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Old 24 Jul 2006
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Question UK Registration Plates in USA

I'm looking to export a car temporarily to western states of the USA for a period of approx. 4 months.
What are the legalities of driving in the US with UK registration plates & road tax displayed?
I've heard that some of the local state troopers are likely to pull me over because they don't recognise UK plates. Is this true and if so what would you recommend?

All advice gratefully appreciated.

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Old 24 Jul 2006
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It shouldn't be a problem. I've lived and ridden in the western US for over 30 years. I have seen many European plates, mostly German and UK during that time. So the highway police have probably seen them before.

The problem may be with a small town local policeman. Just show him your license and registration (road tax). Be sure they're current and paid up and there should be no problem. As least we speak, somewhat, the same language.

I don't know the time frame of your registration documents but in the US most of them are annual starting in any month. And our system of writing dates is backwards from yours. This means that if your registration is ending on 1/12/06 you will need to explain to the officer that it means the 1st of December and not January 12th, as he will read it, and assume it is expired.

Come and have fun.

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Old 25 Jul 2006
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As I live next to the border with Mexico, I see many Mexican plated cars on the US side. The next time I make a run for cigarettes or medicine or cheap tequila, I will ask the customs agent how this process works. Have you asked one of the many auto shippers about the laws?

BTW, I was just in the L.A. region last week, and I saw a BMW Z4 with, what looked like British plates. (I do know the difference between GB and German plates, and these looked definitely British as I know they weren't US or Mexican)
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Old 25 Jul 2006
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information from customs

The US Customs website has the specific information you are looking for.


-MOTORISTS VISITING THE UNITED STATES as tourists from countries that have ratified the Convention on International Road Traffic of 1949 may drive in the U.S. for one year with their own national license plates (registration tags) on their own national license plates (registration tags) on their cars and with their own personal drivers’ licenses.
Japan touring information
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Old 25 Jul 2006
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Thanks for all your advice.

I'm being told that for my purposes I need a temporary registration plate. Fortunately, I have links with a manufacturer who can source temporary manufacturer plates for my visit. However, it seems crazy that I can drive around with a UK front plate and temporary US rear plate! Now that *must* be confusing to the police!

Thanks again,
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Old 25 Jul 2006
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Originally Posted by rafterman
I'm being told that for my purposes I need a temporary registration plate.
You really don´t need a temp. manufacturer plate unless the car hasn´t been road registered yet in the UK. So unless you drive a pre production prototype you´ll be fine with the regular registration.

Originally Posted by rafterman
However, it seems crazy that I can drive around with a UK front plate and temporary US rear plate! Now that *must* be confusing to the police!
Actually it wont be all that confusing. Lots of States do not require a front license plate. You can put whatever you want instead of the front plate! Lot´s of people put a European plate on the front of their car (eg. a German plate on a Beemer).

Oh and don´t worry about State Troopers or local cops too much. If they pull you over, just be polite and explain the situation. Show them all your documents are in order and they will let you go in no time. I´ve found American cops to be friendly and cooperative. Never had any trouble no matter what plate was on my bike, car or truck. Just make sure you stay in the car until THE COP tells you to come out
Everytime people see me it´s a KODAK moment!

Last edited by Dirk Taalman; 25 Jul 2006 at 13:41.
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Old 25 Jul 2006
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You've missed something here.....

I don't believe entering the USA with UK plates will be any sort of problem
and local police won't care about them.

BUT.....what they DO care about is INSURANCE. My guess is any sort of
"international" insurance you can show will suffice. But you WILL NEED to show them something. Anything really. If its foriegn looking it should be OK.

There is a chance you may have to buy local, USA based auto/bike insurance
if you can't show proper insurance at the border. This will be BAD. As a NON
US resident the rates will be very high.

So even if you have to fabricate something, you will need proof of insurance.

Good luck. I'm sure others know more about this. Ask LoisontheLoose. She learned this lesson the hard way IIRC.

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Old 25 Jul 2006
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Just to confirm the above based on my experience: I rode for months in the US on UK plates. No problem.

The US, being the world's top dog and generally setting the terms of international trade, has a very open vehicle import-export regime.

Personally, I would think long ad hard about cheating on insurance in a western country, and, well, decide against. It is a serious matter - unlike most of the the poor world where insurance is meaningless. I carried fake insurance documents in S America, but wouldn't dream of it north of Mexico.

There are some specialist insurers who will insure non-residents - links on the paperwork section of this website I believe - for not too much money. Compared to UK everywhere's insurance is cheap.

Simon Kennedy
Around the world 2000-2004, on a 1993 Honda Transalp
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Old 23 Aug 2006
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Just returned from a 3 month 15,000 mile motorcycle trip around the US. UK registration plates? Absolutely no problems at all. Insurance? Fernet Insurance Brokers, 4407 Vineland Road, Suite D-6, Orlando, FL 32811 (email info@ferret.com)

What's the problem?
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Old 24 Aug 2006
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A Police Officer's perspective (North Carolina). You're fine with UK plates and registration. Temp plates and the like are only needed if you set up permanent residence in a state. Each state has a different time allotment. As a tourist, no time limit. Please have current insurance. Failure can be a huge issue. In some states, your vehicle will be seized with heavy fines until the problem is corrected. Many areas, especially border states, have vehicle checkpoints from time to time. In the area I work, we have continuous checks at alternating checkpoints. You'll have to produce copies of operators’ license, registration and proof of current insurance. Your passport with entry stamp will validate your tourist status. Patience and a smile will get you through any checks.
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Old 24 Aug 2006
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Road tax & registration are somewhat different for a UK bike.

The registration is the V5 document, showing who is the 'registered keeper', or in other words the owner of the doormat that the speeding tickets land on.

Road tax is something you have to buy in order to 'use' the roads in the UK, but here's the catch, you can buy that after producing a MoT certificate (UK safety inspection) and proof of insurance.

So, would US insurance & the registration document be enough to ride there legally or is something else needed as well ?
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Old 24 Aug 2006
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Thumbs up

In short, yes. I did get my old paper driving licence changed for a 'credit card' style one and this is really important. Checking in at motels required production of the credit car AND a photo I/D. My VEL (tax disc) did run out just as I was about to leave for the US in May so I contacted Swansea and was told that the bike must be fully road legal in ANY country. Well I didn't get the bike taxed as as I understand it road tax is intended to go some way towards maintaining UK roads and i would be on US roads. Also as a retired Police Officer I couldn't see any US Police Officer having a clue about a UK tax disc. Evene if he did, what offence would I be committing stateside?
I did have problems with a visa in that I was a bit casual about arranging my flights. I knew I wanted to be there for three months and it was much later that I discovered that my flights were 94 days apart and that anything over 90 days required a visa, and that required a personal visit to the US Embassy in London, a 5 1/2hr wait and about £60.
Other than that, getting a bike into and travelling around the US was an absolute delight. Wonderful roads, very cheap petrol by our standards, and the nicest of people.
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