Motor Vehicles - General Information

All Rhode Island residents who own and register a motor vehicle or trailer must annually pay a motor vehicle excise tax. The excise tax is levied by the city/town where the vehicle is/are principally garaged.

The motor vehicle excise tax is a tax on the privilege of registration and is based on the number of days each vehicle or trailer was registered during the preceding year.

The value for excise tax purposes is mandated by Rhode Island General Law and is determined by the Rhode Island Vehicle Value Commission (RIGL 44-34-9 & 11). This determination is made using the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) Used Car Guide and other recognized pricing guides. The average retail value is used and condition, mileage or so-called market value of individual vehicles is not a consideration in determining value for excise tax purposes.

In the late 1990’s, the State of Rhode Island initiated a phase-out of the Motor Vehicle Excise Tax. However, for fiscal year 2011, the State passed legislation decreasing the exemption from the first $6,000 of value to only the first $500 of value.

If a vehicle is sold and not replaced, the registration must be cancelled and the plates returned to the Division of motor Vehicles (DMV). If for any reason you no longer have a vehicle (sold, stolen, damaged, donated etc) or you moved out of state and you do not return the plates to the DMV, or if you simply allow the registration to expire, the vehicle continues to be taxed. At the time of cancellation, the Registry issues a TR-3 form “Cancellation of plates receipt.” Retain this document as it is your only proof that the plates were cancelled. When a registration is properly cancelled, the taxes for that registration will stop as of the date of cancellation.

All address changes must be made through the Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV). If you do not change your address with the DMV you may not receive your tax bill for your vehicle. RIGL 31-3-4 requires you to notify the DMV within 10 days of a change of address. It is your responsibility to ensure that you are paying local taxes on your vehicle, regardless of you receiving a tax bill (RIGL 44-7-7). If you become delinquent on your taxes you will not be able to renew your registration without obtaining a stamp from the Tax Collector clearing the registration for renewal. Once delinquent, taxes must be paid in full with interest (RIGL 44-5-8).