Title Application

Applications for certificate of ownership are made to the county treasurer. The certificate will contain the date issued, the name and mailing address of the owner or the names and addresses of joint owners, the name and address of any lien-holder, and a description of the vehicle including the year built and vehicle identification number.

Title Transfer of Ownership

The transferor must sign the certificate of ownership in ink, and the signature must be acknowledged before the county treasurer or a notary public.

Within 20 days after endorsement, the transferee must forward the endorsed certificate of ownership, an odometer mileage statement, and the certificate of registration to the MVD. If the transferee fails to make the application within 20 days, the transferee is subject to a $10 fine.

Each seller of a motor vehicle must record an odometer reading on the certificate of ownership and a statement or certification that the odometer reading reflects the actual mileage, exceeds the mechanical limit, or differs from the actual mileage and should not be relied upon. Vehicles 10 years old and older are exempted from the odometer statement requirement.

If the transfer is by operation of law, the transferee must forward a verified or certified statement of the transfer of interest setting forth the reason for the involuntary transfer, the interest transferred, the name of the transferee, the process or procedure for the transfer, and other information requested by the MVD.

Titles for Mobile Homes

A manufactured home is subject to the certificate of ownership requirements for a vehicle unless it has been declared an improvement to real property.

A manufactured home is considered an improvement to real property if the running gear is removed and it is attached to a permanent foundation on land that is owned or being purchased by the owner of the manufactured home or with the permission of the landowner.

To eliminate the certificate of ownership, the owner may file a statement of intent with the DOJ that includes: (1) the serial number of the manufactured home; (2) the legal description of the real property to which the home has been permanently attached; (3) a description of any liens; and (4) approval from all lienholders of the intent to eliminate the title.

Upon a transfer of any interest in a mobile home or house trailer, the application for the transfer must be made through the county treasurer’s office in the county in which the mobile home or house trailer is located at the time of transfer. The county treasurer may not accept the application unless all taxes, interest, and penalties assessed on the mobile home or house trailer have been paid in full.

Registration Application

Each owner of a motor vehicle operated or driven on the public highways of the state must apply in the office of the county treasurer in the county where the owner permanently resides at the time of making the application for registration or re-registration.

The application must contain: (1) the name and address of the owner, giving the county, school district, and town or city within whose corporate limits the motor vehicle is taxable, if taxable, or within whose corporate limits the owner’s residence is located if the motor vehicle is not taxable; (2) the name and address of any lienholder; (3) a description of the motor vehicle; and (4) the declared weight of all trailers operating intrastate.

The applicant must pay at the time of making the application to the county treasurer the registration fee and the motor vehicle fees in lieu of tax or registration fees imposed against the vehicle for the current year of registration and the immediately previous year.

Mobile homes, motor homes, trucks exceeding a 1-ton capacity, trailers, buses, some commercial vehicles, government vehicles, and fleet vehicles are subject to staggered registration.

Vehicles subject to staggered registration that exceed a 1-ton capacity must be re-registered annually in the month in which they were first registered.

Owners of vehicles subject to staggered registration with a capacity of 1 ton or less may register the vehicle for a period not to exceed 24 months.

Owners of vehicles subject to staggered registration that are 11 years old or older may permanently register the vehicle.

Owners of vehicles subject to staggered registration have a grace period for registration that exists between the 1st and end of the month. Motor vehicles must be registered not later than the last day of the month corresponding to the anniversary registration period.

The owner of a new or transferred vehicle has a grace period of 20 calendar days from the date of purchase to make application and pay the registration fees, fees in lieu of taxes and other fees, and local option taxes, if applicable, as if the vehicle were being registered for the first time in the registration year.

If the vehicle was not purchased from a licensed motor vehicle dealer, the purchaser may operate the vehicle on public streets and highways without a certificate of registration for 20 calendar days, provided that at all times during that period, a vehicle purchase sticker obtained from the county treasurer or a law enforcement officer, showing the date of purchase, is clearly displayed in the rear window.

Failure to apply for a certificate of registration within 20 days subjects the purchaser of a motor vehicle to a penalty of $10.

