The Massachusetts RMV “Seven Day Rule” Clarified

We all have purchased a car at one time or another. Often times we transfer the plates from an older vehicle that we are replacing. When this happens, there is an assumption that the Registry of Motor Vehicles gives us seven days to get our registry affairs in order.  The truth is, this is not always the case. So the question that begs to be answered is “when do we have seven days to handle our registry paperwork?”

Here is the seemingly lengthy answer.  The “Seven Day Rule” is actually Massachusetts law G.L. Chapter 90, Section 2 which allows you to drive around in a new vehicle for seven calendar days while the RMV paperwork is being processed.   There are details about this rule that you should be made aware of.  For example: This law only applies to those who have lost possession (signed the title of their old car over to another party) of the vehicle.  The seven day allowance starts from the day you sign your title to the old vehicle over.   This “rule” was put in place under the assumption that if you “lose possession” of your vehicle then you would need a few extra days to find a way to get to the Registry to register the new vehicle.  As with any rule, of course, there are exceptions.  This rule does not apply if:

  • You do not trade in your car
  • You purchase a new vehicle before you sell the old one

Why are these two scenarios exceptions to the rule?  The thought process is that if you don’t sign over the title to the old car then you still have a means to get to the Registry to register the new car.  Take a moment to look at your MA registration.  The law is actually printed on the bottom third of the page.  It explains limitations to this rule, such as:

  • Having to be 18 years old
  • Requirement that you carry a copy of the bill of sale in the new  vehicle until you settle the RMV paperwork. 

It is important for you to be clear on these rules.  Take a few minutes to read this section on your registration, or go to http://www.mass.gov/rmv/regs/reg2.htm for more information.

So the next time you purchase a vehicle (whether from a dealer or a private party) and want to transfer your plates, be sure you sign the title of your old car to a new owner before you buy the new car (or ideally, make sure this is done on the same day).