According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, there were more than 105 million vehicles registered in the United States in 2020. If you own a car, you must register it in the state where you live as registration is mandatory to park or drive a car.

However, if you have a lapse in insurance coverage or you get pulled over for driving without a license, the state might suspend your registration.

Expert Advice
Jason Turchin, Esq Attorney with the Law Offices of Jason Turchin in Weston,

Jason Turchin, Esq

Attorney with the Law Offices of Jason Turchin in Weston,

“Maintaining your vehicle registration is really important. Failure to maintain the registration could result in your insurance company denying coverage if the vehicle is in an accident,” says Jason Turchin

“Vehicle registration may be a prerequisite to obtaining car insurance, and failure to have the vehicle registered could void coverage.”

Key Highlights
  • Many states suspend a car’s registration if you are caught driving without insurance or without a driver’s license.
  • It’s your responsibility to provide your state’s DMV with proof of insurance within 30 days of its issuance.
  • If your registration is suspended, it is illegal for you to drive the vehicle associated with the suspension or park it on public roads.

What happens if my registration is suspended?

When a vehicle’s registration is suspended, it means the state has taken away their right to drive the vehicle on the road until the registration is reinstated and once again valid.

States all require you to register your car in order to obtain license plates and drive legally. In many states, you need to have valid registration and plates to even park a car in a public area such as the street in front of your house. When you fail to pay registration fees, your registration is no longer valid for a vehicle, and thus driving it is illegal.

If you commit certain offenses, a state can suspend, revoke or cancel your car’s registration. State laws vary, so contact your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles to find out for what reasons your state will suspend someone’s registration. A couple of reasons that many states suspend registration is if you are caught driving without insurance or without a license.

If you forget to inform the DMV that you changed or canceled your insurance policy without obtaining a new one within 45 days, your registration is likely to be suspended by the DMV. Furthermore, it’s your responsibility to provide the DMV with proof of insurance within 30 days of its issuance.

Real-life example of an insurance lapse in New York

For example, if you had a lapse in your insurance coverage in New York state, you are required to turn in your registration and license tags.

If you do not surrender your vehicle plates immediately, your registration will be suspended for the same number of days that you did not have insurance coverage but did hold the vehicle plates. If that amount of time is longer than 90 days, your driver’s license is also suspended for the same number of days as the registration.

When your registration is suspended, neither you nor anyone else can drive the car. You cannot try and sell it to anyone related to you either since most states know that you’re probably trying to get around the registration suspension.

For instance, the New York DMV states that it will not issue a new registration if the applicant for the new registration:

  • Has the same last name as the registrant whose registration is suspended.
  • Resides at the same address as the registrant whose registration is suspended.

The DMV will not issue a registration to any person unless that person makes a sworn statement on form FS-2. The statement certifies that the purpose of the application is not to avoid the results of the current suspension. The local DMV office determines if the application will be accepted or rejected.

My registration is suspended, but I have insurance. Now what?

In most cases, you can’t register a car without proof of insurance in most states – the only states that allow registration without proof of insurance are Mississippi, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Tennessee, Washington and Wisconsin.

If your registration is suspended, it is illegal for you to drive the vehicle associated with the suspension or park it on public roads. A state suspension of your registration is its way to keep your vehicle off the road for a certain amount of time; typically this is a penalty after you have committed what the state views as a serious offense.

If you do have insurance, such as an SR22 form required by your state to show that you have the mandated liability coverage, you’ll need to show proof of your insurance before the DMV will allow you to register a vehicle.

If you do not have insurance, most states will suspend your registration. The penalty for driving with suspended registration will vary by state but likely would be a fine and/or imprisonment and perhaps also suspension of your driver’s license.

So, when your registration is suspended you normally have to surrender your registration and license plates to the state. Having your registration suspended does not stop you from being able to drive other vehicles that have valid registration unless you were also penalized by having your driver’s license suspended.

Typically, to reinstate your vehicle registration, you’ll need to pay a fine and furnish the DMV with proof of current insurance, so contact your local DMV.

Sources:

  1. U.S. Department of Transportation Bureau of Transportation Statistics, “Automobile Profile.” Accessed May 2022.

– Michelle Megna contributed to this story.