Registration fees and new number plate fees do not apply when number plates are transferred to a replacement vehicle.

Montana residents on active military duty stationed outside Montana are not subject to registration fees and fees in lieu of taxes if they file the appropriate application for the exemption with the MVD.

All registrations of motor homes expire annually on April 30. Application for registration must be made by June 15. The owner of a motor home is entitled to operate the vehicle between May 1 and June 15 without displaying a registration certificate for the current registration year, if the owner displays the plates, or plate assigned for the previous year.

The owner of a light vehicle 11 years old or older may permanently register their vehicle upon payment of a $50 fee in lieu of tax, the applicable registration and license fees, a $2 surcharge, and an amount equal to 5 times the applicable fees imposed for: (1) junk vehicle disposal; (2) weed control; (3) former county motor vehicle computer; (4) local option vehicle tax or flat fee; (5) license plates; and (6) senior and disabled persons transportation services. The permanent registration may not be transferred.

Registration for Non-Residents

All vehicles registered outside of Montana must carry in plain sight the license plates from state or country of registration.

A vehicle brought into Montana by a non-resident temporarily employed in the state and used exclusively for transportation of that person is subject to the fee to be paid in lieu of taxes. The county in which the vehicle is located imposes the fee. One-fourth of the annual fee must be paid for each quarter or portion of a quarter of the year that the vehicle is located in Montana. The quarterly fees are due the first day of the quarter.

Non-residents temporarily employed in the state must obtain a decal from the county treasurer as proof of payment of the required fees. The decal must be displayed in the lower right-hand corner of the windshield. Decals expire each year on December 31 and application for re-registration must be filed no later than February 15.

Registration Type

Registration must be renewed annually, and license fees must be paid annually. Except for vehicles subject to a staggered registration period, all registrations expire on December 31 of the year in which they are issued. The application for registration or re-registration must be filed with the county treasurer not later than February 15 of each year.

Emissions Inspection

No statewide emissions inspection requirement.

Safety Inspection

No statewide periodic vehicle safety inspection requirement. The MVD or its agents may at any time, upon reasonable cause to believe that a vehicle is unsafe or not equipped as required by law or that its equipment is not in proper adjustment or repair, require the driver of such vehicle to stop and submit such vehicle to an inspection.

A person may not drive or permit to be driven on a highway a vehicle or combination of vehicles that is in such unsafe condition as to endanger a person.

Title and Registration Fees


Title Fee: $122.00

Registration Fee: Under 4 yrs. old $217.00; 5 – 10 yrs. old $87.00; 11+ yrs. old $28.00


Title Fee: $12.00

Registration Fee: $53.25


Plate Fee: $5.00

Registration Fee: $5.00

Driver’s License Fee: $10.00

Title Fee: n/a

Special Plates: $25.00

Plate Disbursement

Unless otherwise exempted, a person may not operate a motor vehicle on the public highways of the state unless the vehicle is properly registered and has the proper reflectorized number plates conspicuously displayed, 1 on the front and 1 on the rear of the vehicle, each securely fastened to prevent it from swinging and unobstructed from plain view.

A person may not purchase or display on a vehicle a license plate bearing the number assigned to any county other than the county of the person’s permanent residence at the time of application of registration.

All number plates are issued for a maximum period of 4 years. In years when number plates are not issued, the MVD will provide non-removable stickers bearing appropriate registration numbers that must be affixed to the rear license plate.

License plates are validated by decals.

Any purchaser of a motor vehicle may obtain a temporary window sticker from the country treasurer if he or she is unable to complete the process of applying for a Montana title at the time he or she applies for registration of the vehicle because the certificate of ownership is lost, in the possession of third parties, or in the process of reissuance. The sticker is valid for 60 days and must be displayed on the upper left-hand corner of the rear window.

The color scheme for license plates is blue with color graphics.

Personalized license plates are available as are special plates for veterans, collectors, amateur radio operators, disabled veterans, alumni of Montana colleges and universities, and organizations.

Special permits for disabled persons are available, as well as disabled plates.

