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New Residents: How To Register Your Vehicle And Obtain Affordable Auto Insurance

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

New Residents: How To Register Your Vehicle And Obtain Affordable Auto Insurance

Jim Waltrip
26 May 2008


There are lots of details to handle if you move to another state and take your automobiles with you. Safety and emissions inspections, registering your car and transferring your license, all these processes vary from state to state, as does the amount of time you've got to bring your vehicle into compliance and get yourself an affordable auto insurance policy that meets your new state's requirements.

The first thing you need to do, and you can do it online before you hit the road or when you get to your new state, is visit the Department of Motor Vehicles in the town you're moving to. There you'll learn what is needed to drive your car legally in your new town as well as the time frame allowed to get it done.

For example, if you're leaving California, where only emissions inspections are mandated, for Texas, your car will also have to pass a vehicle safety inspection. To get that, you'll need to show proof of insurance. To find a list of inspection facilities, do an Internet search or use a phone directory in your new town.

At the county tax office in Texas, they'll want to see an original out-of-state title for the vehicle. If that's not available, you'll submit a form to get one. Then you'll pay a registration fee, title application fee and new resident tax and continue on to the Department of Public Safety (Texas's DMV) to apply for a driver's license. For that, you'll show proof of identity, proof of social security number, proof of vehicle registration, and proof of Texas auto insurance on all vehicles. Temporary auto insurance is sufficient if you need to go that route. (Don't show them your valid out-of-state license or they'll make you surrender it.)

If you're not a U.S. citizen and you want a driver's license, you have to show proof of your legal status in this country.

Yes, the amount of red tape awaiting you in your new state depends on the rules of that state and the paperwork you already have in your possession. Go to Wikipedia.com to see which states require a periodic safety inspection. A lot of them don't.

As for obtaining affordable auto insurance, you'll want to have it before you hit the state line. The minimum amounts and types of insurance vary by state. Also, some states are "no-fault," which means your insurance company pays no matter who's to blame, while others are "at-fault." In that case, the company of the driver at fault pays. DMV.org's car insurance page is a useful place to get quotes from major insurers. (The site is not affiliated with any government agency.)

According to Kelli Groscost, insurance agent for Brown & Brown Insurance in Austin, Texas, it's no harder for non-citizens new to the United States to get insurance, though they might end up paying more if the insurance company decides not to accept their years of driving experience or can't determine their credit rating or number of traffic violations.
"I haven't dealt with anyone in 10 years who came from overseas and brought a car with them. Most people purchase a vehicle here," she said, explaining why the procedure in Texas is the same whether you move from another country or another state.


US Insurance Online CEO Jim Waltrip is a self-taught software developer and entrepreneur with a passion for building things: teams of employees, software, and new systems. Jim started the company with business partner Ryan Patterson in May 2005. The recently re-launched Web site is designed to provide insurance shopping help and free insurance quotes. For assistance finding an affordable auto insurance plan, visit www.USInsuranceOnline.com

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