Can unlicensed driver buy a car?

The in basket: Jim De Lorm wrote in November to say, “A person I know that lost his license about five years ago just bought a car from a dealer. Do you know if it is legal to sell a car to someone who has lost their driver’s license for whatever reason?”

The out basket: I doubted there would be any prohibition of selling a car to an unlicensed person. The unlicensed person wouldn’t necessarily be the driver.

My State Patrol contact also doubted it and suggested I ask a dealer. 

Jack Wheeler at Heartland Toyota, who handled the most recent car purchase by my wife and me, said the only requirement to buy a car is being able to enter into a legal contract.

When a reader commented (see below) about a contrary experience in buying a Kia, I checked with a Kia dealership,where I was told  no driver’s license is required and they had sold cars to people so they could be driven around by others. But if a person is financing the purchase, the person added, the bank will want the car insured and the insurance company often requires the buyer to have a license.

Then another blogger commented (see below)that you have to provide your driver’s license number when you renew your license tab each year. That sent me off again to Brad Benfield of the state Department of Licensing for an explanation.

He replied, “There are exemptions to the requirement to present your

driver license. At the time of renewal, you can declare that you are a

Washington resident but do not have a valid driver license and we will

still process the renewal. We also have an exemption for individuals who

are out of the area at the time of renewal.

16 thoughts on “Can unlicensed driver buy a car?

  1. That’s an interesting response. when my wife and I bought a new kia about 8 years ago. the dealer wouldn’t put her on as a legal owner because she didn’t have a drivers license.

    1. An unlicensed driver can purchase as many cars as he wants, as for registering (plating) them, is where there could be a problem. Certain offenses causing license revocation prevent the person revoked from licensing (registering) any car until the revocation has been lifted, but that doesnt mean he still cant purchase a car. There is another situation that could arise, most cities (towns) have specific ordinances prohibiting unlicensed (no plates) vehicles to be parked in the street, but your driveway is okay, but some also prohibit cars from being parked in driveways with no plates also. The loophole in this scenario is parking in a legal enclosed structure. When an unlicensed car is purchased you are responsible for license fees for each year your car sits unlicensed up to your states time frame in which you can claim its been in “storage”. In my state its 3 years. So if your car is unlicensed for two years, and its $50 per yr to plate, and 3 years before you can claim it was in storage, and its been unlicensed for less than 3 yrs, you will have to pay $50 for each full year, and a percentage of the amount of months remaining in a year from your birth month. In my state it is $5 per yr to claim a car to be in storage to avoid the full cost per yer for that specific vehicle.

  2. Why wouldn’t it be possible to buy cars if you’re not licensed, as long as you have a licensed person drive it off the lot for you? You might be a person in a wheelchair who can afford to collect cars, so why shouldn’t you be able to buy them like any other commodity? Come to that, we have people every day with licenses who buy cars they obviously don’t know how to drive.

  3. One thing almost everyone will agree on is that having a license is one of the most important aspects of a person’s life. However, driving is also one of the most dangerous situations you can be in if you do not know what you are doing. This is why taking and passing a drivers license test is so important.

  4. I’m in that grey area. I had a bad incidence while in drivers ed when I was 16. It made me too afraid to get behind the wheel again. Here I am now, 40 years old, just getting back on the horse. I have a learners permit and my BF has a license to accompany me when I buy my car. Thanks for this article, I was concerned as to if I’d be allowed to buy my own car.

  5. There is no license requirement to “purchase” a car. The only requirements are valid ID and over 18. However a licensed dealer will not let an unlicensed person drive it off the lot due to insurance reasons.

  6. A car lot just sold someone I know a car being fully aware that this individual has a very serious history of driving under the influence, has no license and is mentally unstable. I feel that this is unacceptable. They willingly sold a car to someone who is a very serious danger behind the wheel knowing the persons history. I understand that there are exceptions to selling someone a car without a license but when fully aware of the threat that this individual is, it seems like negligence on the car lots part. They can still refuse someone service if they feel its a bad idea (which it was)

  7. Apparently they will let an unlicensed, underinsured person drive off a lot. My stepdaughter has neither and was able to buy a car from a licensed dealer 2 years ago.

      1. Mr. DeLorm didn’t say and I didn’t ask. I wouldn’t have used it anyway, to avoid the kind of accusation-denial process that would lengthen the column too much and probably not come to a resolution.

  8. I do not have a license but had a car that needed tabs for my daughter to drive it. We went to license it and put in my name and i had to sign a form. And pay 30.00, stating that i would not drive any motor vehicle without my license.

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