Moving To A New State? Check Out License Fees Before You Move

by Don Elliott on April 18, 2012

Vehicle Registration FeesEvery once in a while, I come across an article that catches me by surprise. Even though I am well aware that registration and licensing fees vary state by state, I had no idea that the costs varied so widely.

Writing in the current edition of “Where to Retire” magazine, Editor Mary Lu Abbott points out, “Some states have only minimal levies associated with registering vehicles, for example under $100 for your annual license tags. But others assess major fees plus taxes, resulting in yearly bills that could be $500 or more per car. And, in most cases, as a new resident, you will be subject to one-time charges that will increase your first payment.”

The types of fees charged by the various states go by a variety of names. All states charge some sort of vehicle registration fee. In many states, the vehicle registration fee is the standard amount charged per vehicle. In 28 other states, the vehicle registration fee is more like a tax based on the value of the car. No matter what you call the assessment; ad valorem tax, vehicle license tax, excise tax, ownership tax, weight tax, or city registration fee, all base the amount of tax due on the value of the car.

In Clark County, Nevada, a 2008 Volvo with an original MSRP of $26,815 would require a Basic Registration Fee of $33, a Government Services Tax of $244, and a Supplemental Government Services Tax of $61 for a total of $338. The kicker is that new residents have only 30 days to register their car in Nevada or face a $1,000 fine.

Twenty states charge what are called sales or use tax for new registrants. Most often you will have to pay difference between the sales tax in the state you moved from and a higher rate in the state you are moving to next. In Louisiana, you are subject to a tax rate of up to 11% on the current loan value of your car. Louisiana has a reciprocal arrangement with some states that will credit 4%, but 11% of the used car value of that newer Lexus from a non-reciprocal state could be a big number!

If you are considering buying a new or used car at about the same time as your move, it might be worthwhile to buy your next car when you arrive at your new home. The cost of registration is one of the factors impacting what and where you purchase your next car.

New residents will also need to consider:

  • New resident vehicle registration fees
  • Vehicle emissions inspections
  • Registration deadlines
  • Insurance requirements
  • Driver’s license status in the new state

Thank you, Mary Lu Abbott, for some well-researched information. Get a copy of the full article at

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