Rhode Island

Title Application

Every owner of a vehicle registered in Rhode Island must apply for a certificate of title if none has previously been issued.

An application for the 1st certificate of title of a vehicle must be made to the Division and contain: (1) the name, residence, and mailing address of the owner; (2) a description of the vehicle, including make, model, identifying number, type of body, number of cylinders, and whether new or used; and (3) date of purchase by applicant, name and address of the person who sold the vehicle, and the names and addresses of any lienholders.

If an application is for a vehicle that was previously registered in another state or country, the application must be accompanied with any certificate of title issued by the other state or country.

Title Transfer of Ownership

Upon transfer of interest in a vehicle, at the time of the delivery of the vehicle, the owner must execute an assignment and warranty of title to the transferee. The transferee must then promptly execute the application for a new certificate of title.

Titles for Mobile Homes

Every deed, instrument, or writing which grants, assigns, transfers, or conveys the interest in any mobile or manufactured home must be filed with the recorder of deeds of the city or town in which the mobile or manufactured home is located, within 10 days after execution of that deed, instrument, or writing.

Registration Application

Every motor vehicle owned by a resident of Rhode Island is required to be registered, including trailers, tent trailers, and travel trailers.

Every application for vehicle registration must be signed by the owner in ink and contain: (1) the name, city, or town of resident, actual residence address, mailing address as it appears on the owner’s driver’s license, business address if the owner is a business; (2) a description of the vehicle that includes the make, model, type of body, number of cylinders, and the serial number of the vehicle, and the engine or other number of the vehicle; (3) a statement whether liability insurance is carried on the vehicle and the name of the carrier, policy number, and effective dates of the policy; and (4) the exact mileage reading on the date of application.

There is no period of grace for late registration.

Motor vehicles owned or leased by federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies, motor vehicles not required to be registered in Rhode Island, and a motor vehicle registered in Rhode Island that is used to transport an individual with a medical need, are exempt from window tinting regulations.

The administrator of the division of motor vehicles may extend the expiration date of any permit, license, registration, certificate, placard or other privilege issued by the division of motor vehicles for a period of up to 90 days in the event of an emergency.

Registration for Non-Residents

A resident is a person who: (1) owns, rents, or leases real estate with Rhode Island as his or her residence and engages in a trade, business, or profession in Rhode Island, or enrolls his or her children in a Rhode Island school for a period exceeding 90 days; or (2) is registered to vote or is eligible to register to vote in Rhode Island.

Military personnel on active duty in Rhode Island may maintain out-of-state vehicle registration.

Registration Type

All vehicle registrations, cards, and plates expire at midnight on March 31st each year, unless issued under the staggered registration system.

Renewal is made to the division at any time prior to expiration of the registration. Upon renewal, a sticker for each plate to be placed at the bottom right-hand corner of the plate will be provided. Owners must be issued a new fully reflective plate no less frequently than every 10 years.

Before obtaining an original or transferal registration for a vehicle in Rhode Island, the owner must furnish proof of payment of any taxes due.

Emissions Inspection

Emissions inspections are required for all vehicles except: (1) motor vehicles 25 years or older; (2) any class of vehicles that is exempted by regulation because the vehicle presents prohibitive inspection problems or is inappropriate for inspection; (3) vehicles operated exclusively by electric power; (4) new motor vehicles until 24 months after date of purchase or 24,000 miles; (5) motor vehicles in compliance with an enhanced motor vehicle inspection program operated by another jurisdiction; and (6) vehicles that are insured as classic vehicles, which may receive an alternate type of inspection.

Emissions inspections are required biennially.

Any vehicle that fails the inspection has 30 days to be re-inspected and comply with the requirements.

Vehicles required to be inspected include, but are not limited to, all 1975 and later model year light duty vehicles and light duty trucks up to and including 8,500 lbs. GVWR.

Visit the Rhode Island Emissions and Safety Testing website for more information.

OBD is utilized as part of the state emissions inspection process.

Safety Inspection

The director of the Department of Administration, members of the state and local police, and other officers and employees of the Division designated by the director of the Department of Administration may require the seller at retail or driver of a vehicle to stop and submit the vehicle to an inspection or appropriate test.

Every vehicle, trailer, semitrailer, and pole trailer registered in Rhode Island must be inspected biennially and provided with an official certificate of inspection and approval. The first inspection of any new vehicle must occur within 2 years from date of purchase or before accumulation of 24,000 miles. Inspection shall be made of the mechanism, brakes, and equipment of the vehicle.

Motor vehicles purchased out of state by a Rhode Island resident must be inspected within 5 business days of registration.

Trailers or semitrailers with gross weight of 1,000 lbs. or less are exempt from inspection.

