Registering a Car in Puerto Rico

Owning a car is pretty much a requirement in Puerto Rico due to the poor public transportation system on the island. The following answers some common questions about registering a car in Puerto Rico.

Registering a car in Puerto Rico is a lot easier if you first become a legally bonafide resident on the island. This article will describe the vehicle registration process assuming you are already a bonafide resident.

A painting of the PR flag, Red, white, and blue with a single star. Appears to be painted on wood

Can a US Citizen Drive in Puerto Rico?

Yes, all state driver’s licenses are honored in Puerto Rico for a maximum of 90 days. The licenses from other countries are also accepted on the island.

Can I Register my Car in Puerto Rico?

Yes. Expats living on the island can choose to purchase a new car on the island or have their existing car transported by ship to their new home. Either way, the vehicle will need to be registered at the PR Department of Transportation and Public Works (DTOP)

What is Needed to Register a Car in Puerto Rico?

Registering a car on the island requires bonafide residents to have the following documents:

  • A valid PR driver’s license
  • A clean title to the vehicle
  • Excise papers proving import taxes have been paid (if you transported your vehicle to the island)

10 Steps to Registering a Car in Puerto Rico

  1. Obtain a PR driver’s license.
  2. Obtain a clean title to the vehicle.
  3. Obtain private insurance for your vehicle (optional, kinda)
  4. If you had your vehicle transported from the mainland then you paid an import tax. You will need a receipt to prove you paid this tax.
  5. Visit a DTOP office and obtain a blank emissions/inspection test form (“Expedicion Comprobantes de Pago”).
  6. Visit a mechanic’s garage and have them do an emissions test and inspection
  7. Visit a Hacienda (Tax) Office and pay the vehicle registration fee
  8. Take all of the papers and receipts back to the DTOP office
  9. If you do not have private insurance, the DTOP will force you to pay for state-owned liability insurance.
  10. After some more standing in line and more paperwork, you should be handed a registration sticker for your window (called a “marbete”). 

How do I Renew a Car Registration in Puerto Rico?

Registration stickers (marbetes) must be renewed annually in Puerto Rico. The DTOP is not very good at sending reminders so you will need to keep track of the expiration date. To renew your marbete, follow these steps:

  1. Make sure you have your vehicle registration paperwork.
  2. Have your car inspected at a garage.
  3. If you have private insurance, obtain a certificate of insurance from your insurance company. If you do not have private insurance, then the island will add on state-owned liability insurancevto your registration fee.
  4. Visit the DTOP, submit the paperwork and payment, and they will hand you a new sticker.
A photo of a PR Day parade. Several vehicles are driving down the street, all displaying the PR flag

How do I Get License Plates in Puerto Rico?

Follow the 10 Steps to Registering a Car in Puerto Rico to get your marbete (sticker). Plates will come with the sticker. First, you will be given a paper plate and your hard plate will arrive in the mail several weeks later.

How do I Transfer a Car Title in Puerto Rico?

The process of transferring a car title in Puerto Rico is fairly straightforward, though it does require more standing in lines at the DTOP.

  1. The owner and seller should visit a DTOP office together.
  2. While standing in front of the DTOP employee, both parties need to sign the title
  3. The new owner pays a small fee
  4. A new title will be printed in the new owner’s name

Is Auto Insurance Required in Puerto Rico?

Yes, all vehicles registered in Puerto Rico must have insurance. Drivers can purchase a policy through a private insurance company, or drivers can pay the DTOP to receive state-owned liability protection insurance. 

How to Schedule a DTOP Appointment in Puerto Rico?

Simply visit the PR DTOP website and you should see an option to Schedule an Appointment.

Related: 17 Pros and Cons of Retiring in Puerto Rico