Building a trailer is a massive undertaking, and it’s important to know how to register your trailer so that it’s legal to drive once you’re done.
Here are the steps you need to take to get a title for a homemade trailer, which includes:
- Complete and sign the appropriate license plate forms.
- Draft a written statement describing the trailer’s construction/acquisition, including invoices and receipts for the parts used to build it.
- Provide proof of prior ownership, if applicable.
- Weigh your vehicle.
- Provide an original bill of sale, if applicable.
- Take photos of all four sides of the trailer fully assembled, including the hitch.
- Get insurance, if applicable.
- Submit these items in person to your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles.
- Receive your title and registration 2-4 weeks later.
Table of Contents
Do I Need to Get a Title and Registration?
If you haven’t built your trailer yet, then it’s imperative to review state guidelines before you proceed; otherwise, you might build a trailer that cannot be street legal.
Each state differs on their requirements, but in general, your trailer will need a title if it’s over a certain weight, although some states don’t require titles or registration at all, even for homemade ones.
The title and registration are both important. The title is a legal document denoting ownership, while the registration certifies that the trailer is street legal. If you are getting a title, you are almost certainly registering the vehicle, too.
Texas, for example, requires trailers over 4,000 pounds to be registered. The quickest way to find out about your state’s laws is to contact the Department of Motor Vehicles. They can provide you in-depth guidelines on whether your trailer needs to be titled and how you can begin the process.
When you register your vehicle, you will need to provide proof of your identity and apply for a Vehicle Identification Number, which will be unique to your trailer.
In some states, you’ll need to undergo an inspection. Similar guidelines apply for titling your homemade trailer.
How to Title Your Trailer
Weigh Your Trailer
Once you’ve determined your state’s laws, you’ll need to weigh your trailer. Take your empty trailer to a car weighing station. Drive over the station, detach your car, and drive it off the scale.
Then, the scale can accurately record your trailer’s weight. The following locations might have scales you can use to weigh your trailer:
- Local car garages
- Body shops
- Cat Scales
Be sure to keep the weight slip you receive afterward; you’ll need to submit this alongside your application.
Remember, if your trailer is less than 3,000 pounds, some states may not require you to title your trailer at all; moreover, if you don’t need a weight slip as part of your application, the DMV may allow you to estimate the trailer’s weight based on its construction materials.
Have a Safety Inspection Performed
To register your vehicle (or in some cases, title it), most states require a safety inspection. These inspections are inexpensive, about $10-20, although an inspector may charge extra for their services.
You can again rely on the DMV for up-to-date information on certification, as some states have different standards. Trailer inspections, for example, may need to be conducted by a DMV official or local transport official.
In states without strict guidelines, a garage or body shop is acceptable. Not only is a safety inspection necessary to make your trailer street legal, it’s a practical step to ensure your trailer isn’t a hazard to you or anyone else on the road.
Describe the Construction Process
You will need to submit a written statement explaining how the trailer was built or acquired. So, if you make it yourself, you’ll need to note what tools you used, how you began construction, and so on.
If you bought it, you’ll need to provide a written statement outlining the purchase process and, if applicable, how the prior owner constructed the trailer.
In some states, you’ll only need to provide a general summary of your process; in others, you’ll need a Statement of Ownership form, which you will fill out to the best of your knowledge.
The DMV may require this form to be notarized, which can cost $25-40, although some businesses and services may do it for free.
Read also >> How to Sell an RV Without a Title (Explained)
Next, you’ll want to take photographs of all sides of the trailer. In some cases, you’ll only need photos of the front and back, but there’s no harm in taking plenty of photos from all angles so that you don’t get held up on the titling process.
After all, you should be proud of your hard work! Print and attach these photos to your application if required by your DMV.
Apply for Insurance
Trailer insurance may be mandatory if you want to get a title, although not in all states. Ask your current agent whether bundling is an option or whether you need to get a separate policy.
It’s prudent to keep a copy of your weight slip, safety inspection results, and material bills; your insurance agent may need them to complete the appropriate application.
Sign the Forms
Once you’ve completed your inspection, snapped some photos, weighed your trailer, written down the construction process, and gotten the prerequisite insurance, you’ll need to complete some additional forms. These include, but may not be limited to:
- An Application for Title and Registration of a Vehicle
- Proof of ownership
- VIN application
As you’re probably beginning to understand, states have different requirements for the application and may have additional forms specific to homemade trailers.
Submit Your Application
Once everything is completed according to your local DMV guidelines, you’re ready to submit your application for title and registration.
In the majority of cases, you’ll go in person to the DMV office, and a representative will walk you through the process. There’s typically a fee, somewhere between $20-40 to register your fee, and getting a plate can cost anywhere from $20 to $200.
If your application is approved, you’ll receive your official title and registration in the mail; in the interim, you may receive temporary documents that allow you to use your trailer as normal, as long as you carry them with you.
Once you’ve got your documentation, file it accordingly and fit your license plate on the back of your trailer.
Learn More Through the DMV
As with all motor vehicle requirements, the most accurate source of information is the DMV itself. The guidelines for each and every step listed in this process may differ significantly depending on where you live, so it’s always sensible to follow up by visiting the DMV website for your state and reviewing their guidelines for homemade trailers.
You can also locate your nearest DMV office directly from your state’s DMV website, and, if you give them a call, they will be more than happy to outline the requirements to register and title your vehicle.
The process of titling your trailer is complex. There’s no way to sugarcoat it. Still, the process certainly isn’t as difficult as building the trailer itself.
If you’re just starting the build, be sure to keep a detailed log of your materials, purchases, and method; you’ll need them later.
State requirements for titling a trailer are vastly different depending on the state, but in general, you will need to weigh your trailer, have it inspected, take photos of it, fill out the appropriate application forms, and pay the appropriate fees to legally title and register your homemade trailer.
Have you ever wondered how to sell an RV without a title? Well, look no more. We´ve got you covered. While Recreational Vehicles (RVs) are perfect for revolutionizing travel, if you are done with...
When buying a pop-up camper, some hurdles and hoops must be jumped through before driving away with your new vacation spot. If you purchase an older camper, does it need a title or "pink slip"? Where...