Transfer of Plates

The registration of a motor vehicle expires upon transfer, and it is the duty of the transferor immediately to remove the license plates from the vehicle.

Number plates issued to a passenger vehicle, truck, trailer, motorcycle, or quadricycle may be transferred only to a replacement passenger vehicle, truck, trailer, motorcycle, or quadricycle.

The application for transfer of the license plates from the motor vehicle for which the plates were originally issued to a motor vehicle acquired by the same owner must be made within 20 days of acquiring the new vehicle. License plates may be transferred without transferring ownership of the first vehicle, but upon transfer of the plates, the registration of the first vehicle expires, and the certificate of registration for the first vehicle must be surrendered to the county treasurer with the application for transfer.

Driver's License Examination

Each applicant is subject to a vision test (20/40 visual acuity required), knowledge test, and driving skills test.

A resident who has a valid driver’s license issued by another jurisdiction may surrender that license for a Montana license of the same class, type, and endorsement upon payment of the required fees and successful completion of a vision examination.

The MVD may impose restrictions on an applicant’s license if the MVD determines that an applicant’s ability to exercise ordinary and reasonable control in the safe operation of a motor vehicle on the highway depends on the use of adaptive equipment or operational restrictions.

A road test may not be given more than once every 7 days.

Graduated Driver's Licensing

Montana has a system of graduated licensing for novice drivers.

At age 14 and 6 months, individuals may apply for a learner’s permit.

  • Drivers must hold the permit for at least 6 months and complete 50 hours (10 nighttime) of certified driving.

At age 15, drivers may apply for an intermediate license.

  • Drivers are restricted from transporting more than 1 unrelated passenger under age 18 for the first 6 months, and more than 3 unrelated passengers under age 18 for the second 6 months.
  • Drivers are prohibited from operating a vehicle from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m.

At age 16, drivers are eligible for an unrestricted license.

Driver education is required for all license applicants under age 16.

Driver's License Issuance/Application

Each application must include the full legal name, date of birth, sex, residence address, and social security number of the applicant. The application must include a statement as to when and where the applicant has been previously licensed; whether the applicant has ever had a driver’s license suspended or revoked; and whether the applicant has any physical or mental disability that may impair the applicant’s ability to maintain ordinary and reasonable control over a vehicle.

The application of a person who is under 18 years of age must be signed by a parent or by some other responsible person who is willing to assume liability. Any negligence or willful misconduct of a driver under 18 years of age must be imputed to the person who has signed the minor’s application. The adult signing the application may later request that the minor’s license be cancelled and be relieved from any subsequent liability for the actions of the minor while operating a motor vehicle.

The MVD will conduct a check of the applicant’s driving record through the national driver register.

A person has 10 days to notify the MVD of change of name or change of address.

Exempt from license: any person who is a member of the U.S. Armed Forces, while operating a motor vehicle owned or leased to the United States government and being operated on official business.

License includes a color photograph and may include a Social Security Number.

A license issued to a person under the age of 18 is marked as a “provisional license.” Any provisional license may be suspended for not more than 12 months if the licensee has been found guilty of careless or negligent driving.

Driver’s License Renewal

When a person applies for renewal of a driver’s license, the MVD will conduct a records check through the national driver register and test the applicant’s eyesight. The MVD may also require a knowledge and skills test if (1) the applicant has a mental or physical disability that may impair the applicant’s ability to operate a vehicle; (2) the expired or expiring license does not include adaptive equipment or operational restrictions appropriate to the applicant’s functional abilities; or (3) the applicant wants to remove or modify the restrictions stated on the expired or expiring license.

A person can apply to renew his or her driver’s license within 6 months before or 3 months after the expiration of the person’s license.

A person may renew a driver’s license by mail or online if the person and submits an approved vision examination and medical evaluation from a licensed physician. A person may not renew by mail or online for consecutive terms.

A license expires on the anniversary of the licensee’s birthday 8 years or less after the date of issue or on the licensee’s 67th birthday, whichever occurs first.

A license issued to a person who is 68 – 74 years old expires on the anniversary of the licensee’s birthday 6 years or less after the date of issue. All drivers 75 and older receive 4-year licenses.

