Snowbirds registering car need to pick a state

I have a place in Arizona, a place in Oregon and cars in both states. If I were stopped by police, what would happen if I were driving an Oregon-registered car with an Arizona driver's license? Is it a problem?

— Dan, via email

We've never considered the pitfalls, but we imagine it's a charmed life having homes in two different parts of our great nation. None of us here have that luxury because of our assumption that the honchos at SYA HQ would frown on us taking a month off.

But we digress.

You want to know whether driving your Oregon-registered car jibes with your Arizona driver's license, so we checked with DMV spokesman David House.

The short answer depends on whether your Oregon-registered car stays in Oregon. "In Oregon, that's not an issue," House said. "It could be an issue in Arizona if the car is driven down there."

House explained that Oregon has one of the lowest title and registration fees in the country, so taking your Oregon-registered car to your domicile residence in Arizona could be seen as tax evasion. "If the car always stays in Oregon, then that's legal. That's perfectly OK," House said.

Your issue is particularly thorny in communities on a state border, such as in the Portland-Vancouver, Wash., area, House said. "Oregon requires you (residents) to title and register your car in the state of Oregon," he said. "If you were to move to Oregon, you've also got to title and register your car in Oregon if you were to bring the car with you."

So you're certainly in the clear if the car stays in the state, but House suggests it's best for part-time residents to register vehicles in the state where they legally reside. "We do have a lot of snowbirds between Oregon and Arizona," he said. "They end up needing to pick one state as their domicile — where they vote, pay taxes and register their vehicles."

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@mailtribune.com. We're sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.


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