Driving in Massachusetts


Massachusetts Driver's License 

According to Massachusetts law, a newly arrived immigrant or a foreign visitor may drive for up to one year on a home country driver's license. Visitors may drive on an international driver's license as long as it is valid. However, you should carry your passport with you at all times when driving on a home country or international driver's license because many police officers are not familiar with these licenses and will need proof of your identity. Therefore, it is probably wise to obtain a Massachusetts driver's license as soon as it is convenient. 

Each state in the United States has its own regulations regarding obtaining a driver's license, but once you obtain a license from any state it is valid for driving in all 50 states. However, if you move to another state, it is necessary to get a license from that state. The age for getting a driver's license varies from state to state, but normally the range is between 16 and 18. 

In Massachusetts there are several steps involved in obtaining a driver's license. The first step is to obtain a learner's permit, which requires an eye examination for field of vision and basic color. A written test on Motor Vehicle Laws is also required. The Registry of Motor Vehicles publishes a document titled Driver's License Manual, which contains the information required by the examination. This information and the test are available in several languages. If necessary, a spoken test in English can be arranged. There is a fee for the application and processing of a learner's permit.


To prepare for the Learner's Permit test, you can take free online practice exams here. Once you have a learner's permit, you are permitted to drive only when a licensed driver, 18 years of age or older, is sitting beside you in the front seat. Other restrictions are written on the front of the permit. Be sure to read the permit carefully.

A person must be at least 16 years old before they can apply for a learner's permit, 16  years for a junior operator's license and 18 years old for a driver's license. An application must be obtained at a local registry office and completed carefully. An appointment must be made for the road test and can be scheduled by telephone. For an appointment call 1-800-858-3926 between 9:00 am and 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday. Or, you can go online to schedule the road test on this page: https://www.mass.gov/how-to/schedule-your-road-test.


You are able to obtain a driver’s license regardless of immigration status with the Work and Family Mobility Act (WFMA). You can call their help line at 857-368-9362 with any questions. This is available in multiple languages.


Seat-Belt and Child-Safety-Seat Laws

Massachusetts requires that all children be restrained in an appropriate child safety seat at all times when riding in an automobile until they are 8 years old or over 57 inches tall. The appropriate seat for a child is determined by the child's weight and is written on the child seat or on the carton at the store. All drivers and passengers must wear seat belts. It is the law in Massachusetts.


What to Do in an Accident 

If you are involved in an accident, there are several steps you should take. You must notify police and the Registry of Motor Vehicles if anyone is hurt or if there is property damage of more that $1,000 in Massachusetts. Police officers called to the scene can assist you in filing the necessary report. Do not leave this type of accident without identifying yourself- it is against the law. 

It is a good idea to report any accident to the police, since estimating the cost of repairs is difficult. Whenever you have a car accident you should write down the following information: date and location of accident, make and color of other car; registration (license plate) number and state of other car; name, address, telephone number of other driver; other driver's insurance company, driver's license number, and state; name and address of all witnesses; and name and address of injured persons.

You also should provide this information to the other driver. Be careful not to make any statements to anyone except a police officer about what happened. Stay calm, be polite and don't argue. Arguing doesn't help and might make the situation worse. 

Contact your insurance agent promptly. They will be able to explain what your insurance company will pay according to what you purchased with your policy.


What to Do if Stopped by the Police 

If you drive through a red light or are driving too fast, a police officer might try to stop you. They do this by driving behind you with their roof lights flashing, flashing their headlights, or using their siren. You should pull over to the side of the road as soon as it is safe to do so. If you are stopped by a police officer you should stay in your car and wait for the officer to come to you. 

The officer will ask you to show your driver's license and the car registration. The law requires that you have these with you when you drive. If these are not available, you will be asked for the identification. 

Under no circumstances should you reach for your wallet or offer the officer money. This is called "offering a bribe" and you could be arrested. 

Owning an Automobile in Massachusetts

Registry of Motor Vehicles

Registry of Motor Vehicles
All automobiles must be registered with the Massachusetts Department of Motor Vehicles before they can be driven. For a fee, the registry registers the title of the car and issues a license plate. You must have proof of purchase of the car and proof of insurance with you.


Automobile Insurance 

In Massachusetts and in most other states automobile insurance is required. You must purchase your insurance before you can register your car and obtain license plates. You can buy automobile insurance from any private insurance agent. Friends and relatives are often a good source for names of insurance agents.

Massachusetts Automobile Excise Tax 

If you own a car you will be taxed once a year by your town on the "book" value of the car. Tax bills will be sent in the mail. You can pay this bill by mail to the address on the bill or pay at your Town Hall in the Tax Collector's Office.

Used Car "Lemon Law"

The Massachusetts Lemon Law protects buyers from bad used cars. When purchasing a used car, you must get the car inspected within 7 days from the date of sale (stickers previously attached to a windshield of a used car are not transferable to the new owner). If the car fails the safety inspection and if the repairs will cost more than 10% of the purchase price, you have the right to a full refund of the purchase price from the seller. In order to obtain the refund, the car must be returned to the seller within 14 days from the date of the sale with certain documents. This law applies to both private sales and dealer sales. Mass. Gen. Law Chapter 90, Section 7N-1/4; online at https://malegislature.gov/Laws/GeneralLaws/PartI/TitleXIV/Chapter90/Section7N.

Used car buyers purchasing a vehicle over $700 from a dealer are entitled to a warranty covering all parts and labor or safety defects according to the mileage on the odometer from 30 to 90 days. Before you can get a refund under the Used Car Lemon Law, you must give the dealer three repair attempts for the same defect or the car must be out of service for 11 days. (Mass. Gen. Law Chapter 90, Section 7N-1/4) 

Car Repairs

When your car needs to be repaired, you should get one or more estimates of the cost from repair shops. When you agree to have a repair done, you must be informed if the repair is going to cost more than $10 above the original estimate. All repairs must be warranted against poor workmanship. 

Automobile Emergency Services

Automobile emergency services are membership organizations that provide road service in cases of emergencies, as well as other programs and services. The best known of these is AAA, American Automobile Association.



March 2024