Title and Registration Fees


Title Fee: $51.50

Registration Fee: Based on vehicle weight + $1.50


Title Fee: $51.50

Registration Fee: Prorated by date + $1.50


Plate Fee: $31.50

Registration Fee: $18.50

Driver’s License Fee: $26.50

Title Fee: $51.50

Special Plates: $67.50

Plate Disbursement

Plates are provided upon vehicle registration, 1 fully reflective plate for each motorcycle or trailer and 2 fully reflective plates for every other motor vehicle.

A temporary plate may be issued that allows the operation of a vehicle on the public highways for a period of 5 days from the date of issue.

On a motor vehicle, plates must be attached 1 in the front and 1 in the rear. On a motorcycle or trailer, plates must be attached at the rear of the vehicle.

Handicapped parking placards or stickers may be issued upon application and proof of a disability. The placard or sticker shall be renewed every 3 years for individuals with a long-term or permanent disability.

The color scheme for license plates is grey-blue on off white.

License plates are validated by stickers.

Transfer of Plates

Plates, along with registration, may be transferred to a new vehicle as long as the name on the registration remains the same.  After the transfer is done, the number of days the plates can be used prior to registration is as follows:

  • In-State Dealer: 20 calendar days from date on bill of sale
  • Out-of-State Dealer: 72 hours from date on bill of sale
  • Private Party: 48 hours from date on bill of sale

If plates are not transferred to another vehicle after selling a vehicle the plates must be forwarded to the Division.

Driver's License Examination

All applicants for a license must pass a written test, road test, and eye examination (20/40 visual acuity required). Any person who successfully completes a driver education course who has passed a standardized written driver’s license examination does not have to take the written examination.

All applications for an instruction permit or license must contain: (1) the full name, date of birth, sex, and residence address of the applicant; (2) a brief description of the applicant; (3) whether the applicant has been previously licensed by another state or country; and (4) whether any other previously held license has even been suspended or revoked and for what reason.

A driver’s license must have a distinguishing number assigned to the licensee, the full name, date of birth, residence address, brief description of the licensee, photograph of the licensee, indication of desire to donate tissue or organs, and the licensee’s signature.

License does not normally include a social security number.

Drug or alcohol offenses may cause postponement of new driver’s license eligibility.

Graduated Driver’s Licensing

Rhode Island has a system of graduated licensing for novice drivers.

At age 16, individuals who have completed a driver training course and passed a standardized written examination are eligible for an instruction/learner’s permit.

  • Permit holders must always be in the company of a supervising driver who must sit in the front seat. Permit holders and their passengers must be properly restrained.
  • Permit holders must complete 50 hours of supervised driving, including 10 hours during the nighttime.

At 16 and 6 months, drivers are eligible for a limited provisional/intermediate license who have: (1) held a permit for at least 6 months; (2) passed a road test; and (3) not been convicted of a moving or seat belt violation in the preceding 6 months.

  • Limited provisional/intermediate license holders are prohibited from driving unsupervised between the hours of 1 a.m. and 5 a.m.
  • Limited provisional/intermediate license holders and their passengers must be properly restrained.
  • Drivers are prohibited from transporting more than 1 passenger under the age of 21 within the first year of provisional licensure (family members exempt).

At age 17 years and 6 months, drivers who have held the limited provisional/intermediate license for at least 12 months and have been moving and seat belt violation free during the preceding 6 months are eligible for an unrestricted license.

Driver education is required for all license applicants under age 18. Parents of applicants must take a short driver education course.

Driver's License Issuance/Application

Rhode Island is a Real ID Compliant State. All persons operating a motor vehicle must have a valid driver’s license.

Any resident is required to obtain a Rhode Island operator’s or chauffeur’s license within 30 days of establishing residency.

A person must be at least 16 years of age to apply for an operator’s license and 18 years of age to apply for a chauffeur’s license.

Driver's License Renewal

Every operator’s first license is issued as a temporary license valid from the date of issuance until the licensee’s birthday in the second year following the issuance of the temporary license. Every operator’s license after the temporary license shall expire on the birthday of the licensee 5 years after issuance, with the exception of any person 75 years of age or older whose license shall expire on the birthday 2 years after issuance.

New license will not be issued during any period of suspension.

Driver’s licenses for active duty military personnel are valid for 30 days after discharge or return to the state of Rhode Island, whichever occurs first.

Any person serving in the U.S. Armed Forces may apply for a special license that is valid until 30 days after discharge.

Types of Driver's Licenses

A special license is required to operate a motorcycle or motor scooter.

A “first license” is issued to a person applying for the first time and is issued for 1 year, after which time a permanent license is issued.

A chauffeur’s license is issued to persons at least 21 years of age for the purpose of driving a school bus to transport children, or any motor vehicle when in use for transportation of persons or property for compensation.

A commercial driver’s license (CDL) is issued to persons at least 21 years of age, except for intrastate operations when the applicant must be at least 18 years of age.