A license issued to a person who is under 21 years of age expires on the licensee’s 21st birthday.

Any person who has a valid Montana driver’s license at the time of entering active duty with the Armed Forces may apply for a military renewal. The military renewal is valid so long as the person is assigned to active duty not to exceed 30 days following the date of release from active duty.

Types of Driver's Licenses

An endorsement is an addition to a commercial driver’s license which indicates that the driver meets all of the qualifications required to operate a vehicle other than a normal passenger car. Type 1 allows a driver to operate a commercial motor vehicle in interstate commerce; Type 2 allows a driver to operate a commercial motor vehicle only within the State of Montana. Vehicles are categorized by class:

  • Class A: a combination of 2 or more vehicles, including a trailer(s) in excess of 10,000 lbs., articulated buses with a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) exceeding 26,000 lbs., and all vehicles authorized to be driven under Class B and C, or with a regular driver’s license, Class D.
  • Class B: any single vehicle in excess of 26,000 lbs. GVWR, or any such vehicle towing a vehicle not in excess of 10,000 lbs. GVWR, or any bus, and any vehicle designed to carry and is capable of carrying more than 16 passengers, including the driver, and all vehicles under Class C or D.
  • Class C: a single vehicle under 26,000 lbs. GVWR which may tow a trailer under 10,000 lbs. GVWR which hauls hazardous materials in an amount sufficient to require placarding, and any vehicle which hauls 16 or more passengers, including the driver, and all school buses.
  • Class D is a regular non-commercial license.

Endorsements are as follows: (N)-Tank, (H)-Hazardous, (T)-Double/triple, (P)-Passenger, (M)-Motorcycle, (O)-Endorsement for Other. Restrictions: (A)-Airbrake.

Military personnel having a valid Montana license upon entry into service may use such license until 30 days following honorable discharge. Must obtain military endorsement.

Distracted Driving

Text messaging while driving is prohibited in Missoula.  In Billings, Butte, Bozeman, Columbia Falls, Great Falls, Helena, and Whitefish, Montana, drivers are banned from text messaging and using hand-held cell phones. In Anaconda-Deer Lodge, Baker, Butte-Silver Bow, and Hamilton, drivers are banned from handheld cell phone use.


No prohibition on wearing of headsets while driving.

Impaired Driving

Forty-nine states and the District of Columbia prohibit the operation of a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating beverages, with the illegal per se limit set at 0.08 percent blood alcohol content (.08 BAC). Utah’s per se limit is 0.05 BAC. All 50 states and the District of Columbia set the legal drinking age at 21.

Every state’s chemical test law has ‘‘an implied consent’’ provision providing that any person operating a motor vehicle on a public highway, who is suspected of driving while intoxicated, consents to a chemical test to determine if he or she is inebriated. Failure to submit or pass such a test may cause the driver’s license to be suspended or revoked regardless of any court action finding the person innocent of the charge.

The most comprehensive resource on U.S. impaired driving laws is the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Digest of Impaired Driving and Selected Beverage Control Laws.  NHTSA’s Digest is updated annually.

Montana requires the use of ignition interlocks for impaired driving repeat offenders only, though they may be required for first time offenders at judicial discretion.

Move Over Law

State law requires drivers approaching a stationary emergency vehicle displaying flashing lights, including towing and recovery vehicles, traveling in the same direction, to vacate the lane closest if safe and possible to do so, or slow to a safe speed. If on a highway with a speed limit 50mph or greater, the driver must slow by at least 20mph below the posted speed limit.

Seat Belts

Seat belts are required for the driver and all passengers age 6 and older.

Violation of the seat belt law is a secondary offense.

Riding in the cargo area of a pickup truck is permitted.

Child Passenger Safety

Children under age 6 and weighing less than 60 lbs. must be properly restrained in a child restraint device, appropriate for the height and weight of the child as indicated by manufacturer standards.

Violation of the child restraint law is a standard offense, though a violation of the booster seat law is a secondary offense.

