qualify for the tax exemption. However, the Department of Treasury may contact residents 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
Residents can transfer their existing license plates to a newly-purchased vehicle, provided the SOS has it in its files as being under the resident’s name.
To complete the vehicle registration transfer, visit any SOS branch office with:
- The 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 a resident changed insurance carriers since their last registration renewal.
- Payment for the $10 transfer fee.
NOTE: MI residents who also apply for a new title at this time may have additional fees to pay.
Temporary Registration Permits
MI residents who don’t plan on driving their vehicle for an extended period (if, for example, residents who 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 the 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 of Michigan 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.
Michigan Vehicle Registration for Non-Residents
For individuals who are out-of-state students attending college in Michigan, in most situations, do not have to register with the SOS. However, if they get a part-time or full-time job, their exemption is negated, requiring Michigan license plates for the vehicle.
Non-residents of MI living or working in the state must register their vehicle with Michigan’s SOS if they 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
The registration fees are calculated based upon a vehicle’s age. Vehicles model year 1984 and newer have fees that are based on the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP). Model year 1983 and older have registration fees that 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 the MI registration certificate is damaged or goes missing, it is the responsibility of the resident to replace it immediately.
To apply for a replacement, MI residents need to provide their:
- Social Security number.
- MI driver’s license number.
- Eye color.
- Date of birth.
An MI duplicate registration certificate is free.
Motorcycle Registration in Michigan
Before MI residents can legally ride a motorcycle in Michigan, they must register it with the MI Secretary of State (SOS).
New Michigan Residents
Upon establishing Michigan residency, new residents must register their motorcycle immediately. Motorcycle registration and titling are done at the same time.
New MI residents can visit their local SOS office with:
- The out-of-state motorcycle title.
(If a lienholder has the title, bring your registration card.)
- A completed Appointment of Agent (Form TR-128), IF all owners are unable to visit the SOS together.
- Michigan motorcycle insurance.
- Payment for the applicable motorcycle registration fee (see below).
Registering Your MI Motorcycle
The process for registering a motorcycle with the MI Secretary of State differs depending on if it was purchased at a dealership OR from a private seller.
Motorcycles from MI Dealers
After buying a motorcycle at a Michigan dealership, the dealer will submit all the documents required to register the motorcycle within 15 days of getting the bike. The dealership will provide copies of each of the documents submitted to the SOS office on the resident’s behalf. Keep these documents as temporary proof of ownership until the permanent title and registration arrive in the mail.
Motorcycles from Private Sellers
When Michigan residents purchase a motorcycle from a private seller, they will be required to handle the registration process themselves. It’s recommended that the buyer AND seller go to the MI SOS office together to complete each of the required steps.
Residents of Michigan have 15 days from the sale date to register their motorcycle with the Michigan Secretary of State. Residents can drive their motorcycle home without license plates within 3 days of the purchase date as long as they have:
- The reassigned title.
- Proof of motorcycle insurance.
To register a motorcycle, Michigan residents need to provide the following at their local SOS office:
- The completed and signed title. The vehicle identification number (VIN) and odometer reading should be included on the title. If there is no space for an odometer reading, fill out an Odometer Mileage Statement (Form BDVR-108).
- The resident’s valid Michigan motorcycle license.
- Proof of MI motorcycle insurance.
- Payment for all applicable motorcycle registration fees and taxes.
MI residents who still have questions about registering their motorcycle can give the Michigan SOS a call at (888) 767-6424.
Motorcycle Registration Fees & Taxes
The following fees and taxes may be due when you register or renew your motorcycle with the Michigan Secretary of State:
- Initial motorcycle registration fee: Based on the number of months residents would like to register their bike.
- Late registration fee: $10.
- Registration transfer fee: $10.
- Use tax: 6% of the purchase price.
Boat Registration and Licenses in Michigan
The Michigan Secretary of State (SOS) handles all boat titling and registration. Keep reading to learn more about titling and registering vessels as well as the qualifications needed to operate boats in The Great Lake State.
MI Vessels to Title & Register
The Michigan SOS requires registration for all vessels used on public waters. The only exemptions are:
- Vessels 16 ft. long or less, powered by oars or paddles AND not used for commercial or rental purposes.
- Rafts, surfboards, sailboards, and swim floats (all sizes).
- Canoes and kayaks that don’t have a motor AND aren’t used for rental or commercial purposes.
