Automobile Registrations

General Overview

There are approximately 800 different ways to register a car in Maine, but all the various methods have a few things in common, and the registration process begins at the town office. There are some registrations we can process all the way through, and others where we’ll simply collect the excise tax due on the vehicle and the remainder of the transaction has to be completed at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles office in Ellsworth.

For a re-registration process, the following are vital and must be with you before you can complete your registration:

1. Written proof of Maine Insurance (in effect at time of registration)
2. The current (accurate) reading on your vehicle’s odometer

For a limited new registration, the following criteria must apply:

1. The vehicle being registered for the first time must have been sold to you by a licensed Maine dealer.
2. You must have a license plate available that was on another car registered to you that you can use on the new vehicle.

In addition to the proof of insurance and accurate odometer reading, you will need the following items for a limited new registration:

1. Application for title filled out by the Maine Car Dealer
2. The Green Sales Tax form filled out by the dealer and signed by you.
3. A copy of your old registration, showing proof the plates being placed on the new vehicle belong to you

What will it cost to register my car?

There are 3 components of the car registration cost that we collect at the Town Office. There may be more (title application fee) at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles Office. Below are brief explanations of each component.

Excise Tax

Maine communities are obligated to collect excise tax on all motor vehicles using the public roads. This is essentially a property tax on cars and trucks, but is figured a little differently than your property tax. The tax collector must determine the original sticker value (MSRP) of your vehicle. If it’s a brand new vehicle being registered, you are required by law to supply the tax collector with the Munroney Sticker (window sticker) given to you by the car dealer. This sets the basis for the excise tax collection. On used cars, the Tax Collector will look up the original MSRP in a book here at the town office. There is a sliding scale for the tax applied to the vehicle, starting at 24 mills for a current year vehicle, down to the lowest rate of 4 mills for a vehicle 6 years old and older. The excise tax is retained by the town, and is a major part of the funding for town services. Generally the excise tax is deductible from your federal income tax form, much like the property tax.

Registration Fee

This town sends this fee to the State of Maine every two weeks. For a normal passenger vehicle, the fee is $25. If you wish to have a specialty plate there are other fees associated with them, too numerous to put here. If you have a commercial vehicle weighing over 9,000 pounds there is a chart of fees available to you to determine what the fee will be.

Agent Fee

This is a processing fee retained by the town for doing your vehicle registration in the town office. For a normal re-registration, the agent fee is $2. For a limited new registration, the agent fee is $4. If you are paying an agent fee, that means you do not need to go to the motor vehicle office to complete the registration.

Unfortunately, there is no place on the vehicle registration form to show the total amount paid for the registration. But if you add the registration fee, the excise tax, and the agent fee, you will come up with the total you paid to register the car.


First Time Registrations

As mentioned earlier, there are many registrations we cannot process at the town office. A first time registration in a private sale, or where there is no plate available makes up the bulk of those we are not authorized to perform. You still would come to the town office first to pay the excise tax, and we will supply you with the title application (for all cars 15 years old and newer), and a sales tax form to bring with you to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles Office. The office on Church Street in Ellsworth is open Monday through Friday from 9AM to 5PM.

Re-registrations

The town office is glad to process re-registrations on any Maine registered motor vehicle. If you are moving here from another Maine community, please bring in your current registration so we may have all the information handy to make out your new registration. You will receive the expiration date stickers as you would in any community upon completion of the registration process.


For how long is my registration in effect?

Maine automobile registrations are valid for one year. The month of expiration stays constant with the vehicle as long as it is registered in your name, unless it is out of registration for over a year. If your vehicle’s registration expires in July 2000, and you come in to re-register in August 2000, the new expiration will still be July 2001. If, however, you forgot to register for an entire year, and you come in August 2001, the new expiration would be August 2002.

Trailers

The exception to the one-year registration rule is a trailer. Normally, trailers do not require that you pay excise tax, and all non-excise trailers expire in February. Only camper trailers where a person could conceivably live, pay an excise tax. If excise tax is not required, you may register a trailer in Maine for up to 2-years. Proof of Insurance is not required for trailers, as it’s presumed the vehicle pulling the trailer is insured.

Other Vehicles

As mentioned above, there are numerous types of vehicles that require registration. They range from motorcycles, to big trucks, dune buggies to well-drilling rigs. Basically, if it travels over a state or local road, it requires registration. The information above pertains to typical passenger cars and trucks. For other vehicles, please consult the town office or Bureau of Motor Vehicles for further information.

Registration by Mail

If you travel south for the winter and the registration expires while you are away, we can process the re-registration by mail. Call the town office to find out the cost and the materials we need and give yourself plenty of time.

What if I forget my insurance card?

No problem. We have a fax machine at the town office, and the local insurance companies are very good about faxing over your proof of insurance. There is a 50-cent charge for that. Big national insurance companies, though, can take a very long time to fax it over, so beware.