ATVs: Information for Owners and Operators

An all-terrain vehicle (ATV) is any self-propelled vehicle with two or more wheels that is manufactured for sale to be used primarily off-highway or in off-road competitions, and that is no wider than 70 inches and weighs no more than 1,000 pounds. This does not include vehicles manufactured for off-highway use and designed exclusively for travel on snow or ice, and supported by one or more skis, belts or cleats that utilize an endless belt tread. Those vehicles, which include snowmobiles, are subject to other laws and regulations.


An ATV must be registered with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) if it is operated anywhere in New York State, including on the owner's property.

When you register a new or used ATV for the first time, your registration will expire each year on August 31. Registrations for ATVs originally registered before April 1, 2005, will continue to expire each year on April 30.

ATV dealers are required by law to register every ATV they sell to New York State residents or to non-residents before the purchaser takes delivery; unless the purchaser qualifies for an exemption from registration. A purchaser is exempt from registration when the ATV will be used exclusively: outside of New York State; at special events; for agricultural purposes; or for snow plowing other than for-hire. Dealers must have the purchaser complete and sign a "Declaration of Exemption From Snowmobile or All-Terrain Vehicle Registration" (RV-6).

Unless you qualify for an exemption from registration, you cannot take delivery from an authorized dealer until after the ATV is registered.

If you buy an ATV from a person who is not a New York State registered ATV dealer, you must register the ATV with the DMV. To register the ATV; you must complete an "Vehicle Registration/Title Application" (MV-82) and submit it to a motor vehicle issuing office. To register an ATV; you must provide proofs of ownership, sales tax payment or exemption, your identity, and your date of birth.


Acceptable proof of ownership are:

  • For a new ATV – the manufacturer's certificate or statement of origin (MCO or MSO), an out-of-state title certificate or registration certificate; or,
  • For a used ATV – a completed "Certification of Sale or Transfer" (MV-51) plus the MCO or MSO; or, a New York State transferable registration signed over to you by the previous owner.
  • If your ATV has never been registered and you do not have these acceptable documents, you must complete and submit a "Statement of Ownership" (MV-51B).


If you buy your ATV from a registered New York State dealer, you should receive a bill of sale in addition to the acceptable documents that prove ownership. The bill of sale must contain the dealer's name, address and dealer registration number, plus your name and address, the ATV vehicle identification number, the year, make, model, and number of wheels. The bill of sale also must indicate that the ATV is either new or used, and must confirm that the dealer has collected the appropriate sales tax.

If you buy the ATV from a person who is not a registered dealer, you must pay the sales tax at a motor vehicle office. To determine the proper amount of sales tax, the DMV needs proof of what you paid for the ATV. Have the seller sign and give you a Statement of Transaction- Sale or Gift of Motor Vehicle, Trailer, All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV), Vessel (Boat), or Snowmobile (pdf)  (at NY State Department of Tax and Finance) (DTF-802). You must submit this form to the motor vehicle office, and pay the appropriate sales tax, before registering your ATV:

Acceptable documents that prove payment of sales tax are:

  • The dealer's bill of sale showing that the dealer had collected the sales tax; or
  • A receipt for sales tax payment from the motor vehicle office.


To register an ATV, you must provide proof of who you are. You must provide proof of identity, date of birth, and at least six points of proof of name. For the most recent listing of acceptable documents see "Proofs of Identity For Registration and Title" (ID-82).

Documents that automatically qualify as six points are:

  • NY State Photo Driver license or Learner Permit
  • NY State Non-Driver Photo Identification Card


The ATV registration and registration renewal fee is $12.50 per year – it is not prorated by month. You also must pay a $12.50 license plate fee when you first register your ATV. You will be issued a plate, a registration sticker and an attached registration document. The plate must be attached to the rear of the ATV, and the sticker should be placed at the right side of the plate. You should carry the registration document when operating your ATV.


You may not operate any ATV anywhere in New York State, except on your own property, unless it is covered by liability insurance. Minimum required coverage is $50,000/$100,000 for death, $25,000/$50,000 for injury, and $10,000 for property damage in any one accident. You must show proof of this insurance upon the request of a judge, the police, or a person claiming to have suffered injury or property damage from your operation of the ATV.


If you move, cross out the old address on your registration document and write in the new one. You also must report your address change to the DMV within 10 days. 


If your ATV has become stolen, you should immediately report the theft to the police. If the ATV is to be, or already has been, destroyed or permanently removed from New York State, you should surrender the plate and registration document to a local motor vehicle office.


New York State honors valid out-of-state ATV registrations. If your home state does not require ATV registration, you must obtain a New York State registration before operating your ATV in this state.


You do not need a driver license to operate an ATV in New York State, but certain restrictions apply to operators under age 16.

If you are age 14 to 15, you may operate an ATV only:

  • Under adult supervision; or,
  • Without adult supervision on lands owned or leased by your parent or guardian; or,
  • On any lands where ATV use is permitted, without adult supervision, if you have completed an ATV safety training course approved by the DMV. You must carry your course completion certificate when you operate any ATV.

If you are under age 14, you may operate an ATV only:

  • Under adult supervision; or,
  • Without adult supervision on lands owned or leased by your parent or guardian.

You can operate an ATV on public lands where signs indicate that ATV use is allowed. Only operate an ATV on private property if you have permission from the property owner.

Adult supervision means you are accompanied by a person at least 18 years of age, or a person 16 or 17 years of age who holds an ATV safety course completion certificate from the ATV Safety Institute (ASI).