Railroad Crossing

When stop signs are erected at railroad crossings, the driver of a vehicle must stop within 50 feet but not less than 15 feet from the nearest rail of the railroad and may proceed only upon exercising due care.

At all railroad crossings outside of corporate limits of incorporated cities or towns where a flagman or a mechanical device is not maintained and where the view is obscured or when a moving train is within sight or hearing, the driver must bring the vehicle to a full stop not less than 10 or more than 100 feet from the intersection of the highway and the railroad tracks before crossing the railroad tracks.

Unless a police officer or traffic-control signal directs traffic to proceed, vehicles carrying 7 or more passengers for hire, school buses, and vehicles carrying explosives or flammable liquids as cargo must stop within 50 feet but not less than 15 feet from the nearest rail of the railroad. The driver must listen and look in both directions along the track for an approaching train and for signals indicating the approach of a train and may not proceed until he or she can do so safely. The driver may not shift gears while crossing the track or tracks.

School Buses

The driver of a vehicle upon meeting or overtaking from either direction any school bus that has stopped on the highway or street to receive or discharge any children: (1) must stop not less than 10 feet before reaching the school bus when the flashing red signal is in operation; and (2) may not proceed until the children have entered the school bus or have alighted and reached the side of the highway or street and until the school bus ceases operation of the flashing red signal.

The driver of a vehicle on a highway with separate roadways need not stop upon meeting or passing a school bus that is on a different roadway or when the school bus is stopped in a loading zone that is a part of or adjacent to a controlled access highway.

Bumper Height

Modification of original vehicle bumper height is permitted.

Headlight Use

Headlights are required to be on 1/2 hour after sunset to 1/2 hour before sunrise, if visibility is less than 500 feet, and in conditions of insufficient light/adverse weather.

Hazard Light Use

Hazard lights are not permitted while driving except to indicate a traffic hazard.

Tire Chains

Tire chain usage is permitted for hazardous weather or other related incidents only, but may not damage the highway surface.

Studded Tires

Studded tires are permitted October 1 to May 31.

Glass/Window Tinting

A windshield may not have sunscreening material that is not clear and transparent below the AS-1 line or sunscreening material that is red, yellow, or amber in color above the AS-1 line.

The front side windows may not have sunscreening or other transparent material that has a luminous reflectance of more than 35% or has light transmission of less than 24%.

The rear window or side windows behind the front seat may not have sunscreening or other transparent material that has a luminous reflectance of more than 35% or has light transmission of less than 14%, except for the rear window or side windows behind the front seat on a multipurpose vehicle, van, or bus.

The highway patrol or local law enforcement may grant a waiver of window tinting standards for medical reasons based on an affidavit signed by a licensed physician.

Video Screens

No statewide restriction.

Radar Detectors

Radar detectors are permitted for passenger vehicles but prohibited for use by commercial vehicles.

Windshield Stickers

A person may not drive a motor vehicle with a sign, poster, substance, or other non-transparent material upon the front windshield, sidewings, or side or rear windows of the vehicle that materially obstructs, obscures, or impairs the driver’s clear view of the highway or an intersecting highway.

Other Equipment Rules


Motorcycle Equipment

A person operating a motorcycle or quadricycle on public streets or highways may ride only on the permanent and regular seat. The operator may not carry a passenger unless the passenger is seated on a seat designed for 2 persons or on another seat firmly attached to the side or rear of the operator.

Motorcycles and quadricycles must be operated with lights on at all times unless the vehicle is registered as a collector’s item. If the vehicle is registered as a collector’s item, it is only required to be operated with lights at nighttime and during periods of poor visibility.

Motorcycles, quadricycles, and motor-driven cycles must be equipped with at least 1 properly functioning taillamp mounted on the rear that emits a red light plainly visible from a distance of 500 feet to the rear of the vehicle.

All operators and passengers under 18 years of age of a motorcycle or quadricycle must wear protective headgear approved by the DOJ.

Motorcycle Licenses

A license is not valid for the operation of a motorcycle or quadricycle unless the holder of the license has successfully completed a road or skills test for a motorcycle or quadricycle and the license has been clearly marked with a motorcycle endorsement.

