Three visits! It took me three visits to the DMV to get my Florida license plates. Hopefully I’ll be able to give you a few tips here so you don’t repeat my negative experience.
For the official Florida DMV page on registering a vehicle in the state, you can visit their page here.
What I did wrong
- I didn’t take both vehicles with me
- I didn’t have Florida auto insurance coverage (still had Michigan insurance)
- I didn’t have the lien release/title signed off on a car I owned outright
What you can learn from my mistakes
Taking both vehicles
To get my car registered in Michigan, all I needed to do was take the title/registration and proof of insurance to the Secretary of State’s office. Here in Florida, a VIN number inspection of each vehicle to be registered must be performed. This can be a problem if you’re going to register more than one vehicle, as I was, because each vehicle needs to be driven to the DMV office to be checked.
The inspection process is straight-forward. After taking a number when I walked in the door, I waited my turn in the seating area. Once my number was called, I had to answer a few questions while the lady working at the DMV typed all of my information into a computer. She then gave me some paperwork and asked me to give it to the receptionist at the front desk.
I walked outside with the receptionist, where she checked my truck’s VIN number and mileage. She wrote these down on the paper and then signed and dated it before giving it back to me. Make sure the paperwork gets signed and dated! Without a signature, the paperwork is not considered valid and the DMV will not accept it later.
You have two choices if you want to register more than one vehicle. First, you can have someone else drive your other car so you are able to take them both at the same time. Second, you can make two trips. Since you’re given the (signed & dated) inspection form for the first car to take with you, you can bring your other car the next time. You’ll be able to get that second car inspected, and then hand in both forms with no issues.
Florida car insurance
Ok, I probably should have known this one but I still messed up. I thought that insurance from any state, as long as it met Florida’s state minimum requirements, would be acceptable. I was wrong.
Your vehicle must have be covered with Florida insurance before it can be registered. Fortunately, this was easy to correct for me. I just placed a call to USAA, where I bank and have my vehicles insured, and had my coverage changed from MI to FL in about 10 minutes. The best thing was that I was able to go online and download proof of insurance a few minutes later. Also, my total cost only increased by about $9 per month.
Lien release on the car I owned
I had two cars to register; one I own outright, and the other I am making payments on. For the car I was making payments on, the DMV had to send out a letter to the lien holder to have the title sent to them. This was snail-mailed, so it took a couple of weeks to get back.
I had a problem with the car I owned, because even though I had the title in hand, I didn’t have proof of the lien release from the bank. There are two ways to get this: have the bank sign the release line on the actual title, or have a notarized letter stating the lien has been released. In my case, I had to call my old bank and have them send a letter in the mail. My wait was approximately 2 weeks.
A few tips for a smooth registration process
Obviously, start with having all vehicles you want to register with you, have Florida insurance on each of them, and have your titles and proof of lien release with you. If you don’t have all of these items, don’t expect to get your license plate on your first visit.
My local DMV charged me a 2% fee to use my credit/debit card. So if you’re able to, stop by the bank before you come and withdraw enough money to cover your registration fees. For me to register a car and truck, I had to pay a little over $600.
Good luck with your registration process! Although mine took a few trips and some learning on my part, the whole thing is over and should be much easier if I ever have to do this again.