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Can You Buy a Car without a License?

By Autolist Staff | October 22, 2019

A valid driver's license (or learners permit) is required to drive a car, but no law says you need a license to own one. While purchasing a vehicle may seem like a strange idea if you don't have a valid license, there could be reasons why you may want to own a car. If you plan on buying a car, though, you may have to jump through some hoops. But you should be able to navigate the process fairly easily as long as you do have valid, non-driver photo identification.

Why Buy a Car Without a License to Drive It?

There are many reasons why a person may want to own a vehicle, even if they can't drive it. Some people may have a driver because they're disabled or don't enjoy driving. Business owners may want to keep ownership of a company car. Sometimes people want to give a child or loved one a vehicle while still owning it. Another common reason is that you want to own a collectible car as an asset or hobby, even if you have no intention of ever hitting the road. Or, maybe you're in the process of getting your license, and you just found an incredible deal on a great vehicle that you don't want to miss.

You Still Need a Valid Photo ID

Although a driver's license isn't necessary to own a vehicle, government-issued photo identification is still required to get a loan, registration and auto insurance. If you don't currently possess a valid photo identification card, you will need to go to the DMV and obtain one. The requirements to get a non-drivers ID do vary from state to state, but in most cases, you need a social security card, proof of residency, and proof of identification. Contact your local Department of Motor Vehicles for information on your state's requirements.

Getting Car Insurance Without a License

To register your vehicle, you will need the bill of sale and auto insurance. Here's where things can get a little bit tricky, in some cases. Some insurance agencies will not provide a policy if you're not the primary driver, so you will need to call around and discover your options.

The reason why getting coverage without a license is hard is because there are many factors that insurance companies examine to determine your rate. Since you won't be the primary driver, an insurance company will need to base the rate on driver-specific information. That includes where they will be driving, their driving record, how many miles the vehicle will be driven annually, and their credit score.

If the primary driver has a bad record, you'll pay significantly more for an insurance policy than you would for yourself – if the insurance agency is willing to provide coverage at all. Before agreeing to a plan, be confident in the driver getting the insurance. While accidents do happen, you don't want to end up paying high premiums because a friend or family member isn't a responsible driver.

Finding an Auto Loan Without a License

A lender will not give you a car loan unless you're able to provide proof of insurance. Once you have coverage, the next step is to find a loan, assuming you won't be paying with cash or credit. Some lenders will not provide a loan without a valid driver's license. Others may consider it, but only if you prove that you're going to be able to pay for the vehicle. The reasoning behind this is that an unlicensed driver could get arrested, and then they won't be able to make payments. That's why you need to prove that you won't be driving the vehicle.

If you're looking for the best rate, a big bank may not be the best choice. They tend to have stricter rules, and if you get a loan, it may not be an ideal rate. Instead, you may want to find a credit union in your area. Credit unions tend to be more willing to work with people in unique situations. You will likely need to bring along the primary driver so you can make your case.

If you're not able to obtain a fair loan through a bank or credit union, look into other routes to get a personal loan. Sometimes, a credit card with a low introductary interest rate may cover a sizeable portion of the vehicle's price, if the seller is willing to cover the transaction fees. Getting a car without a license is possible, but as you can see, you might end up paying more if not paying with cash.

Shopping for a Car Without a License

Another difficulty associated with car buying without a license is that the dealership won't allow you to test drive a vehicle without a valid license. Naturally, this makes it challenging to make an informed purchase. The best approach is to bring the primary driver with you and allow them to test drive the vehicle. While you won't be able to feel what it's like to drive the vehicle, your driver should be able to help you determine if the car's a good buy.

If you don't have a driver — maybe you're buying a collectible car — you can bring someone you know with a license to test drive it for you. A salesperson or the seller may also be willing to take the car out with you as a passenger. Just pay close attention to any bumps, noises, or other occurrences that don't seem right.

Registering a Car Without a License

The major challenge associated with buying a car without a license is registering it. The vehicle can only be driven on public roadways if it's registered in the owner's name, meaning the name listed on the title. If the goal is to retain full ownership of the vehicle, you will need a valid driver's license for the vehicle to be street legal, even if you won't be driving it.

You have a few options. If you're buying the vehicle for business purposes, you can register it under your business entity's name, rather then your own. Anyone who drives the vehicle will need to be licensed and insured, but you (your company) will still be the sole owner.

If you're buying the vehicle for someone else, as a gift, for example, the driver will need to register the vehicle in their name. However, that does mean that they technically have legal ownership of the vehicle, even though you paid for it. If you take this approach, you must trust the driver, and you may want to consult a lawyer about a contract to protect you in case something goes awry.

Finally, if you're buying a collectible car, you may not need to register it at all. States have different restrictions depending on whether the vehicle is classified as a historic or classic car. Check your local guidelines to see if your collectible car meets your state's criteria.

You May Want to Get a License Anyways

If you can, you may want to consider getting a driver's license, even if your foot is never going to touch the gas pedal. Of course, that's not always possible, but if it is, you can save a lot of time and effort. A lack of a driver's license limits your options when it comes to finding car insurance coverage, getting a loan, registering the vehicle, and shopping for a vehicle. It's possible to overcome these hurdles, but it may take more research and time.

If you plan on getting a license in the future, it's easier to wait until you have it before buying a vehicle. That way, you don't need to bother transferring ownership and adjusting your insurance policy. And you may also be able to get an auto loan with better terms.