There is no legal reason you can’t buy a car without a driver’s license, but it will complicate the car buying process. From purchasing the car itself, to handling financing, car insurance, and registration, you might hit some snags. However, by using a little creativity, you can overcome these hurdles.
It might seem strange to think about purchasing a car without possessing a valid driver’s license, but there are actually many reasons why it makes sense to do so. It could be a gift for a family member, or maybe you only have a learner’s permit right now.
The bottom line is you don’t need to be a licensed driver for car ownership, but it will take a little more effort. Luckily, we can walk you through managing the details of buying a car, obtaining insurance, and getting it registered.
Reasons for buying a car without a driver’s license
As mentioned above, there are plenty of reasons to purchase a car without a driver’s license, such as buying it as a gift or before you’re fully legal to drive. Here are other possible reasons why unlicensed drivers may need to buy cars:
- Hiring a private driver to get you around town.
- You have a disability that doesn’t allow you to drive, but you need a car for your nurse or caretaker to use.
- Business owner needs to purchase vehicles for employees to drive.
- You’re buying a collectible car that you don’t plan on driving.
- You’re buying a car for a teenager who isn’t legally allowed to finance the vehicle.
How can you buy a car without a license?
Can you buy a car without a license? You can, but you may have more difficulty insuring and registering the car. It makes sense when you think about it. Car dealers will happily sell anyone a car, assuming they can secure financing or pay for the vehicle outright — they just want to collect a commission and get it off their lot. Similarly, private sellers just want to sell the car and bank the cash.
In either scenario, the seller of a vehicle has virtually no vested interest in what happens to that car after it leaves the showroom or property. The only exception would be if you’ve financed through the dealer, in which case they want you to make your monthly payments.
Financing for a car (even if you’re not a licensed driver) won’t be a problem. Assuming you have a good credit report and sufficient income, pretty much any lender will approve you for an auto loan whether you have a valid driver’s license or not.
If your credit isn’t in the best shape, you may want to contact a family member or friend to cosign the loan. Provided the cosigner has a good to excellent credit score, you should be able to get an auto loan without much issue.
Regardless of your decision, shop around to find the lowest interest rates to make sure you get the best deal.
If you’re financing a car, you also need to make sure you get the proper insurance coverage for the vehicle you are purchasing. Most lenders require full coverage auto insurance when financing a new vehicle because they need to protect their investment if the car gets totaled or stolen.
Buying auto insurance should also be fairly straightforward. As Alex from Allstate says, “We’ll take anybody’s money.” But, the insurance company will require you to have a licensed driver named as the primary driver.
Depending on which state you live in, that primary driver may also need to reside in the same household. Since they will be the “primary driver,” their driver’s license number would have to be listed on the policy. The policy would then be developed around that primary driver, including the rates.
What if you don’t share your home with anyone?
To get around the “same household” situation, you can designate someone as co-owner of the car, such as a spouse, family member, or close friend. Then you would both be on the insurance policy, but the co-owner would be the primary driver.
Be aware that your insurance policy may consider you an “excluded driver,” meaning if you chose to drive the car without a license, the car insurance would not cover any damages incurred while you were behind the wheel.
Another thing to keep in mind with car insurance is the riskier the driver, the higher the insurance rates. This is especially important for parents who wish to buy their child a car to take to college.
Younger drivers tend to have more accidents, so the insurance rates will reflect that. If you do need a co-owner for insurance purposes, your best bet is to find someone at least 25 years old with an excellent driving history.
To register the vehicle after you’ve bought it, sorted out the financing, and gotten insurance, you will need to talk to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), Secretary of State, or whoever handles vehicle registration requirements in your state.
In most states, registering a car is pretty straightforward, but they usually require proof of insurance, title, and a valid driver’s license. Some areas may accept just a state ID to register the vehicle, but you’ll want to check your state laws before proceeding. You may also need a certificate of origin or bill of sale, emissions and safety certificates (usually for used cars), and proof of address. Again, states vary in their requirements, so be sure to know your state’s rules.
However, similar to insurance, you can have a co-owner with a valid license listed on the registration as well. Again this could be a family member or close friend, but you want to make sure it’s someone you can trust with partial ownership of your car.
Can I buy a car with a credit card?
You can, but interest rates on credit cards are ridiculously high, which might make it a poor choice for financing. However, there are cases where it might make sense. For example, you might want to use a credit card to earn reward points and they pay off the balance in full to avoid getting charged interest. This article provides a more detailed answer to the question “can you buy a car with a credit card?”
Many credit card companies offer a very low introductory interest rate (or even 0%) that can last for up to one or two years.
If you think you can pay off the car during the introductory period, you could save a lot of money on interest. Of course, you will need to have excellent credit to qualify for the card and a credit limit big enough to manage the cost of a car.
An added bonus: If you walk into a dealership with your financing already sorted out, you will be in a stronger bargaining position. This means a salesperson is more likely to come down on the price or give you a better deal rather than lose the sale altogether.
Can I buy a car to practice driving?
Yes. Since you don’t need a driver’s license to purchase a vehicle, you can buy one even if you only have a learner’s permit.
However, don’t forget that you can’t legally drive a car by yourself with only a permit. As long as you have a licensed driver (over a certain age, depending on your state) in the vehicle with you, you can buy a car to practice your driving skills.
Can I test drive a car without a driver’s license?
Similar to above, as long as you have a licensed driver with you, you can test drive cars. However, depending on the car dealership, there could be restrictions, such as a parent’s presence (and/or proof of parent’s insurance) in the case of a minor. You will want to check with car dealers before you go in to test drive a new car to find out their policies.
Can I buy a car with a personal loan?
Yes, you can use a personal loan to buy a car, but you may not always get as favorable interest rates and terms as you would with an auto loan. That’s because car loans are secured by the vehicle whereas personal loans are usually unsecured.
However, you can put your car up as collateral for a personal loan. Generally speaking, a personal loan can be more expensive than a car loan, but it’s worth shopping around to see what’s available.
- If you don’t have a driver’s license, it isn’t illegal in the U.S. to make a car purchase.
- Registering and insuring the vehicle is a little trickier when you don’t have a valid driver’s license.
- You may have to designate a household member as the primary driver or take on a co-owner to insure the vehicle.
- To register the car without a license, you likely need to add a co-owner to the vehicle’s title.
- Insuring a car without a valid license may designate you as an “excluded driver.” This means you won’t be covered if you’re driving the car without a license and get into an accident.
View Article Sources
- Young Driver Survey — National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
- Buying a car — Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
- A Complete Guide to Choosing the Best Auto Insurance — SuperMoney
- Best Cheap Car Insurance | April 2022 — SuperMoney
- 2020 Auto Loan Industry Study — SuperMoney
- How To Get The Best Deal On A Used Car — The Super Guide — SuperMoney
- Should I Buy a New or Used Car? — SuperMoney
- Can You Lease a Car and Then Buy It? — SuperMoney
- Can You Buy a Car With a Debit Card? — SuperMoney