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Montana Snowmobile Registration

With over 4,000 miles of groomed trails, Montana is the perfect place for taking out your snowmobile. The trails are groomed by local clubs or the chambers of commerce with grant money provided by Montana State Parks.

If you’re looking to buy or just bought a snowmobile in Montana, the next step is to get your vehicle registered. But besides just the registration process, snowmobile owners must also secure trail permits and passes, have the proper security certifications, and be aware of Montana’s snowmobile Laws and Regulations. 

Read on to find out more about registering your snowmobile in Montana.

Registration for Residents and Non-residents

The snowmobile registration process in Montana varies slightly for residents and non-residents. But in general, all snowmobiles operating on public lands must be registered, and they must display the decals in a conspicuous space on the left side of the cowling. Note that the single permanent decal for snowmobiles is white and includes the abbreviation “PERM.” 

Snowmobile Registration for Montana Residents 

Residents of Montana must register their snowmobiles with the county treasurer’s office. It is a one-time registration that stays valid until the current owner sells the snowmobile.

Resident Trail Pass

To legally ride on any of Montana’s 4,000 miles of groomed snowmobile trails, residents must also acquire a Resident Trail Pass. 

These Trail Passes cover all mechanized equipment, including snowmobiles, motorized snow bikes, and fat-tire pedal bikes. Trail Passes are valid for two seasons and cost $20. 

Non-residents Registration 

Nonresidents who want to ride their snowmobiles or motorized snow bikes in Montana must buy a Snowmobile Nonresident Temporary Use Permit, which costs $35 for each machine.

Non-residents who want to ride groomed trails using mechanical equipment (such as fat tire bikes or e-bikes) don’t need to register their vehicle in Montana. But they must acquire a Non-resident Groomed Trail Pass for $35 per bike. These passes are valid for two seasons, after which you must renew them. 

Purchasing a Permit or Trail Pass

All Trail Passes in Montana are available seasonally from October to April.You can acquire a permit or trail pass in the following ways:

  • Apply Online: If you wish to purchase your Resident Trail Pass or Non-resident Snowmobile Permit online, you can do it through the Online Licensing System.

  • Purchase from Vendors: You can also buy a Nonresident Temporary Use Permit or a Resident Trail Pass from any vendor in Montana, Idaho, Washington, or Wyoming.

Registration Costs

According to the Montana Department of Justice, under  § 61-3-321(11)(a), MCA, except for those owned by companies that rent snowmobiles, all other snowmobiles must be permanently registered.

Snowmobiles used solely for rental purposes may be registered annually for the first two years, after which they must be registered permanently. The corresponding fees for both types of registrations are as follows:

Fee Year Amount
Flat fee – Personal use N/A $60.50
Business rental use 1st
2nd
3rd (permanent registration required)
$40.50
$20.00
$60.50

Note that the fees stated are subject to a 3% Administrative Fee when a transaction is conducted.

You can buy a snowmobile in a Montana LLC and register it with the Montana DMV without paying sales tax. For snowmobiles, the Montana DMV charges a flat cost of $60.50 per year.

If you own a snowmobile rental company, registration is $40.50 for the first vehicle and $20.00 for the second. After the third snowmobile, you must register them permanently at the above-mentioned permanent fee.

Buying snowmobiles in a Montana LLC is an appealing approach to avoid sales tax if you’re a snowmobile outfitter. Furthermore, suppose you already have an LLC or corporation in your home state. In that case, you can hire a company that provides Montana LLC vehicle registration services to register your foreign LLC or foreign corporation to do business in Montana and thus buy snowmobiles tax-free.

Montana LLC Vehicle Registration Services

Hiring a full-service Montana LLC vehicle registration service can cover your LLC formation, titling services, and the first year of DMV fees. After the first year, you’ll be required to pay the DMV directly unless you’re getting permanent plates.

If you choose this approach, the cost for registration only (including UPS delivery for your registration and plates to your mailing address) could be around $549 for Vehicle/RV Registrations. You can also save $100 on each additional vehicle after the first two.

If you want to register your vehicle in a Montana LLC, there is an additional $300 charge (unless your vehicle or RV qualifies for Montana’s luxury tax, in which case you will be required to pay that as well). Moreover, the state charges an $800 – $825 luxury tax on vehicles with an original MSRP at or above $150,000 and RVs with an original MSRP at or above $300,000.

The total costs to create the MT LLC, register your vehicle, and receive your license plates at your address could be around $849. Hiring LLC registration service providers can simplify the process and lower your registration costs in the long run.