  • Endorsements on a commercial driver’s license include: (1) a tank endorsement; (2) a passenger endorsement; (3) hazmat; (4) doubles; and (5) triples.

Distracted Driving

All drivers are prohibited from text messaging while driving. All drivers are prohibited from using handheld wireless communication devices while driving. Drivers under the age of 18 are prohibited from using a cell phone while driving. School bus drivers are prohibited from using cell phones while driving, except in emergencies.


Wearing earphones or headsets is not permitted while driving or operating a bicycle.

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.

Rhode Island requires the use of ignition interlocks for all impaired driving offenders.

Move Over Law

State law requires drivers approaching a stationary emergency vehicle displaying flashing lights, including roadside assistance vehicles, traveling in the same direction, to vacate the lane closest if safe and possible to do so, and slow to a safe speed. Also included in the law are road maintenance vehicles.

Seat Belts

Seat belts are required for the driver and all passengers age 18 and older.

Violation of the seat belt law is a standard offense.

Riding in the cargo area of a pickup truck is not permitted for persons under age 16 unless secured by passenger restraint.

Child Passenger Safety

Children age 8 until 18, or less than 8 and who are more than 57 inches or weighing more than 80 lbs. are required to be in a seat belt.

All children under age 8 shall be properly restrained in the rear seat of the vehicle.

Children under age 8, less than 57 inches, and less than 80 lbs. must be transported in the rear seat and properly restrained in a child restraint system. Children younger than age 2 or less than 30 pounds must be in a rear-facing child restraint.

A violation of the child restraint law is a standard offense.

Railroad Crossing

Every vehicle must stop within 50 feet but not less than 15 feet from the nearest rail of a railroad crossing when: (1) a clearly visible electric or mechanical signal device gives warning of the immediate approach of a train; (2) a crossing gate is lowered or a human flag-person gives or continues to give signal of the approach or passage of a train; (3) a train approaching within approximately 1,500 feet of the crossing emits an audible signal; or (4) an approaching train is plainly visible and in hazardous proximity to the crossing. A vehicle may not proceed over the tracks until it is safe to do so.

No person may drive a vehicle through, around, or under any crossing gate or barrier while it is closed or being opened or closed.

The driver of any motor vehicle carrying passengers for hire, any school bus carrying any child, any vehicle carrying any cargo or explosive or flammable substances, must stop within 50 feet but not less than 15 feet from the nearest rail of the railroad to listen and look for an approaching train and may not proceed until it is safe to do so.

School Buses

Every school bus must have a stop arm that can be activated when children are being loaded or unloaded.

The driver of a vehicle upon meeting or overtaking, from any direction, a school bus that has flashing red lights in operation, must stop the vehicle before reaching the bus and may not proceed until the bus resumes motion or the flashing lights are off.

Stopping for a school bus is not required for drivers of other vehicles when: (1) when the highway is divided by a median strip separating lanes of traffic and the school bus is stopped on the opposite side of the median strip; or (2) when the bus is stopped in a loading zone adjacent to a limited access highway and pedestrians are not permitted to cross the highway.

Bumper Height

Modification of original bumper height is illegal unless exempted (exemptions include some farm and forestry vehicles).

Headlight Use

Headlights must be used from sunset to sunrise, in conditions of insufficient light/adverse weather, when wipers are in use, and when visibility is less than 500 feet.

Hazard Light Use

Hazard light use is not permitted while driving.

Tire Chains

Tire chain use is permitted.

Studded Tires

Studded tires are permitted November 15 to April 1.

Glass/Window Tinting

Anyone installing a sunscreen device on a motor vehicle must place a label on the front window that contains the installer’s name and the percentage of light transmittance.

The use of non-transparent or sunscreen material or window application on motor vehicles which has a total light transmittance of not less than 70% on the windshield, all side windows, or the rear window is permitted if the vehicle has 2 outside mirrors, 1 on each side, adjusted to provide the driver with a clear view of the highway behind the vehicle.

The use of transparent material on the uppermost 6 inches of the windshield is permitted.

Video Screens

No television viewer, screen, or other means of visually receiving a television broadcast may be located in the field of view of the driver.

Radar Detectors

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

Windshield Stickers

No sign, poster, or other non-transparent material that obstructs the driver’s clear view of the road is permitted on the front windshield, side wings, or side or rear windows of the vehicle. The administrator of the Division may permit and specify placement of special stickers on the windshield or any other windows of the vehicle.

Other Equipment Rules


Motorcycle Equipment

Drivers of motorcycles or motor scooters are required to use eye protection when operating the vehicle.

Any operator under 21 years of age, and any passenger of any age, must wear a helmet.

All new operators, regardless of age, must wear a helmet for 1 year from the date of issuance of the first license.

Every motorcycle or motor scooter must have a rearview mirror.

