Car Laws & Safety

Can You Buy a Car with a Suspended License?

There are a lot of reasons why your license might be suspended and not every suspension is the same. There are different durations and conditions for each type of suspension and there are different rules in each state. 

Some people are able to drive to and from work or school with a suspended license and some people are restricted from all driving.

The suspension could have a specific date to be lifted or it could be conditional upon the outcome of a court date. All of these factors go into whether or not you can buy a car with a suspended license. 

Generally speaking, yes, you can buy a car with a suspended license. There aren’t any issues that will stop a private seller or dealership from selling you the car and turning over the title while your license is suspended.

You don’t even need a driver’s license at all to buy a car. If you’re able to pay for the car, there isn’t anything stopping a private seller or dealership from selling it to you.

But owning a car isn’t that simple. After you make your purchase, you’ll need to take the car to your home. That’s where the issues of a suspended license get in the way. 

Whether you buy from a dealer or a private seller, you still have to get the car from the place where you bought it to your place of residence. This will require registration and, in most states, insurance.

You could have an unregistered car towed or delivered to your place of residence but, if it doesn’t have insurance on it, you risk having no protection against damages during the towing or delivery process. 

In Many States Across the U.S., Rules May Vary

Getting and keeping your driver’s license isn’t the same process in every state across the country. If there is an active suspension on your license, having it lifted could be a matter of waiting it out or it could be a lengthy court proceeding.

Below are some of the stipulations around buying a car with a suspended license in some states. 

New York

Here, you can purchase a car, get it registered, and get insurance with a suspended license. In the past, one the most popular reasons why a license would be suspended was unpaid fines.

In early 2021, a new law was passed that stopped this practice. If your license was suspended for unpaid fines before, that may already be lifted due to this law. 

If your license is suspended when you buy the car, you still won’t be able to drive it even though you can register it and get insurance. Someone else will have to drive the car (if that’s covered on your insurance) or you’ll have to have it towed. 

California

You’ll need proof of ownership and a smog certificate to register your car in the state of California but you don’t need to have a driver’s license, suspended or not.

You need at least liability insurance to register the car and you won’t be able to drive it unless you have a valid driver’s license that is clear of suspension. 

In this state, you can file for a temporary license that allows you to drive your car to and from work or school. The laws are very strict about this, though, so if you are granted this temporary license, be sure to abide by the rules carefully. 

Florida

Laws about registering a car here with a suspended license are a little different than most other states.

Not only can you not complete a new registration with a suspended license but your registration application will also be rejected if the co-owner of your vehicle has a suspended license. 

There are some dealers or private buyers who may still sell you a car if your or your co-owners’ licenses are suspended. However, you wouldn’t be able to drive the car anywhere without proper registration. 

States That Don’t Require Insurance for Registration

While you’ll likely still need liability insurance at the very least to drive your car, there are a few states that do not require proof of insurance to register your car. Eliminating this step makes purchasing a car with a suspended license a little easier. 

You’ll be able to get plates on the car and store it in a driveway, garage, or carport if it is towed or delivered after purchase. The states that allow registration without proof of insurance are:

  • Arizona
  • Mississippi 
  • New Hampshire
  • North Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Washington
  • Wisconsin

One unique point about New Hampshire is that it’s the only state where you don’t need insurance to operate your vehicle either.

So if your suspended license is making the purchase of an auto insurance policy difficult and you live in this state, you can forgo this step, have your car registered, and someone with a valid driver’s license can drive the car. However, note that having no insurance leaves your car and your finances unprotected!

Your Driver’s License and Registration Are Completely Separate

You need both a valid driver’s license and an up-to-date registration to operate your vehicle in all states.

The two documents, though, are completely separate entities. You don’t need a license to register a car in most states and you don’t need to register or own a car to get a driver’s license in any state. 

That being said, both your driver’s license and your registration can be suspended for different reasons.

If your license is suspended, you can still register a car in most places. But if your registration is suspended on one car, you won’t be able to get a new registration for a different car. That will make buying a car difficult at most dealerships. 

Purchasing an Auto Insurance Policy With Your Suspended License

This is possible but can be difficult. The suspension itself doesn’t prohibit you from purchasing an auto insurance policy, but the way it affects your driving record and why the suspension happened could be issues.

