Can You Buy a Car without a License?
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Can You Buy a Car without a License?

By Autolist Editorial | June 29, 2021

If you don't have a valid driver's license, you can still buy a car. While a driver's license or learner's permit is required to drive a car, no law in any state says you need a license to own a vehicle.

So even though purchasing a vehicle without a driver's license may seem like a strange notion, there are reasons aplenty that you, as a non-licensed driver, may want to own a car.

Although car ownership is possible for individuals without driver's licenses, that does not mean that the process will be drama-free. If you plan to buy a car and do not have a license, be prepared to jump through some hoops.

Don't worry, though. You should be able to navigate the process with relative ease as long as you have valid, non-driver photo identification, which is available from the Department of Motor Vehicles or other similar agencies in every state.

Here's a guide to buying a car without a driver's license. Depending on the situation and the state of residency, there are different things to know and look out for.

Reasons for Buying a Car Without a Driver's License

There are many reasons why a person may want to own a vehicle even if they cannot drive it. While it is uncommon for unlicensed drivers to purchase vehicles, there are several reasons that you might find yourself needing to buy a car or other vehicle without first obtaining a license.

Here some examples of circumstances:

  • The car purchase is a gift. Although you cannot drive legally, you may want to gift a friend or family member with a new or used car. The title needs to go into the other person's name, of course, which is a reasonably straightforward process.

  • It's for your business. You can purchase one or more vehicles (or even a fleet, if needed) without having your own driver's license as long as the employees are licensed to drive. The car will be used for your business. If you are a business owner and your business needs a vehicle, you can still purchase it regardless of your unlicensed status.

  • A caregiver will be driving the car. Suppose you are unable to drive because of a disability. In that case, you may purchase a vehicle for a caregiver to drive for reasons that include taking you to medical appointments or pharmacies and grocery stores.

  • The purchase is for your minor. Because teenagers can be licensed to drive but cannot obtain financing for a vehicle, you may need to finance a car for your teen in some cases.

  • It's for your car collection. Buying a car for your collection of antique or other vehicles does not require a license.

  • You have a driver on staff. If you hire a chauffeur or private driver, you can purchase a car just for that purpose.

Can You Register 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 roads if 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 car to be street legal, even if you will not be driving it. There are some workarounds to registering your vehicle in your name, however. It is important to remember that most car dealerships handle the car's registration, making things a lot easier on your end.

You have a few options to consider as an unlicensed owner of a vehicle. If you are buying a new car for business purposes, for example, you can register it under your business entity's name rather than 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 are buying the vehicle for someone else, like as a gift, the driver needs to register the car in their name. However, that means 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 if something goes awry. Another option is to place a lien on the car so that it cannot be sold without meeting your requirements and seeking your permission. The guidelines for placing a lien on a vehicle vary from state to state.

Finally, if you are 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. Still, if you plan to allow the vehicle to be driven on the roadway at any point, it will require registration and insurance to be street legal.

The bottom line about registering a vehicle without a driver's license boils down to the fact that the DMV, or vehicle registry agency in every state, requires that vehicles are registered before they hit the road. Keep in mind that most states want registration to be obtained within a month of the vehicle's acquisition.

To register a car in most states, you need to have the vehicle's title, proof of car insurance, and your driver's license or ID. Once you produce everything the state needs to make your registration legal, you will need to pay the registration fee, which varies significantly between states and affix your new license plates to your vehicle. That shows that the vehicle has been registered appropriately with the motor vehicle authority.

It is important to note that you may not be required to submit proof of insurance for your car purchase immediately. It depends on your state. In California, for example, buyers are given a full 30 days following the registration of their vehicles to provide the DMV with valid proof of insurance. Owners who fail to produce insurance proof within the allotted time are penalized with suspended registrations and must pay reinstatement costs before they can drive their vehicles again.

You Still Need a Valid Photo ID

Although a driver's license is not necessary to own a vehicle, government-issued photo identification is still required to get a loan, registration, and auto insurance. If you do not 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. However, in most cases, you need a social security card, proof of residency, and identification. Contact your local Department of Motor Vehicles for information on your state's requirements and arm yourself with your ID before applying for a loan or coverage from an insurer.

Getting Car Insurance Without a License

To register your vehicle as an excluded driver, 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.

Getting coverage without a license is tricky because there are many factors that insurance companies examine to determine your rate. Since you will not 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 licensed operator will drive the vehicle annually, and their credit score or credit report.

If the licensed driver or primary driver has a bad driving history, plan on paying 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 do not 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 can provide proof of insurance on the vehicle you are purchasing. Once you have coverage, the next step is to find a loan, assuming you will not 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 not make payments. So that is why you need to prove that you will not be driving the vehicle, perhaps explaining to the lender who will be driving the car and under what circumstances.

If you are 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. Many banks flat out refused to finance used cars anyway. 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 cannot 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 introductory interest rate may cover a sizeable portion of the vehicle's price, especially 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 (or private sellers, for that matter) won't allow you to test drive a new vehicle or used car without a valid license. Naturally, this makes it challenging for a non-driving car buyer 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 will not be able to feel what it is like to drive the car, the driver should help you determine if the car is a good buy.

If you do not have a driver — maybe you are 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 do not seem right.

You May Want to Get a License Anyways

If you can, you may want to consider getting a driver's license before going through the car buying process, even if your foot is never going to touch the gas pedal. Of course, that is not always possible, but you can save a lot of time and effort if it is.

A lack of a driver's license limits your options for finding car insurance coverage, getting a loan, registering the vehicle, and shopping for a vehicle. And it may also cost you more by way of increased insurance rates. It is possible to overcome these hurdles, but it may take more research and time.

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

As you can see, when you buy a car without a license, there are several hurdles to overcome. Still, with enough determination and know-how, you can make it through the process of buying a car with minimal difficulties.