Debunking the Myths of MA License Plates

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Many things that come up daily that create problems for our customers. Purchasing a vehicle and navigating Massachusetts regulations around license plates is one. The way Massachusetts manages the registration of a vehicle is unique and can  often cause a significant amount of confusion – especially if you are new to the state. Not to worry though, we are going to arm you with the correct information to help you get out on the road, legally and avoid many of the common pitfalls. 

Unfortunately, due to a lack of information and “unique” State Laws, when we have a customer purchase a vehicle out of state and then drive it back into MA – without previously registering the vehicle in MA – they are driving illegally. All vehicles purchased outside Massachusetts must first be registered with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts before driving them in the state. 

Temporary plates are allowed and recognized in the Commonwealth.

Plate damaged, lost, or faded?

You can order your new plates online or by phone, and they will send   a temporary plate permit to the address on record. The permit can be kept in the vehicle until you receive your new plates and is acceptable if a Mass Safety inspection is needed. If you lose your front license plate, you must create a temporary plate and put it on the front of the vehicle. However, if you lose your rear license plate, you must put the front plate on the rear and create a temporary plate for the front.  

As of November 12, 2019, temporary plates were issued to certain plate types if the plate type was not in stock. The temporary plates must be placed on the back of the vehicle with the plate number visible. These temporary plates are valid for 20 days. 

At Deland, Gibson we receive a lot of inquiries regarding vehicle registration in Massachusetts so let us answer some of the most frequently asked questions and illustrate how working with D,G is convenient and beneficial. If you are a current client of D,G and plan on making an out-of-state purchase, please get in touch with your account manager for more details on how to transition.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do I Purchase an Out Of State Car?

Due to Massachusetts unique laws and regulations surrounding the registration of a new vehicle, the process of purchasing an out-of-state vehicle for Massachusetts residents looks a bit different. Massachusetts residents must first register the vehicle before bringing it into the state. To do so, the buyer must complete all necessary purchase paperwork surrounding the sale, finalize payment, and then obtain a title. With the vehicle’s title, the buyer can then register the vehicle with the Massachusetts DOT, obtain license plate tags, and drive the car back to Massachusetts.  

How long do I have to register my car in MA?

It depends on the scenario:

  • New plates: have no grace period, can not drive it unless registered
  • Transfer plates: seven days to process transfer to a new vehicle from the date the prior vehicle was sold/traded.
  • However, sales tax must be paid by the 20th day of the month after the buying, transferring, or using the vehicle, and pay any applicable tax to DOR or the RMV.(However, they start penalizing and adding on interest after 30 days from the date of purchase, so that might be safer for wording???)
  • If you are not to registering the vehicle at that time, you can:

Helpful Links:

The link to the DOR for the ST-7R:

MassTaxConnect (

Then click on:
File and Pay Boats & Vehicles Sales/Use Tax

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