Topics on this page:
- Driver Requirements
- Vehicle Requirements
Valid Driver’s License
In Maryland, you must have a valid driver's license before you can drive on state roads. Issuance of a driver’s license indicates that you have successfully met the criteria regarding:
- the ability to read and understand highway signs,
- knowledge of traffic laws and safe driving practices,
- demonstrated ability to exercise control in driving a motor vehicle and,
- physical and mental fitness to drive a motor vehicle safely.
Driver's licenses in Maryland are issued by the Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA). To get a driver's license, you must provide the MVA with documentation that proves your identity, age, and that you live in Maryland. Examples of documents that will sufficiently prove your identity and age include a U.S. birth certificate, a U.S. passport, or a permanent resident card. You must also provide your Social Security Number and two documents that prove you live in Maryland, such as utility bill or bank statement. A full list of acceptable documents for proving your identity and Maryland residency can be found in the MVA's online document guide.
Maryland has a three-step graduated licensing system that includes a learner’s instructional permit, a provisional license, and a driver’s license. The specific steps required for getting a license vary depending on the age and experience of the applicant. For example, if you hold a valid driver’s license from another state, certain parts of the examination process may be waived.
The MVA website has extensive information obtaining a driver's license, including what to do if your driver’s license has been suspended or revoked.
Read the Law: Md. Code, Transportation § 16-101; Title 16 (drivers' licenses generally)
Registration, Title, and License Plates
Maryland requires you to register your car with the MVA before it can be legally driven. The MVA will issue a registration card which will include the following information:
- date registration issued,
- name and address of vehicle owner,
- registration number,
- vehicle description.
You must keep the registration card in the vehicle and present the card to a police officer, when requested.
In order to complete the registration process, you must have a certificate of title for the vehicle. A certificate of title shows who owns the vehicle. After submitting your registration application, certificate of title, and the required fees, the MVA will 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, 13-405, 13-408, 13-409
When a registration application is approved, the MVA will issue license plates for the vehicle. License plates must be attached to the vehicle and displayed at all times. The MVA will also issue registration tabs that state the year of expiration of the vehicle’s registration. The tabs must be placed on the vehicle’s license plates. Under Maryland law, it is illegal to drive a vehicle without license plates, even if the vehicle is legally registered.
A registration application may be rejected for numerous reasons. For example, an application may be rejected if it contains false information, is missing information, or the necessary fees have not been paid. An application may also be rejected if the vehicle is mechanically unfit or unsafe to operate, has been identified as stolen, or the applicant is named in an outstanding arrest warrant. An application for renewal of a vehicle registration can be rejected if the applicant has unpaid taxes or unemployment insurance contributions.
Read the law: Md. Code Transp. §§ 13-403, 13-406, 13-406.1, 13-406.2, 13-410, 13-411
For information on registering a vehicle, 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 webpage.
Before the MVA will issue a title or register a vehicle, the vehicle must be inspected to confirm that it is safe to drive. The inspection must be conducted by a licensed inspection station, such as an automobile dealer, a service station, or a specialized automobile service center. You can find an authorized vehicle safety inspection station near you by using the MVA’s Inspection Station Lookup tool.
If your vehicle passes inspection, the inspection station will enter the inspection information into the Maryland Safety Inspection System, which will electronically transfer the information to the MVA. An electronic receipt of the inspection certificate will be sent to you via email. There is a fee for the safety inspection. The law exempts historic vehicles (Class L) from this requirement.
More information is available on the MVA's website.
Read the law: Md. Code Transp. §§ 23-101 & 23-107
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 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 is on the MVA's website.
Maryland law requires your vehicle be insured at all times, including when getting a new registration or transferring from another state. The vehicle insurance must be provided by an insurance company licensed in Maryland. Maryland law sets minimum coverage amounts that are required for your vehicle policy. The MVA may not issue or transfer the registration of a vehicle unless the owner provides evidence that the vehicle is insured. Vehicle insurance must be maintained throughout the entire vehicle registration period. Failure to maintain insurance at any point during the registration period may result in suspension of the vehicle registration, as well as fines.
An operator of a vehicle must have proof of insurance and present that evidence when requested by a police officer. The proof of insurance can be in paper or electronically presented on a mobile device.
Note: Strongly consider keeping a paper copy in the vehicle so that you do not have to hand over your phone to the officer.
If an individual has been rejected for insurance, the MVA may suspend the individual’s driver’s license, as well as the registrations for any vehicles they own. If your insurance gets cancelled or you have trouble getting insurance, you can contact Maryland Auto Insurance (also called MAIF or the Maryland Automobile Insurance Fund) to get coverage.
The MVA's webpage on vehicle registration and titling questions addresses insurance requirements.
Read the law: Md. Code, Transportation §§ 17-103, 17-104, 17-104.2, 17-105, 17-106, 17-107