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Can You Buy a Car With a Permit

Can You Buy a Car With a Permit

If you have a driver’s permit and are wondering if you can buy a car before getting your license, the short answer is yes, an official driver’s license isn’t required to buy a vehicle.

But, there are important legal and financial considerations around insurance, registration, and financing for buyers with a learner’s permit that I will discuss below.

Key Takeaways

  • You can purchase a car with a permit if you pay in cash, but financing typically requires a license.
  • Driving the vehicle on public roads requires a full driver’s license in most states.
  • Registering and titling the car also usually requires a valid license.
  • Getting insurance without a license can be challenging but is possible in some cases.
  • Teenagers and young adults should understand all state laws before attempting to buy a car with a permit.

Relevant Articles to Read:

Can I Buy a Car With a Permit?

Can I Purchase a Car if I Only Have Permit

Yes, you can buy a car with only your learner’s permit because there are no state or federal laws mandating that you have a drivers license to own a car.

But, don’t plan on driving your new car home unless you are accompanied by a licensed driver meeting the state’s requirements to accompany a permitted driver.

Without a valid driver’s license, here is what the car buying process usually involves with a driving permit:

  • Cash purchase recommended – To Finance a Car, You Will Usually Need a License
  • Licensed driver transports car – Someone else with a license must pick up the car or have it towed.
  • Coordinate insurance & registration – Steps are needed to properly insure and register the car.

Review your state’s DMV handbook for rules on driving without a license, as laws differ in each state. Also research insurance requirements prior to buying.

When Would You Buy a Car With a Learner’s Permit

When Would You Buy a Car With a Learner's Permit

There are several common scenarios where someone might want to purchase a car before they are legally licensed to drive:

  • Teenagers saving up to buy their dream car in anticipation of getting their license
  • Parents/guardians buying a car for practice driving purposes
  • Adults unable to drive due to medical conditions who need a vehicle for a caregiver
  • Car collectors or investors planning to store rather than drive the car

I’ve helped customers in all of these situations successfully buy cars while still holding permits or without licenses. But it’s critical to handle the registration and insurance correctly.

Can You Buy a Car From a Dealership With a Permit?

Yes, you can buy a car from any typical car dealership with a permit. In fact, you can buy a car from a dealership without a license or a permit.

How to Buy a Car From a Dealership With Permit

Purchasing from a dealership with a permit follows nearly the same process as buying a car with a license, at least as it pertains to qualification and paperwork purposes.

However, those with permits cannot legally test drive vehicles themselves at dealerships in most states. Having a licensed parent, guardian, or caregiver test drive cars you are interested in purchasing is recommended.

Dealers understand that customers with permits cannot drive off the lot themselves. They will work with you to arrange delivery once the sale is complete.

Steps to Legally Register a Car Bought With Permit

Key Steps to Legally Register a Car Bought With Permit

Registering a car without a license poses the biggest challenge when buying with a permit. Since a valid license is required for registration in most states, here are two options to properly register the vehicle:

  • Co-owner registration – List a licensed driver as co-owner to register car in both names.
  • Registration transfer – Initially list someone else’s name solely on registration, then transfer to you once licensed.

To register in a co-ownership, visit your local DMV with these documents:

  • Car title listing both owners
  • Valid license from co-owner
  • Insurance documents
  • Fees for registration paperwork

The alternative is having the car fully registered by a parent, guardian, or caregiver in their name only first. Then once you receive your actual driver’s license, they can sign over registration to you. Check with your DMV on specific co-registration and title transfer laws in your state.

Can You Get Car Insurance Without a License

Yes, unlike registration, it is possible to get insurance without a full license in most states by following certain steps:

  1. Find out your state’s minimum insurance requirements – Know exactly what coverage you need. This is typically liability insurance at a minimum.
  2. Determine who will be the primary driver – List someone with a valid license living at the same address. Their driving record will impact policy rates.
  3. Compare quotes amongst various insurance providers – Some insurers are more permit-friendly than others. Shop around for the best deal.
  4. Consider adding your car to an existing policy – Adding to a parents policy with multi-car and other discounts may offer cheaper premiums.
Cost by Age for Buying Car Insurance With Permit
AgeAverage Annual Premium

Rates are very high for teen drivers specifically, as they represent greater risk. Having an established driver as the policy’s primary owner helps lower premiums substantially through their existing discounts in most cases.

Safely Operating Cars Under Permit Regulations

Practice nighttime driving

Although you can legally buy a car prior to having your license, actually driving that car is still prohibited without a licensed passenger present if you only hold a permit. This applies to both public roads and private property like parking lots in certain states.

Be sure to continue practicing under the learner stage restrictions after initially buying an automobile. Key tips for safely operating vehicles with a permit include:

  • Practice nighttime driving – Get experience driving after dusk with an instructor’s guidance.
  • Master parking & traffic signs – Know rules of the road inside and out before independent driving.
  • Install additional mirrors as needed – Increase visibility with blindspot and rearview mirrors.
  • Avoid phone distractions – Focus on driving without technological disruptions from passengers or devices.
  • Practice in low-risk areas – Spend initial solo hours driving in quiet neighborhoods and rural areas after receiving license.

Continuing driver’s education classes beyond what your state requires demonstrates an extra level of dedication to becoming a safe and responsible licensed driver.

Final Tips for Buying a Car With Permit

Purchasing an automobile before having your actual license issued is absolutely feasible. Just plan ahead and account for extra requirements around insurance, registration transfers, and safely operating the vehicle on a permit.

I recommend also saving cash to pay for the car outright if possible rather than financing without license in hand. This strategy prevents headaches from lenders denying those still just holding permits.

And as always, consult your state’s most up-to-date statutes for additional guidance on buying cars without a license. Requirements for younger drivers can differ from those 21 years of age and older.

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Picture of Steve Momot - Author

Steve Momot - Author

Steve, a seasoned expert in the automotive industry, formerly held a car dealer license in Florida. With extensive experience spanning across car trading and mechanical work, he founded Autohitch. His mission? To guide both buyers and sellers through the intricate maze of car purchasing, ensuring a seamless and informed experience. Outside of the automotive world, Steve has a passion for fishing and capturing the beauty of nature through photography.


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