What Does Maryland Require Before Driving a Car?

Registration, Title, and License Plates

Maryland requires you to register your car with the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) before it can be legally driven. You must have a certificate of title in order to complete the registration process.  After submitting your registration application, certificate of title, and the required fees, the MVA can issue you a temporary registration permit which will allow you to drive your vehicle until the MVA accepts or rejects your registration application. 

Read the law: Md. Code Transp. §§ 13-401 & 13-402

For information on registering including getting plates as well as titling your car, visit your local branch office of the Maryland MVA or visit the Maryland MVA’s Vehicle Title and Registration web page at:  http://www.mva.maryland.gov/vehicles/registration/title-registration-info.htm

The MVA will not renew a vehicle registration, or transfer a vehicle registration of an applicant who has not paid all undisputed Taxes and/or unemployment insurance contributions.  

Read the law: Md. Code Transp. § 13-406.2

For other reasons the MVA may not register your vehicle, see Md. Code Transp. §§ 13-406 and 13-406.1.


A Safety Inspection is required before any used cars, trucks, tractors, motorcycles, special equipment, class “B” for-hire vehicles, and class L (historic) vehicles with a model year of 1986 or later can be titled and registered in Maryland.  

Read the law: Md. Code Transp. §§ 23-101 & 23-107

Cars must be inspected by a licensed Maryland inspection station, such as an automobile dealer, a service station or a specialized automobile service center.  If your car passes, the inspection station will give you a copy of the certificate of inspection, which you must bring with you to the MVA to register your car or the station may electronically send an e-inspection straight to the MVA. There is a fee for the safety inspection.

Read the details of the inspection process: http://www.mva.maryland.gov/about-mva/info/58000ASE/58000-01T.htm.

Valid Driver’s License

In Maryland, a license is required before you can drive your car on state roads.  Information on getting a driver’s license in Maryland is located at http://www.mva.maryland.gov/drivers/apply/md-drivers-license.htm.  This site provides information on what you need to bring with you, the steps to get a license, general requirements to qualify for a license, and what you should do if your driver’s license has been suspended or revoked. 

Emissions Test

Maryland requires every car registered in the State to pass an emissions test to help cut down on car pollution.  At some point during your two-year registration period, you'll receive a notice from the MVA requiring you to have your vehicle emissions inspected.  When you get the notice, you will need to bring your car to one of the testing stations listed in the notice within the next eight weeks.  There is a fee of $14 for the emissions inspection test. If your car does not pass, the first re-test is free if you discuss the test results before you leave and get your car re-tested by the due date.  

More information on emissions inspections including approved testing locations: http://www.mva.maryland.gov/vehicles/veip/index.htm.


Maryland requires you to carry a minimum amount of car insurance through a company licensed in Maryland. Insurance is required at all times including when getting a new registration or transferring from another state.  

See Insurance Requirements for Maryland Vehicles at http://www.mva.maryland.gov/vehicles/insurance/

According to a law that goes into effect October 1, 2016, you must have proof of insurance, in paper or electronic format, when driving a car.

Read the law: Md. Code Transp. § 17-104.2


Edited by DMiller, Esq.

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