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2 cars in different states -- where to register & license?
Old 01-26-2017, 10:23 AM   #1
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2 cars in different states -- where to register & license?

I know we have some forum members who are snowbirds and others who are planning to be.

I reside in Michigan (where I own a house) and snowbird in Florida (where I own a condo), spending about 50% of my time in each location. Currently I have one vehicle which I've been "repositioning" by driving the 1400 miles from one location to the other.

I've been toying with the idea of buying a lightly-used second car, with the idea of keeping a vehicle at each location and finding cheap flights to transport myself between MI and FL. The rationale being: less wear and tear on me, saving time by taking a 3 hour flight versus 19 hours of drive time (solo), plus I could make quick trips, mid-season, to the other location, as I'd have 'wheels' at both sites. Negatives being: cost of a second vehicle, the deterioration of having a vehicle sit idle (on a trickle charger) for roughly 6 months at a time, the extra expense for registration/title/license of second vehicle.

So, if I were to get a second car, where would it make sense to get it titled and registered? Should both cars be titled/registered/licensed in MI or would it make more sense to title/register/license one in MI and the other in FL? Or should I simply seek out whichever location has the lowest fees for these items?

Last year when I first started thinking about this two-car option, I asked my insurance agent about the cost of insuring 2 vehicles in this manner. They said, as I'm the sole driver, it would basically cost almost the same to insure one car as two cars...as one car would basically be 'stored' while I'm driving the other one. I simply would need to call and let them know which car I am driving, and this switching of which car I'm driving can be done an unlimited number of times a year. (In that conversation I hadn't yet considered the possibility of having the 2 cars registered/titled/licensed in 2 states -- so I don't know if that would make a difference).

BTW, many people change their residency to FL due to tax-favorable reasons. For my current situation, it was a 'wash' after figuring homestead taxes in MI, income tax in MI, higher Medigap rates in FL, etc., so I'm still a MI resident, but that could change.

omni
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Old 01-26-2017, 10:31 AM   #2
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We have cars registered in 3 jurisdictions, Alberta, Ontario, and Arizona. I was under the impression that if a car stays in one jurisdiction if must be registered there? Agree re your plan to fly instead if driving. By doing this you can put the right car in the right location, ie I have a convertible in Arizona but it would be useless in Alberta.
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Old 01-26-2017, 10:52 AM   #3
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I was under the impression that if a car stays in one jurisdiction if must be registered there?
I have no idea.

I know someone from Michigan who snowbirds (in a rental unit) in the Florida Keys for about 3 months a year. She bought a convertible while in Florida, which she stores in Florida when she's away, and it has Michigan license plates.

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Old 01-26-2017, 11:20 AM   #4
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When I had this situation I registered it in the state I kept the car in. Getting inspections done was an obvious reason. Also, I think you are more prone to getting pulled over by a cop if you have an out of state plate, if that matters to you. Also, it just seemed like the right thing to do, and IIRC correctly it was what I was supposed to do.


This may help:
Registration for Non-Residents - AAA Digest of Motor Laws
Laws vary from state to state. Seems like you'd be ok in Florida to keep it registered in Michigan if you are a Michigan resident, but not the other way around.


One downside is that I got an income tax bill from the non-resident state one year. They either flagged me on the car or my house, and not paying income taxes. I just sent a note back explaining that I was a non-resident and spent more than half the year in the other state, and never heard from them again, so it was no big deal.
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Old 01-26-2017, 11:58 AM   #5
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My Mom does what RunningBum did... her winter car is registered in FL and her summer car is registered in VT... she is a FL resident.

We had some friends who have a condo down here in FL and were considering becoming FL residents but for some reason they found that car insurance was going to be really expensive so they put it off for a year. I don't know the details but that is what they said.
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Old 01-26-2017, 01:11 PM   #6
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One downside is that I got an income tax bill from the non-resident state one year.
It could also make you subject to jury duty there, which might be a real inconvenience.
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Old 01-26-2017, 01:13 PM   #7
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I know someone that has a Florida drivers license and his cars are registered in Florida. And his income taxes are filed in Florida--saving big money since Florida has no state income taxes. (Your Michigan income taxes are indeed very high.)
My friend documents where he spends his time--staying in Florida at least half the year + 1 day.

