Can You Buy a Car with a Learner’s Permit?

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Even with poor credit.

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Megan Foukes is a recent graduate from Indiana University who graduated with a bachelor’s in journalism. Megan works as a content writer for Auto Credit Express and contributes to several automotive and finance blogs.


, - April 22, 2019

As long as you’re paying with cash, you can certainly buy a car with a learner’s permit, as well as title and insure it. However, the one thing you can’t do is register a vehicle without a driver’s license, and if you plan on driving it on the road, this could be an issue. So, if you’re wondering how you can go about registering a car after you buy it with a learner’s permit, keep reading.

How to Buy a Car with a Learner’s Permit

Buying a vehicle with or without a learner’s permit is generally the same. But if you have bad credit mixed in there, the process is a little different. You need to find a subprime lender to work with, and they’re not always easy to spot. But once you find one, you need to make sure you qualify for a bad credit auto loan.

Subprime lenders ask for proof of identification, and usually this is a driver’s license, although some may also accept a valid state I.D. At the same time, many of these lenders, such as Consumer Portfolio Services, only accept a valid driver’s license as proof, which means you have to wait until you get one before you apply for a car loan. So, unless you're paying cash, we suggest you work out your driver's license issues before applying for a subprime auto loan.

Although subprime lenders look at your credit score, they look at other factors to determine approval, including:

  • Income and employmentSubprime lenders generally have a minimum monthly income requirement of $1,500 to $2,000 before taxes, from a single source, so make sure you bring in a copy of your most recent computer-generated pay stub showing year-to-date earnings. They also like to see a steady three-year work history.
  • Residency – Bring in a copy of a recent utility bill, in your name, showing the address listed on the application.
  • Down payment – You typically can’t get out of making one, but you don’t need to make a large down payment. Usually, subprime lenders ask for a minimum of $1,000 or 10 percent of the vehicle’s selling price, whichever is less.
  • Cosigner – Some lenders require consumers with bad credit or no credit to have a cosigner, while others don’t. Regardless, having a cosigner can boost your approval odds, and may help you qualify for a lower interest rate.

But even if you pay cash, if you don’t have your driver’s license just yet, you’re going to have another problem.

How to Register a Car

You have to have a valid driver’s license to register a car, no exceptions. The reason why is if you finance a vehicle, it means your name is on the title, and you’re expected to be the sole driver when you register it under your name. You can’t drive a car legally without a registration and license plates, so you must have a driver’s license to do this.

Once you have your license, bring the title and proof of insurance to your local Secretary of State or DMV. From there, you fill out the vehicle registration paperwork, turn it back in, and get your registration and license plate.

The Bottom Line

You don’t need a driver’s license to buy a car with cash, but you need one to legally drive it. If you have your license, and need a vehicle because you’re ready to legally drive, we want to help you. CarsDirect connects car buyers to dealerships in their area that specialize in bad credit financing.

With our help, you don't have to drive from dealer to dealer hoping they have a lender you can work with. Our process is simple, free, and doesn’t put you under any obligation. To get connected to a local dealership for the bad credit auto loan you need, just fill out our car loan request form and we'll get to work for you!

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Megan Foukes is a recent graduate from Indiana University who graduated with a bachelor’s in journalism. Megan works as a content writer for Auto Credit Express and contributes to several automotive and finance blogs.


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