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Military Vehicle Registration in Texas

Timothy Smith has provided his experiences with the registration requirements in Texas:

The Texas transportation code (which is our traffic law) is the source for the information of this text. Former Military Vehicle under the financial responsibility law below has this meaning: a vehicle that has been, but is not currently used by the armed forces of a national government and displays markings indicating it was a military vehicle.

Financial Responsibility

While 601.051A states that a person may not operate in this state without proof of financial responsibility (i.e. insurance or other prescribed forms such as surety bonds, self-insurance, etc to protect in cases of liability arising out of an accident), 601.052a1A provides that 601.051does not apply to the operation of a vehicle that is a former millitary vehicle or (note: this said "or" and not "and") is at least 25 years old. The legislature saw fit to place a caveat on this, however. 601.052a1B goes on to say that this exception to the insurance requirement applies only if the vehicle's use is limited to exhibitions, club activities, parades, and other functions of public interest and not for regular transportation -and- 601.052a1C for which the owner files with the department an affidavit signed by the owner, stating that the vehicle is a collector's item and used only as described.

Let me comment on this law. As simple as it seems on its face, it leaves a great deal to interpretation. For example, the law could be so closely construed as to mean that if the owner were driving his weapons carrier downtown to participate in the local parade that he would be using it for regular transportation and only during the time that he was actually participating in the parade would he be excepted from the requirements of 601.051A. This would be how I would interpret this law. Take note that the law said "use is limited to" (the exhibition, the club activities, the parade, etc) but nothing is said about to & from. Bottom line is that insurance is always a good idea and I would suggest that MV owners be encouraged to protect their investment in that way whenever possible.

Registration Procedures

502.152 Certificate of title is required for registration. The new owner must obtain a certificate of title for the vehicle he is registering or present a title demonstrating the vehicle is already owned by him. As many of us are getting our old military vehicles out of farmer's fields with nothing more than (and never should we get less than) a receipt, let me say that Texas and every other state in the union has procedures in place to help new owners get a title even if the old title is lost and even if the seller bought it 40 years ago and never transferred the title to his name. Since there are so many circumstances, the first stop for the new owner to look into getting a title for his former military vehicle is the local tax office where he would go to get his vehicle registered. They will look at the situation and tell the new owner what to do.

The requirement for certificate of title does not apply to an automobile that was purchased new before Jan 1, 1936. This would not apply to former military vehicles since we always get them used.

502.153a Basically, proof of financial responsibility is required under 601.051 (see my first message to you) then in order to register your former military vehicle (for other than the limited uses prescribed in 601.052) a person would have to have proof before he would be allowed to register the vehicle. If he's prepared to sign the affidavit stating he will only use the vehicle in the limited capacities set forth in 601.052, this is when he'll be doing it..when he registers the vehicle, and then no proof is required.

502.156 A statement is required for rebuilt vehicles. In an application for registration on a rebuilt vehicle a person must provide a statement that the vehicle is rebuilt and it must also state the name of each person from whom the parts used in assembling the vehicle were obtained. (Receipts and phone numbers as additional documentation are an excellent addition to the statement.) Rebuilt is different from restored. Parts that you replace during the course of a restoration such as shocks, wheels, bumpers, etc have no serial numbers and swapping them out does not significantly alter the identity of the vehicle. But if a person replaces a body tub on a jeep for example, or swaps out an engine, transmission, especially any major component with a serial number (not parts number castings) then we are talking about rebuilding.

502.275 Requirement to display registration. 502.275k says a former military vehicle operated on a public highway is not required to display license plates or registration if proof of current registration for the vehicle in the form prescribed by the department is carried in the vehicle and the vehicle displays in a prominent location of the vehicle a registration mark prescribed by the department. 502.275l says the department shall allow the use of a unique indentification mark on a former military vehicle that is similar to the mark assigned by the armed forces in which the vehicle was used. If such a mark is not used, the department shall designate a registration mark for the vehicle. A registration mark designated by the department must consist of numbers or letters or both numbers and letters that are at least two inches high. 502.275m says to the extent possible the location and design of a registration mark for a former military vehicle registered under this section must conform to the vehicle's official military design and markings. In this section, "former military vehicle" means a vehicle including a trailer, regardless of the vehicle's size, weight, or year of manufacture that was manufactured for use in any country's military forces and is maintained to accurately represent its military design and markings. (I love the guys who wrote this law!)

Note: Texas Transportation Code 502.275 was repealed in 2003 and replaced by 504.502. That change retains the special treatment for former military vehicles.


548.051 requires that most vehicles operated in this state are required to have an annual inspection. BUT

548.052 Vehicles not subject to inspection includes a former military vehicle (defined as above.)

Well, that's about it! It's a good thing too, because I really want to go outside and do some more work on my 1943 WC54 ambulance!

If you have any questions, just send me a note and I'll get back to you as soon as I can.

T.J. Smith

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