- Watercraft currently registered in another state being used in Michigan on a temporary basis.
Additionally, the following types of watercraft must be titled with the MI SOS:
- Vessels measuring 20 ft. or more in length.
- Boats with permanent motors.
MI residents can contact the SOS if they’re unsure about whether their boat requires a title and/or registration.
Boat Registration in Michigan
To title and/or register a boat with the MI Secretary of State, visit a local SOS office with the following:
- A completed Application for Michigan Watercraft Title (Form WR-11L).
If you purchased a previously-owned vessel, submit:
- The boat’s most current registration.
- For residents who don’t have the registration, a completed Bill of Sale (Form TR-207) will suffice.
- The vessel’s title, transferred in the resident’s name (if the boat was previously titled).
- Proof of Michigan use tax paid, like a sales receipt. Residents who transferred ownership of the boat from one family member to another are exempt from the use tax requirement.
- The appropriate title and registration fees.
The boat registration will be valid for 3 years and expires on March 31 of the final registration year. Once residents obtain the registration, they need to display their Certificate of Number according to the state’s guidelines.
Michigan Boat Title & Registration Fees
The fees associated with titling and registering a boat with the Michigan Secretary of State are as follows:
Original/renewal registration for:
- NOT canoes or kayaks: $9.
- Canoes and kayaks: $5.
- Motorized canoes: $14
- Motorized motorboats under 12 ft. in length: $14.
Motorized vessels measuring at least:
- 12 ft but under 16 ft: $17.
- 16 ft but under 21 ft: $42.
- 21 ft but under 28 ft: $115.
- 28 ft but under 35 ft: $168.
- 35 ft but under 42 ft: $244.
- 42 ft but under 50 ft: $280.
- 50 ft and longer: $448.
- Pontoons: $23.
- Boat title: $5.
- Instant title: $10. Only available for certain transactions and at specific locations.
- Transfer of ownership fee in addition to applicable title/registration fees: $2.
- Registration decals: $2.
- Registration certificate: $2.
- Boat title: $15.
- Use tax: 6% of the vessel’s purchase price.
MI Boat Registration Renewals & Replacements
An MI boat registration is valid for 3 years, and expires on March 31 of the last year. The Michigan SOS will mail residents of this state a renewal notice before their registration expires.
To renew a boat registration with the MI Secretary of State, submit information about the boat AND the applicable renewal fees:
- Online using the ExpressSOS watercraft portal. In-person at a local SOS office (bring the renewal notice.
- By mail, using the pre-addressed envelope included with the renewal notice.
Allow at least 14 business days for the new registration to arrive in the mail.
Replacement Title & Registration
If the watercraft’s title or registration is damaged or lost, residents of MI can request a replacement by providing information about their vessel AND the necessary duplicate title/registration fees:
- Online through ExpressSOS.
- In-person at any SOS office branch.
The MI Secretary of State imposes age restrictions around operation of certain watercraft.
MI residents who are:
Younger than 12 years old:
- Can operate motorboats with 6 HP or less without supervision.
- Can operate motorized vessels with more than 6 up to 35 HP ONLY IF residents hold a boating safety certificate.
- Are accompanied by a supervisor who’s at least 16 years old.
- Born on or after July 1, 1996:
- Must have a boating safety certificate to operate boats on Michigan state waters.
- Younger than 14 years old: CANNOT operate a personal watercraft.
- 14 OR 15 years old—Can operate a personal watercraft ONLY IF they have a boating safety certificate.
- Are supervised by someone on board who’s at least 21 years old OR by the parent or legal guardian who’s no more than 100 ft away.
- At least 16 years old AND born after December 31, 1978: Can operate a personal watercraft as long as they have a boating safety certificate.
MI residents can earn their boating safety certificate by completing a boater education course and passing a proficiency exam:
- Online with an approved education provider, listed on the MI Department of Natural Resources (DNR) boating safety page.
- In the classroom with a:
- Marine course provided by the DNR at various locations.
- Course offered by the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary.
- Class taught by America’s Boating Club.
In addition to making residents a better boater, completing a boating safety course may also score residents discounts on boat insurance. Even if individuals are not required to take a course, enrolling in one will benefit their boating skills AND wallet.
Accepted Forms of Payment
The Michigan Department of Motor Vehicles accepts these forms of payment:
Cash may be accepted at Michigan DMV locations, but MI residents need to inquire about the accepted payment methods to ensure they have the correct form of payment.