Handlebars are not permitted more than 15 inches in height above the seat.

No person shall drive a motorcycle at night at a speed greater than 35 mph unless the motorcycle is equipped with a headlamp that is able to reveal a person or vehicle at a distance of 300 feet ahead.

The operator of a motorcycle shall ride only upon the permanent and regular seat attached.

A motorcycle shall not carry more persons than it was designed to carry. A passenger must ride on the permanent and regular seat if designed for 2 persons, or on another seat firmly attached to the rear or side of the operator.

Any passenger on a motorcycle or motor scooter must be in a sidecar or have a separate rear seat, a separate footrest, an appropriate handlebar or grip for his or her use, and a helmet. A passenger under 12 years of age must have a properly secured backrest or equivalent unless seated in a sidecar.

Every motorcycle must have at least 1 brake that may be operated by hand or foot that is adequate to slow and stop the motorcycle.

Every motorcycle must have at least 1 and not more than 2 headlamps and at least 1 red reflector on the rear either as part of the tail lamps or separately.

All motorcycles must have stop lamps.

Motorcycles may have single or multiple beam headlamps, provided that they be of sufficient intensity to reveal a person or vehicle at a distance of not less than 100 feet when the motorcycle is operated at any speed less than 25 mph and at a distance of not less than 200 feet when the motorcycle is operated at a speed of 25 mph or more.

Motorcycle Licenses

No person shall be licensed to operate a motorcycle or motor scooter unless he or she is at least 16 years of age, or unless the person previously has been issued a full operator’s license and a motorcycle learner’s permit or is already licensed under a prior act of this state.

All applicants for a motorcycle or motor scooter license must successfully complete a motorcycle rider safety class, and  pass written, vision, road sign, and road tests.

A motorcycle learner’s permit may be issued to a person who is at least 16 years old but less than 18 years old and has a limited provisional or full operator’s license or is at least 18 years old and has a license. If the holder of the permit has a limited provisional license, the motorcycle may be driven only at times when the holder could drive a motor vehicle without supervision. The permit expires 18 months after issuance.

Motorcycle Noise Limits

Every vehicle must have a muffler in good working order and in constant operation to prevent excessive or unusual noise and annoying smoke. The use of a cutout, bypass, or similar device is prohibited.

Mopeds & Other

Out-of-state residents owning motorized bicycles, whose state of residence does not require registration, shall register the vehicle in the state of Rhode Island.

The operator of a motorized bicycle is required to have a valid license and must be at least 16 years of age.

Not permitted on Interstate highways.

Trailer Dimensions

Total length: not stated; trailer length: 40 feet; motor home length: 45 feet; width: 8 feet 6 inches (excluding safety equipment, for motor homes, appurtenances, for trailers, non-cargo-carrying appurtenances); height: 13 feet 6 inches. Towaway trailer transporter combinations may be 82 feet.

Trailer Brakes

Every trailer with a gross weight of 4,000 lbs. or more must have brakes that are adequate to slow, stop, and hold the vehicle. Brakes must be designed so they can be applied from the driver of the towing vehicle’s normal operating position and that they will be automatically applied in the case of an accidental breakaway. New trailers must have service brakes on all wheels.

Every trailer must have parking brakes adequate to hold the vehicle on any grade it is operated, under all conditions of loading and on a surface free from snow, ice, or loose material.

Trailer Hitch/Signals

When 1 vehicle is towing another, the drawbar or other connection must be of sufficient strength to pull the weight towed and must not exceed 15 feet in its span from one vehicle to the other.

Trailer Lighting

Every trailer or vehicle being drawn at the end of a train of vehicles must have at least 1 tail lamp mounted on the rear which emits a red light plainly visible from a distance of 500 feet to the rear.

Trailer Mirrors

Every vehicle that is so loaded that it obstructs the driver’s view to the rear, must have a mirror located for the driver so that it reflects a view of the highway for a list 200 feet to the rear.

Trailer Speed Limits

Same as for passenger cars.

Trailer Towing

A tow truck or any vehicle towing another, except when designed to be in combination, when on any public highway divided into multiple lanes for travel in the same direction, may travel only in the right lane of a 2-lane highway, or the 2 right lanes of a 3- or more lane highway.

Trailer Other Provisions

Riding in towed trailers is permitted.

Accident Reporting

Crashes are required to be reported in case of death, injury, or when property damage is in excess of $1,000.00.

The deadline to file a report is 21 days.

Liability Laws

State has security-type law applicable in event of accident causing property damage in excess of $500 or personal injury or death.

Motor vehicle insurance is required in the amounts of $25,000 because of bodily injury to or death of 1 person in any 1 accident; $50,000 because of bodily injury to or death of 2 or more persons in any 1 accident; and $25,000 because of injury to or destruction of property in any 1 accident or $75,000 combined single limit.

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