If you live in Texas, your vehicle needs to be registered in Texas as well. Unfortunately, that's not just a simple matter of going down to the DMV and exchanging a set of out-of-state plates for local ones. Instead, that means changing your car's registration. It doesn't matter whether your vehicle is currently registered in California or Maine, you have 30 days after moving to Texas or bringing a car registered from outside the state to register it.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
In order to get license plates in Texas for a vehicle registered out-of-state, you must get the vehicle inspected, insured and registered in Texas.
Texas Vehicle Inspection Laws
In order to have your car registered in Texas, it must first be inspected by someone certified by the Department of Public Safety. Many mechanics, oil change companies and service stations have licenses to perform these inspections, so finding someone to perform the inspection shouldn't be hard.
Insurance Requirements in Texas
All vehicles registered in Texas must have insurance. The minimum requirements cover up to $30,000 per injured person, up to a total of $60,000 for all parties injured in an accident. You must also have a minimum of $25,000 for property damage.
Texas Vehicle Registration
While your vehicle doesn't need to be titled in Texas, car registration must include the out-of-state title, proof of valid registration, proof of insurance, the vehicle's odometer reading if it is under 10 years old and proof of inspection. You must also complete Form 130-U and any related fees. The total registration cost is $51.75, but certain counties may add additional fees of up to $31.50. You also have to pay a fee of either $28 or $33 depending on your county of residence, a $4.75 processing and handling fee, and the state portion of your vehicle's inspection fee (up to $30.75), since this is not charged when your vehicle is inspected.
If you are a local who purchased a vehicle out of state, you are required to submit proof of sales tax payment or ownership documents. All vehicles registered in Texas must also have the sales tax paid on them. The sales tax fees are 6.25 percent, and you are charged either $90 or the difference between what you paid in the previous state's sales tax and Texas sales tax, whichever is less.
Other Things to Consider
There are a few exceptions when it comes to Texas resident registration laws. If you are an active duty member of the U.S. Armed Forces or if you are a full-time student who does not permanently live in the state, you may choose not to register your vehicle in Texas.
Those who recently moved to Texas from California (or any other state) are also required to obtain a Texas driver's license within 90 days. It is worth noting that the Texas DMV does not handle driver's licenses, as they are issued by the Department of Public Safety instead.
If you are trying to exchange California plates for Texas plates but still live in California, this is against the law, as your vehicle must be registered in the state where you reside. In fact, doing so could subject you to paying all overdue registration fees, and if you don't pay, you could even end up in jail.
- Texas Department of Motor Vehicles: Put Texas in Your Corner
- California Department of Motor Vehicles: Vehicle Registration and Title Information
- California Department of Motor Vehicles: Online Change of Address
- Texas Department of Motor Vehicles: New Residents
- The Unofficial DMV Guide: California-License Plate FAQs
- The Mercury News: Out-of-State License Plates: California Clamping Down on Drivers Who Avoid Fees
- Texas Department of Motor Vehicles: Out-of-State and Imported Vehicles
- Texas Department of Motor Vehicles: New to Texas?
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