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How to register your new motorcycle
Bring your title, proof of insurance and payment for a quick registration process.
Getting registered involves a few key documents to prove ownership, insurance and the safety of your bike. Most states require you to have minimum insurance coverage before registering — so prepare to show proof of insurance at the DMV.
What's in this guide?
- How do I register my motorcycle?
- What do I need to register my motorcycle?
- Where do I register my motorcycle?
- How much does it cost to register a motorcycle?
- How long do I have to register my motorcycle?
- How do I register without the title or bill of sale?
- What should I watch out for?
- Compare motorcycle insurance
- Bottom line
- Common questions about motorcycle registration
How do I register my motorcycle during the coronavirus?
In many states, your registration renewal is extended by one or two months if it expires soon. If you have a registration extension, you can find that info on your Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) website. In addition, you can renew your bike’s registration online in most states. Online renewals may require only your bike’s vehicle identification number (VIN), your driver’s license number and a credit card payment.
However, each state differs in how it’s handling new vehicle registrations. Your best bet is to visit your state’s or your local DMV office’s website to see how it deals with new registrations at this time. Look for a coronavirus statement or FAQ section linked on the homepage. Most states don’t appear to be extending online services for new registrations.
Examples of what states are doing:
- Temporary or out-of-state registrations. Some states like New York aren’t accepting new registrations at all since they require an in-person visit. You may need to call or email the office to ask whether your out-of-state registration or temporary tags are acceptable. Some local websites specify that out-of-state registrations apply until DMV offices reopen.
- Mail-in registrations. In some cases, you can send your registration information by mail or email. But verify that your DMV is accepting mailed applications first.
- Appointments only. Some states are keeping offices open by appointment only. These may be limited to services that require an office visit like new registrations.
- Local agencies. Yet another example is the state of Florida using various local agencies to field registrations and license plates. The Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles lists agency addresses by county under the Locations section of its website. You may need an appointment to update your registration at an agency.
How do I register my motorcycle?
You can get your bike registered for the road with these five steps:
- Get a bike safety inspection, if applicable. If you’re registering a salvage bike or if you’re in a state that requires emissions inspections — you’ll have to let the required state agency approve your bikes roadworthiness.
- Insure your bike. You may need to check your state’s motorcycle insurance requirements since a few states have different requirements for cars versus motorcycles.
- Visit the registration office. Go to your DMV or county tag office and bring the necessary documents for registration. Customer service will help you register. Note that some states have requirements for equipment that may get checked, such as a height limit for handlebars.
- Pay the applicable fee. Registration and other fees may differ from your car’s registration, especially if it’s based on your vehicle’s weight or value.
- Display your license plate and tags. You’ll receive current tags and a license plate to display on your bike before cruising the streets.
What do I need to register my motorcycle?
If you just purchased a new ride or you’ve moved to a new state, you’ll need to register your motorcycle, and bring these five documents:
- Motorcycle title. Prove that you’re the proud owner with a motorcycle title that displays your name.
- Proof of residence. You may need a utility bill, bank statement or pay stub with your address.
- Insurance. Most states have minimum insurance requirements that you must meet before registering your bike.
- Safety inspection certificate. You may need a certificate proving your bike’s safety, especially if it’s a salvage motorcycle.
- Payment for registration fees. You’ll have to pay for the registration and other applicable fees, these costs differ between states.
Do I need insurance to register my motorcycle?
Yes, most states require you to have bike insurance or proof of financial responsibility before registering. You can provide proof by showing your motorcycle insurance card, which includes your name, policy number, bike description and VIN. While you might get an online card from your insurer, some states require a hard copy for registration.
For a first-time bike purchase, you’ll need to start a new policy and receive your proof of insurance card by mail or by printing it from your online account.
If you’re switching bikes and already have motorcycle insurance, your policy may cover the new bike for a specified period, possibly up to 30 days. In that case, you should have enough proof to register your motorcycle, but update your insurance with the new motorcycle’s details.
Where do I register my motorcycle?
Typically, you can register your motorcycle at the local DMV, although some states require you to go to your county tax office. Every state’s DMV or county tax office has its own website with local addresses and contact information.
You’ll want to look for a full-service DMV, since limited service DMVs may not handle registrations. While most offices take walk-ins, you may be able to set up an appointment for quicker processing in some states.
How much does it cost to register a motorcycle?
Registration costs vary by state but can range from $10 to $50. You may also pay a title fee or title transfer fee that costs anywhere from $10 to $100 if you’re moving states or retitling the bike in your name. Some states have additional fees, such as Georgia’s ad valorem tax that graduates the charge based on your motorcycle’s value.
How long do I have to register my motorcycle?
The length of time to register varies by state. However, most states require you to register within 30 or 60 days if you move states and want to keep riding. For example, Massachusetts gives bike owners 30 days to register.
If you bought your motorcycle from a dealership, the dealer may register the vehicle for you, but they aren’t required to do so. Note that some states have a shorter time frame for registering a bike purchased from a private seller — for example in Georgia, it’s seven days.
How do I register without the title or bill of sale?
Your state needs some proof that you own the bike, such as an official bill of sale, certificate of origin or title. If you bought a bike that doesn’t come with a title, most states allow you to use a bill of sale.
You can get a blank bill of sale and title application from your local DMV. These forms will list any additional information you need to get the proper title. If you have a motorcycle loan, you should list the lienholder’s information on the title application, and the details of both the length and amount of your loan.
If you need to title your bike first, you can bring your completed title application along with you, which requires personal and loan details as well as your bike’s VIN to verify the sale.
What should I watch out for?
By registering right away, you can avoid several common mistakes:
- Not registering an unused bike. Most states require motorcycle registration even if your bike is sitting unused on private land. Some states like California have a specific type of registration for unoperated vehicles.
- Forgetting to update insurance. You might receive penalties for riding uninsured if you don’t apply for or update a current policy with your new motorcycle information.
- Late registration. Failing to register on time could mean hefty late registration fees and other penalties, depending on how late you are.
Compare motorcycle insurance
Registering your bike requires paperwork and documentation, which looks different in every state. But on the bright side, registering your bike gets you one step closer to the open road and may even be the last step in your state.
Need insurance first? Find the best motorcycle provider to protect your new ride.
Common questions about motorcycle registration
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