My project car isn't ready for the road. But what do I need to do? | Ask the DMV

Q: I recently purchased a 1969 "project car." The car is many years away from being roadworthy, as it needs lots of body work, it isn't running, has no interior, etc.

I was given a bill of sale but nothing else as far as paperwork (no title or previous registration). The VIN number is still intact.

Do I need to do anything at this point for the DMV, such as paying taxes, etc., since I will not be registering it anytime soon? Will I be able to even register it without a previous registration?

I — and the guy I got it from — have no idea how many people this project has gone through since it was last registered.

— Glenn

A: One of the requirements to register a vehicle is “Proof of Previous Ownership,” which is generally the old registration for vehicles 2000 and older and a title for any vehicle 2001 and newer. If the vehicle was previously registered in Rhode Island, you can obtain a “Registration Inquiry” from our Research Office or at the time of doing the registration or tax-only transaction. This is only good if the vehicle was previously registered in Rhode Island and the seller can not provide their previous registration for that vehicle. They will check the VIN in our computer system to see if it was previously registered in Rhode Island to the seller.

You do not have to register the vehicle immediately, especially if you need time to repair it. However, customers are required to remit sales tax payments to the state in a timely manner. If sales tax is not paid by the 20th of the month following the month in which the sale took place, you may incur additional costs because of interest and penalty charges added to your base sales tax bill. For example, if your bill of sale is dated July 26, 2020, your sales tax would be due on or before Aug. 20, 2020. If it is not paid on or before that date, interest and penalty charges would accrue.

Sales tax can also be paid prior to registration and/or titling at the Rhode Island Division of Taxation.

If you are not able to visit the DMV in a timely manner to get your vehicle registered and remit sales tax to the DMV prior to the tax due date, you can contact the Division of Taxation excise tax section to pay your tax directly before the due date to avoid the penalties and interest.

The excise tax section can be reached at (401) 574-8955 or All of this information, and more, is on our website ( in the “Registration, Plates & Titles” tab.

You indicated that the vehicle is a 1969 model. Vehicles 30 years and older have the following requirements:

  • Private Party: Sales tax is 7% of NADA Clean Retail book value or CPI Book value or purchase price, whichever is greater.

  • Any vehicles on CPI list on private sales will be based on Book Value or Purchase Price, whichever is higher.

  • Cars of Particular Interests (CPI) (This list can be viewed through the link on our website and is for certain brands/makes and models.)

Our website has all the forms needed to pay sales tax and/or register this vehicle: a completed application for registration (TR-1 form) and a sales use tax form/sales or use tax exemption form.

Other documents needed for this transaction are a bill of sale or gift letter (must be notarized if not an immediate family member), an Identity document (i.e. driver's license), proof of residency (RI driver's license), and active RI insurance. We have a registration checklist on our website if you want to print it out. If you print out the TR-1 form, a registration checklist will also print out.

Chuck Hollis
Chuck Hollis

Chuck Hollis is assistant administrator of the Rhode Island Division of Motor Vehicles. Please email your questions to with “Ask the DMV” in the subject field.

This article originally appeared on The Providence Journal: What paperwork is required for my 1969 project car? | Ask the RI DMV