Motorcycle Noise Limits

The maximum noise level is 96dba measured at 20 inches.

Mopeds & Other

A person may not operate a motorized bicycle at speeds of greater than 35 mph at nighttime or during periods of poor visibility unless the motorized bicycle is equipped with a headlamp or lamps that are adequate to reveal a person or vehicle at a distance of 300 feet ahead.

The headlamp on a motorized bicycle must be of sufficient intensity to reveal a person or a vehicle at a distance of not less than 100 feet when operated at any speed less than 25 mph, at a distance of not less than 200 feet when operated at a speed from 25 to 35 mph, and at a distance of not less than 300 feet when operated at a speed of 35 mph or more.

Trailer Dimensions

Total length: 65 feet; trailer length: not specified; motor home length: 55 feet; width: 8 feet 6 inches (excluding safety equipment and appurtenances up to the width of the rear view mirror); height: 14 feet.

Passenger vehicles less than 2,000 lbs. GVW may tow 1 trailer; this combination shall not exceed 65 feet. Three-unit combinations shall not exceed 65 feet. Three-unit combinations permitted if rear unit is equipped with breakaway brakes.

Trailer Brakes

All trailers and pole trailers with a Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) of 3,000 lbs. or greater must be equipped with brakes acting on wheels. All trailers and pole trailers with a GVW of less than 3,000 lbs. must be equipped with brakes on all wheels if the total weight of the trailer or trailers does not exceed 40% of the GVW of the towing vehicle.

Every trailer and pole trailer equipped with air- or vacuum-actuated brakes and every trailer and pole trailer with a GVW in excess of 3,000 lbs. must be equipped with brakes acting on all wheels that are designed to be applied automatically and promptly, and remain applied for at least 15 minutes upon breakaway from the towing vehicle.

A towing vehicle and all trailers being towed must have 1 control device that can be used to operate all service brakes.

Trailer Hitch/Signals

A trailer or pole trailer with GVW of 3,000 lbs. or less must be equipped with a steel safety chain or cable with a minimum diameter of 1/4 inch must be securely fastened to the towing unit. The safety chain or cable may not be connected to the ball but must be connected to the hitch or other frame member of the towing vehicle to prevent the drawbar from dropping to the ground if the ball, socket, or coupler fails.

Trailer Lighting

A trailer with a GVW in excess of 3,000 lbs. must be equipped with: (1) 2 clearance lamps on the front, 1 at each side; (2) 2 side marker lamps and 2 side reflectors, 1 at or near the front and 1 at or near the rear; and (3) 2 clearance lamps and 2 reflectors on the rear, 1 at each side.

A pole trailer with a GVW in excess of 3,000 lbs. must be equipped with (1) on each side, 1 side marker lamp and 1 clearance lamp that may be in combination, to show to the front, side, and rear; and (2) on the rear of the pole trailer or load, 2 reflectors, 1 at each side.

A trailer or pole trailer with GVW of 3,000 lbs. or less must be equipped with 2 rear reflectors and 2 stop lights, 1 on each side.

Trailer Mirrors

A motor vehicle must be equipped with a mirror that reflects to the driver a view of the highway for a distance of at least 200 feet to the rear of the motor vehicle.

Trailer Speed Limits


Trailer Towing


Trailer Other Provisions

Passenger are permitted in towed trailers with a fifth wheel trailer hitch on a truck with at least a half-ton rating.

Accident Reporting

Crashes are required to be immediately reported in cases of death, injury, or when property damage exceeds $1,000.00.

Liability Laws

An owner of a motor vehicle that is registered and operated in Montana by the owner or with the owner’s permission must continuously provide insurance against loss resulting from liability imposed by law.

A policy must provide minimum coverage of: (1) $25,000 because of bodily injury to or death of 1 person in any 1 accident and subject to that limit for 1 person; (2) $50,000 because of bodily injury to or death of 2 or more persons in any 1 accident; and (3) $20,000 because of injury to or destruction of property to others in any 1 accident.

State has non-resident service of process law; does not have guest suit law.