If I Buy a Car from a Private Owner Can I Drive It Home

Private sales of cars have soared in recent years as people have found it often provides the owner with more cash while proving less cost for the buyer when a third party is not involved. Each state has its own vehicle registration rules, so a person shopping might wonder if I buy a car from a private owner can I drive it home without the hassle of stopping by the local Department of Motor Vehicles to get a registration. The answer depends generally upon the state where a person lives, but it can also be up to the local registry agents.

If I buy a car from a private owner can I drive it home in all states?

There are only eight states that allow a new owner to drive a vehicle home without first obtaining a valid registration, but conditions vary. Alabama requires a dated bill of sale, but the vehicle can be drive up to 20 days before registering it. Colorado is up to 36 hours, but Illinois allows only 24 hours before the vehicle must be registered to go on the road. In Iowa, 30 days is fine if the seller’s registration is active. Michigan gives new owners 3 days with proof of insurance and title, but the previous owner must keep vehicle registered. North Dakota allots a generous 5 days with bill of sale or title, but Wisconsin is a mere for 2 days. Wyoming gives a new owner up to 45 days with title or bill of sale.

On the other end of the spectrum, only two states require a permanent registration before a vehicle can be drive on any road. Massachusetts and Oklahoma both require drivers to purchase the vehicle and then appear at the local Department of Motor Vehicles to fill out the forms and obtain plates before they can take the vehicle anywhere.

Temporary tags, moving permits and even transit plates are available in more than twenty states to help those purchasing a car through a private sale. Stopping at the local registry office can be quicker and easier, and the paperwork for a permanent tag can be avoided until the new owner is ready to drive it. This works particularly well for those purchasing a vehicle that needs repair work before it is put in use, but even those who just need to get their used car off the previous owner’s property will appreciate living in these states.

Local regulations vary, so it is best to check with the local office before purchasing a vehicle and temporary tag or permit. That said, the following states do issue purchasers of a car through a private sale the ability to move it to their own residence without a permanent registration. They are: Arizona, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia.

There are a few states that offer other options, but registration might still be necessary. In California, the plates go with the vehicle unless they are personalized and can be used with a new registration. If personalized plates are already on the vehicle, a new registration must be obtained before moving the car.

While the vast majority of states have standard guidelines, some prefer to let local offices make their own decisions. It is best to contact the local office of the Department of Motor Vehicles if the buyer lives in the states of Alaska, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, or Indiana.