The agency will send the plates, registration, and new Montana title straight to you once you place an order with any LLC registration service providers. You will have to pay the DMV directly after your first year of registration. The renewals for the license plates will be sent to you by the registration service provider, or if you provide your mailing address, they will send the renewals directly to you. 

Though you always have the option to complete your DMV paperwork yourself, you can also renew your plates online with the Montana Motor Vehicle Division.

Laws and Regulations

Beyond the snowmobile registration process itself, there are several laws and regulations riders must follow in Montana. These include:

General Snowmobiling Laws

MCA 23-2-6 defines the rules for operating a snowmobile in Montana as:

  • Operating at Night: When operating during any hour between dusk and dawn, a snowmobile must keep the headlight and taillight lit.

  • Accidents: Any snowmobile owner or operator involved in an accident, collision, or upset in which a person is injured or killed must immediately report the accident to the nearest law enforcement agency.

  • Firearms: A person may not discharge a firearm from or upon a snowmobile.

Laws for Road Riding

MCA 23-2-631 states that snowmobiles are allowed to operate on maintained streets, roads, or highways only for the following conditions:

  • Other motor vehicles are unable to proceed because the roadway has been drifted or covered by snow to such an extent;

  • The local government allows snowmobiles to travel on plowed roads with wheeled vehicles.

  • The snowmobile operator must have a valid driver’s license or a snowmobile safety certificate and, if underage, must be accompanied by an adult.

Groomed Trail Pass

Each snowmobile must be permanently registered, and residents must have a $37.50 groomed Trail Pass that is valid for life. 

The state has designated groomed trails open to snowmobiling, and riders are responsible for knowing which sections are off-limits. Only a few Montana communities allow snowmobiles to be driven through town. 

Regulations Concerning Age

Snowmobiling laws in Montana state that a valid driver’s license is required for riders aged 16 and over. Riders under the age of 15 must have a current snowmobile educational certificate and be accompanied by an adult aged 18 years and above.

Safety Regulations 

In Montana, all persons who do not possess a valid driver’s license must take a Montana-Approved Snowmobile Safety Course and obtain a snowmobile safety certificate when riding on public lands. Riders under the age of 16 are also required to be under the direct supervision of a licensed adult.

Resident snowmobilers and non-residents alike can acquire safety certification through safety education courses.

Online Safety Education Course

Riders without a valid driver’s license must pass a Montana-approved snowmobile safety course for riding on public lands.

The Montana Snowmobile Safety Course is available online. The courses are self-paced, with a final test after the training. You will be able to print a temporary certificate after passing the certification exam, and your permanent card will be issued to you within a few weeks. The course has a small price. However, the certificate has no expiration date.

Non-Resident Snowmobile Safety Education Certificates

Non-residents can find a snowmobile course near them by contacting their respective state snowmobile organization or the agency in charge of their state’s snowmobile education program. Montana accepts official safety certificates from other states as well.

Avalanche Safety

If you are going to access the backcountry in any western state, you must learn about and ensure the right avalanche gear and precautions. Snow conditions are constantly changing, and it is the rider’s prime responsibility to check the conditions before taking out their snowmobiles.

It is your responsibility to know and observe the set laws and regulations to meet the state’s security standards and to guarantee a safe riding experience for yourself and others. The regulations stated above are just a summary of the rules; however, you should consult the County Treasurer’s Office, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, US Forest Service offices and ranger stations, and other state and county government sources for more information.

Conclusion 

Snowmobile’s popularity has been increasing in recent times. Data from Snowmobile.org shows that the winter of 20-21 reported excellent snow conditions in some of North America, which boosted the snowmobile community, manufacturers, dealers, and suppliers. This season, worldwide sales grew to 133,444 units sold, a 10% increase from last year. There were 59,234 new snowmobiles sold in the US alone, which is the highest since 2008.

There are over 1.3 million registered snowmobiles in the US, with the number of registrations up over 70,000 in the past season. And the registration numbers continue to steadily increase, showing that snowmobiling persists as an active, growing, healthy winter sport. 

So now is as good a time as any to purchase a snowmobile. And suppose you are looking to get your snowmobile registered in Montana. In that case, there are many different approaches to take- from getting a permanent resident’s permit to applying for a nonresident pass or hiring an LLC registration service provider. But whichever registration process applies to you, following the state snowmobile laws and regulations is of utmost importance.