Vehicle registration. It’s something we all wish we didn’t have to do, but that few of us could live without doing. Vehicle registration can be complicated, and things only worsen when we start talking about trailers. Then, when we consider that each state has its own rules regarding trailer registration, we might feel like giving up entirely.
But it doesn’t need to be hopelessly complicated. With a little information about your trailer, we will answer registering a trailer in Texas for all types.
When Do You Need to Register Your Trailer?
A ‘trailer’ is any unit that carries cargo or passengers and is towed along behind a motorized vehicle. This includes things like campers, semi-trailers, and utility trailers.
Trailer registration is surprisingly straightforward in Texas. Registration is required for all non-farm trailers operating on public roads, including both manufactured and assembled trailers.
Farm Trailer Registration
What is a ‘farm trailer,’ you ask? A farm trailer requires a special license to qualify as a farm trailer. These trailers can only transport certain types of cargo, such as agricultural products and livestock.
In exchange, these trailers are generally exempt from state inspection requirements. And if one of these trailers weighs less than 4,000 pounds while at capacity, it does not have to be registered.
Do You Need a Title to Register Your Trailer?
Now that we’ve covered registration, it’s time to go back to that original question: “Do you need a title to register a trailer?” A title sometimes referred to as a ‘pink slip,’ is a legal document that certifies that you are the proper owner of a vehicle.
You can think of it as the deed to your vehicle. It prevents vehicle theft and has many legal applications, such as when you put up your car as collateral for a loan.
Note that a title is different from vehicle registration, which simply certifies that your vehicle is allowed to operate on public roads.
What Kind of Trailer Do You Have?
Whether you need a title depends on the type of trailer you have. There are three general categories of trailers in Texas, each with its own rules and regulations.
Manufactured trailers are trailers made by a manufacturing company. Assembled trailers are made at home, or created from discrete components. Finally, there are farm trailers, which have already been discussed above.
If you have recently bought a trailer, and aren’t sure what category it falls into, check the trailer tongue. A manufactured trailer will most likely have the manufacturer’s name printed there.
If the trailer has a license plate, it could also provide a clue as to the trailer type, as farm trailers have unique plates designating them as such. Contact an auto-theft law enforcement officer for help if you are still unsure.
Titling for manufactured trailers is based on gross weight (the trailer’s weight plus its carrying capacity). If the weight is 4,000 pounds or less, titling is optional.
Titling is a requirement, however, if the gross weight is more than 4,000 pounds. And if the gross weight is more than 4,500 pounds, your trailer must also pass an annual safety inspection.
Regardless of gross weight, all newly assembled trailers must have a title along with registration. If a trailer already has a non-titled record or has been registered out of state, then it does not need to be titled. Like manufactured trailers, assembled trailers with a gross weight of more than 4,500 pounds require an annual inspection.
If you have a farm trailer license, you do not need to title your trailer unless its gross weight exceeds 34,000 pounds. Otherwise, titling is optional. Uniquely, farm trailers have no requirements concerning safety inspections.
If a farm trailer does exceed 34,000 pounds in gross weight, it no longer qualifies for a farm trailer license plate and will be treated as a manufactured or assembled trailer.
How to Register and Title Your Trailer in Texas
Applications for titling and registration are submitted to your county tax assessor-collector office. The exact steps required vary depending on the type of trailer. For more in-depth information about the process, contact your local tax office or DMV.
When trying to title or register a manufactured trailer, you will need to provide the following items:
- A completed Application for Texas Title and or Registration (Form 130-U)
- Any applicable fees
- Evidence of ownership
- Weight certificate (possibly)
- Image of the trailer (possibly)
The ‘evidence of ownership’ you must provide depends on the details of the trailer in question. If it is a new trailer, you must bring the Manufacturer Certificate of Origin (MCO). If the trailer is used but has a gross weight of 4,000 pounds or less, bring a bill of sale and registration receipt.
If the trailer is used and has a gross weight exceeding 4,000 pounds, you will need to bring the trailer’s title.
The process for assembled trailers is similar to that of manufactured trailers. You must bring a completed 130-U Form, applicable fees, and evidence of ownership. The only significant difference is that an MCO is not required if the trailer is newly built. Instead, you must bring a completed Trailer Verification Statement of Fact (Form VTR-141).
Additionally, newly assembled trailers must have a Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). You can obtain one after an inspection by an auto theft law enforcement officer.
Manufactured farm trailers follow the procedure for manufactured trailers, just as assembled farm trailers follow the procedure for assembled trailers. However, if you intend to get a farm license, you must also submit an Application for Farm License Plates (Form VTR-52-A).