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Can a Snowbird Register a Car in Arizona?

Arizona is a popular destination for snowbirds – people who live in cooler northern climates during summer and fall and head south to warmer locales like Arizona during the winter months Auto Mobile Shipping.

With an estimated 1 million snowbirds flocking to Arizona each winter, many wonder if they can legally register their vehicles in the state while they’re there temporarily. Here’s what you need to know:

What is a Snowbird?

A snowbird is someone who lives in one state or region during part of the year, often summer and fall, and spends winters in warmer southern climates like Arizona, Florida, Texas or California.

The term “snowbird” is used most often to describe retirees who follow the sun south during winter months, but it can apply to anyone who makes this type of seasonal migration. Snowbirds often own homes or rent apartments in both their summer and winter locations.

So in short, snowbirds are part-time residents who split time between different states or regions depending on the season. Many snowbirds spend 3-6 months or longer in Arizona each winter Auto Mobile Shipping.

Arizona Vehicle Registration Laws

In Arizona, the laws surrounding vehicle registration vary depending on whether a vehicle owner qualifies as a resident or a nonresident.

To register your car in Arizona, you must prove that you are an Arizona resident. Requirements to prove residency include:

  • An Arizona driver’s license
  • An Arizona voter registration
  • Ownership of residential property in Arizona
  • Attendance of school in Arizona by any claimed dependents

For full-time Arizona residents, registering your vehicle is straightforward. But for snowbirds who spend extended periods of time in Arizona without officially establishing residency, the rules are more complicated Auto Mobile Shipping.

Nonresident Requirements

Snowbirds are generally considered nonresidents under Arizona law. For nonresidents, the rules dictate that you must register your car in your home state, not in Arizona.

However, Arizona does allow nonresidents to operate their out-of-state plated vehicles within the state under certain conditions:

  • The vehicle must be properly registered and licensed in the home state.
  • The vehicle can only be in Arizona for up to 90 days per calendar year. Once this limit is exceeded, the vehicle must be registered in Arizona.
  • The nonresident driver must be legally authorized to drive in Arizona, typically by holding a valid driver’s license from their home state.

So in summary, nonresidents like snowbirds can drive their out-of-state vehicles in Arizona for up to 90 days per year. After this time period, the car would need to be registered in Arizona if it remains in the state.

Options for Snowbirds

Given the 90-day limit for out-of-state vehicles belonging to nonresidents, snowbirds have a few options when it comes to their vehicles:

Return to Home State Seasonally

  • Drive the car back to the home state before exceeding 90 days and re-register it there
  • Fly or drive back as needed to handle registration renewal in home state
  • Avoid issues with insurance coverage lapsing across state lines
  • Can be inconvenient and costly to make extra trips

Register in Both States

  • Register car normally in home state and also register it in Arizona
  • Keep both registrations current by renewing annually in each state
  • Make sure insurance coverage extends to both states
  • More expensive to double register but maximum flexibility

Establish Arizona Residency

  • Take steps to prove Arizona residency like getting an AZ license
  • Provide documents needed to register car in Arizona as a resident
  • Maintain insurance, license plates, etc. just like a full-time Arizona resident

Buy a Second Car

  • Register primary vehicle in home state, use it when there
  • Purchase a second used car and register it in Arizona as a resident
  • No need to re-register when moving between states
  • Added hassle and expense of owning two vehicles

Implications of Registering in Arizona

For snowbirds spending an extended period of time in Arizona each winter, registering a car in the state may seem appealing. But it’s important to consider all the implications:

  • Taxes: Arizona has higher vehicle license taxes than many other states. Even for a used car, taxes can add up to several hundred dollars annually.
  • Insurance: Your existing insurance company may not offer coverage in Arizona. You may need to obtain Arizona insurance, which could be costlier.
  • Fees: In addition to taxes, Arizona charges registration fees, title fees, plate fees and more. These can range from $50-$300+ depending on the vehicle.
  • Emissions testing: Cars registered in Arizona counties like Maricopa and Pima must undergo emissions testing every two years, adding cost and inconvenience.

So while registering in Arizona gives snowbirds added convenience, the extra taxes, fees and other expenses might not make it worthwhile if they are only spending 3-6 months there each year Auto Mobile Shipping.

Temporary Registration Options

For snowbirds who want to avoid officially registering their vehicles in Arizona but need to stay longer than 90 days, there are some temporary registration options:

  • Nonresident registration: After 90 days expire, snowbirds can register as a nonresident. This allows them to drive legally in Arizona for another 90 days.
  • Temporary registration permit: Snowbirds can obtain a 60 or 90 day temporary operating permit from the Motor Vehicle Division while they sort out registration. This temporary permit can only be obtained once per calendar year.
  • Temporary license plates: For brand new cars, temporary license plates from the dealership may allow snowbirds to legally operate their vehicles in Arizona for several months before officially registering.

While these temporary solutions work for short stints, snowbirds planning to spend 6 months or longer in Arizona each year will need to seriously consider official Arizona registration.

Key Takeaways

  • Snowbirds can drive out-of-state plated vehicles in Arizona for up to 90 days per calendar year, but after that must register in Arizona to remain legal.
  • Registering a car in Arizona requires proving state residency and comes with extra taxes, fees, and other expenses to consider.
  • For trips exceeding 90 days, temporary registration options like nonresident permits can buy snowbirds more time before Arizona registration is required.
  • Snowbirds who want maximum convenience while in Arizona for extended periods will need to register their vehicles in the state.

So in summary, it is possible for snowbirds to register cars in Arizona, but the state’s laws make it optimal only for those spending very extended periods of time in Arizona each winter. For occasional snowbird visitors, keeping primary registration in their home state and using temporary permits as needed is typically the best route.