Kate Is Clueless: Car Titles

In all the conversation about military spouses and taxes and drivers’ licenses and such, one topic just baffles me:  why do military families keep the non-military spouse on the titles and registrations to their vehicles?  Or, I guess more accurately, why do military families who are not domiciled in the same state keep the non-military spouse on the title and registrations to their vehicles?

Because of the protections of the Servicemembers’ Civil Relief Act (SCRA), active duty military folks are permitted to keep their vehicles titled and registered in the state where they are domiciled.  While the Military Spouses Residency Relief Act (MSRRA) provides similar benefits to military spouses, it only applies to situations where the active duty spouse and the non-serving spouse share the same domicile.  My very brief and non-scientific survey indicates that roughly half of the military families share the same domicile.   Having the military spouse’s name on the vehicle title and/or registration means that the vehicle must be registered in the state where you are actually living.  (*Note:  some states will permit the out-of-state registration with just one eligible party on the title and/or registration.  Your mileage may vary.)    Having the military spouse’s name on the vehicle title and/or registration can also result in a bill for personal property taxes.

When I got married, way back in the dinosaur ages before MSRRA was enacted, one of the first things I did was “sell” my car to my husband.  This meant that it could be registered in his domiciled state, so we didn’t have to change the registration with every move, and we didn’t have to pay property taxes on it in the state where we were posted.

I’m sure there are 100 good reasons why a military family might want to keep a vehicle titled and/or registered in both names, or in just the name of the non-serving spouse, but I can’t think of any of them.  Can y’all help me out?  I’m suspecting we’ll all learn a few things along the way.

About the Author

Kate Horrell
Kate Horrell is a military financial coach, mom of four teens, and Navy spouse. She has a background in taxes and mortgage banking, and a trove of experience helping other military families with their money. Follow her on twitter @realKateHorrell.
  • Kate

    Good reason! You are so much more estate-savvy than I am, and we need to hear this stuff.

  • that is great .