According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, more than 105 million vehicles were registered in the United States in 2020. If you own a car, you must register it in the state where you live — it’s mandatory to park or drive a car.
“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, attorney with the Law Offices of Jason Turchin in Weston, Florida. “Vehicle registration may be a prerequisite to obtaining car insurance, and failure to have the vehicle registered could void coverage.”
However, if you had a lapse in insurance coverage or got pulled over for driving without a license, the state could suspend your registration. Here’s what you need to know about registration suspension.
- Many states suspend a car’s registration if you are caught driving without insurance or a driver’s license.
- You must provide your DMV with proof of insurance within 30 days of its issuance.
- Driving or parking on public roads is illegal if your registration is suspended.
What happens if my registration is suspended?
When a vehicle’s registration is suspended, the state has taken away their right to drive the car on the road until the registration is reinstated.
States require registering your car to obtain license plates and legally driving. In many states, you must have valid registration and plates to park a vehicle in a public area, such as the street in front of your house. When you fail to pay registration fees, your vehicle registration is no longer valid; thus, driving it is illegal.
A state can suspend, revoke or cancel your car’s registration if you commit certain offenses. State laws vary, so contact your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles to determine why 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 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, the DMV will likely suspend your registration. Furthermore, you must provide the DMV with proof of insurance within 30 days of its issuance.
How an insurance lapse works in New York
If you do not surrender your vehicle plates immediately, your registration will be suspended for the days you did not have insurance coverage but did hold the vehicle plates. If that time is longer than 90 days, your driver’s license is also suspended for the same amount of time as the registration.
When your registration is suspended, neither you nor anyone else can drive the car. You cannot sell the vehicle to someone related to you, either.
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, driving the vehicle associated with the suspension is illegal, and parking it on public roads is prohibited. A state suspension of your registration keeps your car off the road for a specific time; typically, this is a penalty after you have committed a serious offense.
If you 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 registration.
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 possible suspension of your driver’s license.
So, when your registration is suspended, you must 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.
To reinstate your vehicle registration, you must pay a fine and furnish the DMV with proof of current insurance, so contact your local DMV.
Frequently asked questions: Suspended registration
Can I sell my car if my registration is suspended?
No. Driving without proper insurance can lead to registration suspension. When a driver’s credentials are revoked, they are denied the ability to take their car out on the roads and prevented from selling it.
How do you clear a suspended registration?
To reinstate a suspended registration, one must first ascertain the cause of suspension from their local DMV. Once the reasoning is determined, necessary measures should be taken to settle any outstanding fees and get your vehicle registered again.
U.S. Department of Transportation Bureau of Transportation Statistics, “Automobile Profile.” Accessed May 2022.
– Michelle Megna contributed to this story.