As the garaging location of one car is in Florida, license it there.
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Old 01-26-2017, 01:48 PM   #8
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I think it depends on state law where the car is. In MD and WV they both want the car registered if the car is there more than 30 days, with exemptions for people in the military. WV does have a personal property tax on vehicles so that's an incentive for them. Locally there is a lot a grousing about folks driving cars with out-of-state tags and not paying the tax, but there is also an Air National Guard unit based close by.

All that said, I doubt that anyone is going to expend the investigative effort to determine what state holds the true resident status over a car registration.
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Old 01-26-2017, 01:59 PM   #9
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Ask your insurance company.
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Old 01-26-2017, 02:01 PM   #10
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I saw a car parked at the RV park next door with Hawaii plates. All I could think was huh
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Old 01-26-2017, 02:23 PM   #11
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BTW, the proper wording for a snowbird's car, kept at the FL condo is.....Condo Car.

One of the reasons snowbirds consider residence in FL is the property tax freeze which is only available to residents. But you have to give up your Michigan homestead status to get it.
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Old 01-26-2017, 04:02 PM   #12
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FYI, Florida makes you turn in your license plates ("tags" in local dialect) if you cancel insurance. Not sure if the OP's plan is a cancellation or just an inactive rate.

FL is also nasty about getting new-comer's cars registered in the state. Within a week or two of starting a new job here, a sheriff deputy cruising the workplace parking lot noticed my out-of-state tag and left me a friendly reminder to switch to FL registration. I had thought I could wait until renewal time, six months away. Just part of the cost of living in a no-income-tax state.
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Old 01-26-2017, 04:30 PM   #13
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One issue to consider is how many months in each place. If less than 4 in one place you might consider a monthly rental car (most places have such allthough you would have to call about it, typically web sites don't cover it) That does save the second insurance as well as maintenance etc. Leaving a car sit for 7 months at a time is also not good for a lot things on the car. Not sure about the savings, but in particular if flying you could probably arrange to pick up and return the car at the airport. At least compare the costs.
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Old 01-26-2017, 07:16 PM   #14
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might want to check with an insurance company. how do they deal with personal cars in different states. They would likely need to know where each car is normally housed.
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Old 01-26-2017, 07:23 PM   #15
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We just register all our cars in FL (primary residence). Even though, as of this year, one care stays in MD all year, it was down in FL when we registered it. We only use it 5 months/year in MD, otherwise it sits in the garage (winterized). Reading what I've read here, I should probably have that one registered in MD. I'll be appropriately apologetic if anyone official ever questions it.
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Old 01-27-2017, 06:07 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by omni550 View Post
Negatives being: cost of a second vehicle, the deterioration of having a vehicle sit idle (on a trickle charger) for roughly 6 months at a time, the extra expense for registration/title/license of second vehicle.
We just disconnect the negative battery terminal. Been doing this for 9 years. I am told newer cars have computers that dislike this but our newest is 2008.
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Old 01-27-2017, 06:14 AM   #17
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+1 leaving a car sit for 6 months is not an issue in my experience... we just disconnect the negative batter terminal... I usually have to add some air to the tires when the vehicle comes out of storage but I reconnect the negative terminal, start it and let it idle for 20 minutes or so to charge up the battery and that's it.

The only small PITA is that I usually need to key in a code to get the radio to work again.

If the oil is close to needing a change I do it before putting it in storage but I'm not sure if that is necessary.
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Old 01-27-2017, 06:42 AM   #18
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Our Arizona car is DW's former Illinois car. It was originally registered and licensed in Illinois, and we kept it that way when we moved it to az.
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Old 01-27-2017, 07:07 AM   #19
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I saw a car parked at the RV park next door with Hawaii plates. All I could think was huh
Yea, I did not know that an RV would fit through the tunnel.
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Old 01-27-2017, 07:38 AM   #20
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It probably came over in the luggage compartment of the plane...

Actually, some people do ship their cars. Not sure how it works for military folks assigned over there, but IIRC, at least some take their cars.
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