ATV safety training courses approved by the Department of Motor Vehicles are available through the ATV Safety Institute. For more information about courses or to enroll, visit or call 1-800-887-2887. You can also write to:

ATV Safety Institute
2 Jenner, Suite 150
Irvine, CA 92618

If you have questions about New York State's ATV or motorcycle safety programs, please contact us at [email protected] or (518) 473-7174 or by writing to::

Motorcycle Safety Program
6 Empire State Plaza, Room 336
Albany, New York 12228

The application forms identified in this publication for ATV owners and operators are available at any motor vehicle office or at the DMV website.


A parent or guardian may not knowingly permit or authorize a child under age 16 to operate an ATV in violation of state or local laws. An ATV owner, or another person in possession of an ATV, may not knowingly permit or authorize any person under age 16 to operate an ATV in violation of any state or local law.

Both the owner and the operator of an ATV may be held liable for injury and/or damages resulting from an ATV accident.


DMV recommends you avoid crossing a highway unless absolutely necessary. If you cross, you must follow these rules:

  • You must cross at an angle of approximately 90 degrees, at a place where there are no obstructions to prevent a quick, safe crossing.
  • You must come to a complete stop and yield the right-of-way to traffic on the highway before crossing.
  • You may cross a divided highway only where it intersects with another street or highway.
  • You may not cross an interstate highway or any controlled-access highway, such as the Thruway or a parkway at any time.


You may not operate an ATV on a highway unless it has been designated and posted for ATV use by the state or local authority. Usually, only the part of a highway between two off-highway trails will be posted for ATV use. Check with local police to be sure. DMV recommends that you turn your headlight and taillight on and wear bright, reflective clothing whenever you ride on a highway. Always enter the highway with care, and yield to other traffic.


You may not operate an ATV on public land unless it is specifically designated for ATV use, and it is allowed by a posted sign.


To operate an ATV on private land, you must have permission of the land owner or lessee. If you receive permission, make sure you know the boundaries of the property, and respect any special restrictions or requests of the land owner. You could lose permission to ride on private land by littering, causing damage, or riding carelessly.


Whether you are the operator or passenger, you must wear a USDOT-approved helmet when riding an ATV. DMV recommends that you also wear a face shield or goggles, and protective clothes and footwear.

Your ATV must have the following equipment:

  • Brakes in good condition
  • A muffler which is in good operating condition and meets federal standards
  • A spark arrester approved by the U.S. Forest Service
  • Tires with at least 2/32nds of an inch tread without visible breaks, cuts, exposed cords, bumps or bulges
  • A lighted white headlight and red taillight if the ATV is driven at night

The law requires you to keep the ATV's headlight and taillight lighted when riding a half hour after sunset to a half hour before sunrise. For greater safety, DMV recommends you keep the lights on at all times.


In addition to obeying the ATV laws and rules, it is wise to ride your ATV with common sense and courtesy. Having fun on an ATV does not include annoying others or taking foolish risks. ATV riders who ignore the rules and the rights of others may cause ATV operation to be restricted or prohibited on private and public lands.


  • Other than while seated on the permanent, regular seat.
  • With a passenger, unless the ATV is designed to carry a passenger.
  • At a speed too fast for existing conditions or potential hazards.
  • In a careless, reckless or negligent manner.
  • While intoxicated or impaired by alcohol or drugs.
  • On the tracks or right-of-way of a railroad.
  • On a highway, if the ATV is equipped with studded tires other than automobile-type studs.
  • In a tree nursery or planting in a manner which damages or destroys growing stock or creates a substantial risk of damage or destruction.
  • Within 100 feet of a dwelling between midnight and 6 A.M. at a speed greater than necessary to keep the ATV moving.
  • While pulling a person on skis, a toboggan, sleigh, sled or trailer, unless the device is attached to the ATV by a tow-bar or other rigid connection.
  • On the ice or public water within 100 feet of a person, fishing shanty or shelter at a speed greater than necessary to keep the ATV moving.
  • Over an area cleared of snow for skating, unless necessary for access to public waters.


No locality may require its own ATV licenses or registrations, but it may impose additional restrictions or rules on ATV operation. Find out about special ATV rules in your area, and obey them.


The person in charge of an ATV special event or off-road competition must apply to the local jurisdiction for written authorization at least 30 days in advance, unless it is held entirely on private property. 


If you are involved in an accident with your ATV, you must give your name and address, the name and address of the ATV owner and the plate number to injured persons, the owners of damaged property, and/or the police. You also must show proof of insurance to persons claiming to have suffered injury or damage. If property is damaged, and you cannot locate the owner, you must give the above information to police as soon as possible.

You must immediately report to the police any accident that involves death, personal injury or damage estimated at $600 or more to the property of any one person.

You must also file a Report of Motor Vehicle Accident (MV-104) with the Department of Motor Vehicles about an accident that results in a fatality, personal injury, or property damage estimated at $1,000 or more. You must file the report within 10 days of the accident and send a copy to the county sheriff or police commissioner.

If you are incapacitated, the written report may be filed by another party familiar with the accident. The investigating police officer must also file a written report, but that does not relieve you of your legal responsibility to file one.

Failure to report an accident is a misdemeanor. A conviction may result in suspension or revocation of your safety training certificate and/or the ATV registration.

The Department of Motor Vehicles may suspend your safety training certificate and/or the ATV registration until you file an acceptable written report.

Additional information can be found at: Register and title a recreational vehicle (snowmobile, boat, moped or ATV)

Mark J. F. Schroeder,  Commissioner


C-29 (4/07) Edited for the Internet 8/23


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