Some things that might affect your ability to get an insurance policy are:

  • DUI/DWI charges
  • Moving violations
  • Reckless driving
  • Endangerment of others
  • Several consecutive accidents

After your suspension is over, these things may still affect your ability to purchase an insurance policy.

Incidents like these on your record are likely to inflate the cost of any insurance policy you’re able to get. You’ll still be able to purchase the car and, in the states that don’t require insurance, you’ll be able to register your car after purchase. 

The Dangers of Purchasing a Car Without Insurance

In the states where you’re able to register your car without insurance, there are still dangers to leaving your car without the protections offered by an insurance policy, even if you’re not going to drive the car.

Having your car towed or delivered by the dealer or a private seller is a valid option but, without insurance, your car won’t be protected while in transit. 

If you’re not able to purchase insurance, you won’t be able to register your car in most states.

If you have a garage or carport where you can store your car with a cover, this will suffice until you can get a license plate put on the car after registration. While your car is being stored, not having an insurance policy is dangerous because your car won’t have any protection if the car undergoes damage due to:

  • Someone hitting your car by accident when the garage is open or if your carport is in a common parking area at your house. 
  • Damage to the area where the car is being stored.
  • Fire, natural disasters, or other things that may damage the house, garage, or carport where the damage extends to your car. 

Homeowners insurance explicitly does not cover motorized vehicles so if your car is stored on your property and something happens to the property, your car will not be covered. Damages to your car, in these cases, would have to be covered by you alone and if the car is totaled, you won’t get anything for it. 

The Difficulties of Buying a Car from a Dealership Without Insurance

Many dealerships won’t allow you to take the car off their lot without it being registered and insured.

They are legally allowed to sell you the car without these things but the dealership has to protect themselves too. If the car you buy from them is damaged in transit in the event of a delivery and you don’t have the insurance to fix it, they could be held liable. 

In this world of social media announcements, car dealerships love to post about the people that buy their cars.

If you are unable to drive the car and this becomes known to other potential buyers, it could cause a flood of people with suspended licenses to come buy cars at their dealership, putting them under the same scrutiny for liability.

Buying a Car From a Private Seller Without Insurance

If your suspended license prevents you from getting an insurance policy on your new car, a private seller is still legally allowed to sell you their car. But they might not want to if they find out that you’ll be having the car towed to your residence without insurance. 

Even if you buy the car from them and the ownership papers are transferred, you won’t have the car registered in your name if you live in a state that requires insurance for registration.

If you can’t register the car, a private seller might be wary about selling to you because they could feel they’d be held liable for any damages that occur before you can get registration completed.

Talk to your insurance agent and the dealership where you plan to buy your car. Be honest about the situation and they’ll help you figure out the best way to do things that works for everyone. 

Some Things Can Make This Process More Complicated

In the end, a dealership or private seller can sell you a car while you have a suspended license but it’s unlikely that they will.

The logistics of getting the car from their place to yours if you can’t get insurance and then registration would be enough to put them off in the first place. Most dealerships register the car for you through their channels and that’s going to be a lot harder if you have trouble getting insurance. 

License Revocation

Several suspensions in a row could result in license revocation, depending on the state you live in and the reason for your suspensions.

In the event of revocation or possible revocation, you may want to reconsider buying a car until your license issues are sorted out. You’d have to re-apply to get your license after paying fines or receiving judgement and then that application may not be accepted. 

Consider All The Factors Together

The specific laws in your state, the circumstances of your suspended license, and the person or dealership where you’re buying your car are all factors you need to consider. There’s nothing to stop you from buying a car but the dealer or private seller’s choice but you do still need to drive it after the purchase is complete. 

You can ask a friend or family member to drive your car once it’s registered and insured or you may be purchasing the car for someone else. You may be able to use someone younger in your family since you can buy a car with a permit in certain states. 

Be sure to be honest with the seller and your insurance provider to ensure you’re covering all of your bases. If your suspended license will take some time to clear up, sort out a safe place to store your car until you’re able to drive it. 

A garage or covered carport is usually okay for storing a car but you don’t want to leave it sitting too long.

You’ll still need to run the car every few days to keep it in top condition. If your only option is to buy your car before your suspended license is cleared up, consider all these factors and plan accordingly.  

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