Is It Legal To Tow Or Drive An RV With Expired Registration?

Make sure the police can easily see your towed vehicle’s registration, whether that’s on a trailer, car, or boat. Photo by P. Dent

Can You Drive Or Tow An RV Without Current Registration?

The simple answer to the question, “Can your RV be towed or driven with an expired registration?” is NO, not legally. The exception might be if your RV is broken down and needs to be towed to a repair shop or junkyard, and the registration is expired.

There are a few police officers who would bother stopping the tow driver. But this article is not about towing a broken-down RV, but towing an RV behind a truck or car or driving a motorized RV with expired plates.

The towing vehicle’s registration doesn’t extend to the RV

Your travel trailer or fifth wheel trailer is a separate vehicle with its own license and registration. Your towing vehicle’s registration does not cover your towed RV, unlike the liability insurance for your truck that covers the towed trailer or fifth wheel during towing.

The registration of the towed vehicle is independent of the truck, whether it is attached or unattached. Just like a tow dolly behind a motorhome, or a boat trailer, or a utility trailer, every vehicle must be separately licensed. Every towable RV must have a current license clearly visible on the rear of the trailer. In some states, the license must also be visible from the front.

Every vehicle must have current registration

All 50 states and the District of Columbia require all RVs to be licensed. That, however, may be where the similarity ends. Each state or jurisdiction calculates the cost of the registration differently. Some use the type of RV, or the length, weight, age, or value, or some combination of these elements. RV registrations are all issued by the department of motor vehicles in whichever state you reside or use for your domicile (if you are a full-time RVer).

With that in mind, if you are a full-time RVer, it might be wildly inconvenient to use a remote state as your domicile if you intend to travel far from that state and your state requires an inspection of your RV before renewing the registration.

For example, if you domicile in Oregon, but you spend many years exploring the East Coast, you might run into a problem when it’s time to renew your RV’s registration. This is one of the reasons so many full-timers choose to domicile in South Dakota. It’s more central, and the registration fees and process are less burdensome.

Cost for RV registration is different in every state

Regarding the cost of RV registration, check with the DMV in your home state. Many websites provide an RV registration fee calculator so you know exactly how much your new registration will cost. Also, if you can renew the registration remotely, be sure to start the process early. Some DMVs are short-staffed and backed up, causing delays.

Be sure you are in a location where you can receive mail. It could take weeks for your DMV to issue the renewal and mail it to you. Think ahead, and don’t put yourself in the position where you’re towing an RV with an expired registration.

What happens if you have expired registration and you’re stopped by police?

As a former police officer, I can tell you that we had an unwritten policy of allowing a 30-day grace period for expired plates. But be advised that there’s no written rule to this effect. Any police officer anywhere could use your expired registration as an excuse to pull you over to see if anything else shows up during the traffic stop.

We were traveling back to the West Coast from Florida in our newly purchased motorhome with a temporary Florida registration. The car we were towing had Oregon plates, but the Alabama State Trooper who pulled us over said he couldn’t see the state name on our car’s license plate because it was obscured by the frame, and the temporary license on the motorhome was also not legible from a distance.

The traffic stop went well, but the officer and our RV were in danger the whole time because of where the stop occurred. If we had an expired registration, it would have gone differently.

Can you get a registration extension? 

DMVs and police officers take vehicle registration very seriously. They don’t just look the other way with an attitude of indifference. Continuing our personal experience with our temporary Florida registration, you need to remember that our domicile is in Oregon, which means we had to register our newly purchased RV in Oregon, and we could not do so remotely.

We had 30 days to get the RV from Florida to Oregon with a prolonged repair stop in Texas. We ran out of time, so we requested a registration extension from the Florida DMV. While we were still in California, our Florida registration expired. Since we were only entitled to one extension of the Florida temporary, we had to obtain a California trip permit. This was no small endeavor.

And we were sternly advised by the DMV employee that we needed to be “expeditiously moving toward the Oregon border”. No loitering, no sightseeing, no side journeys. If a California police officer stopped us and we were not “on our way to Oregon,” they could impound our motorhome and issue citations. Like I said, vehicle registration is taken seriously by officials, so we all need to take it seriously, too.

The bottom line is towing an RV with an expired registration is playing with fire. There’s no ambiguity. It’s illegal. And you are essentially inviting a police officer to pull you over. At the very least, you might be given a warning or a traffic ticket if you can show that you had a registration for your trailer, but it recently expired. If, like us, you can’t even show an expired registration, you might get the citation AND your trailer could be impounded.

My advice: Keep your vehicle registrations current. It’s one less thing to worry about as an RVer.

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The post Is It Legal To Tow Or Drive An RV With Expired Registration? appeared first on RV LIFE.

By: Peggy Dent
Title: Is It Legal To Tow Or Drive An RV With Expired Registration?
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Published Date: Sat, 01 Jul 2023 21:57:00 +0000


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