Do You Need a Driver’s License to Buy a Car?

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The CarsDirect editorial team is dedicated to providing our readers with the latest on new and used cars, expert opinions on which vehicles make the grade, and all the fun stuff in between.


, - April 16, 2024

You don't always need a driver's license to purchase a car, especially if you're paying cash. An unlicensed individual can walk into a dealership and buy a car in some cases. This is much easier to accomplish if the buyer pays cash, but financing a vehicle without a driver’s license isn’t always impossible.

As long as the consumer holds a valid state-issued ID card, some banks will approve them. Consumers can also purchase auto insurance and obtain titles without driver’s licenses. However, unlicensed car buyers run into trouble when registering their vehicles.

How to Buy a Car Without a License?

You can typically purchase a vehicle for cash without a driver's license for several reasons. These range from buying a car as a gift to buying a vehicle for a caregiver to drive. Whatever the reason, the steps to purchasing a car without a license are the same as any other cash or finance car purchase.

The catch is that you will eventually need some form of identification to complete the auto loan or purchase process. This typically means having a form of state or other government ID, such as a birth certificate, social security card, and a state-issued photo ID.

How Can You Finance a Car Without a License?

Many lenders and dealerships don't require a traditional driver's license for a car loan, but they do require proof of identity. This means having some form of photo ID and possibly a birth certificate as well to prove your identity for the loan process.

Why is Vehicle Registration a Problem with No Driver’s License

If a buyer pays cash for a car, they can put a licensed driver’s name on the title and then register the vehicle in that person’s name. This isn’t an ideal situation because the car in question legally belongs to whoever has their name on the title, regardless of who purchased the vehicle.

On the other hand, if an unlicensed buyer finances a vehicle, their name must appear on the title. All lenders require this without exception. However, car registration requires a valid driver’s license, and the owner must register the vehicle in order to obtain a license plate. Therefore, at this point, the buyer may own a car, but no one can drive the vehicle on public roads legally.

Car buyers who don’t have valid driver’s licenses should take care of this issue before financing a vehicle. This way, the process is much easier for consumers and opens the door to more options.

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 ID. At the same time, many of these lenders 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 view your credit score, they look at other factors to determine approval, including:

  • Income and employment – Subprime lenders generally have a minimum monthly income requirement of $1,500 to $2,500 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 require at least 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% 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.

Why Buy a Car Without a License?

Reasons to purchase a car without a license.

  • Buying a car as a gift. If you are purchasing a vehicle for someone else, it's typically not required for you to have a valid driver's license. However, the licensed driver will need to be listed on the title, registration, and insurance for the vehicle if you intend for it to be theirs.
  • Buying a car as a collector. If the vehicle is a collector's piece and isn't intended to be driven, you're typically fine to purchase these without a license.
  • Buying a company vehicle. If you're the head of a company and are purchasing a vehicle for a fleet, you may not need to be licensed to do so.
  • Buying a car with a learner's permit. If you have your learner's permit and you will need a vehicle that you can eventually register in your name, you're usually fine to proceed with a purchase, as long as you're over the age of 18.
  • Buying a vehicle for a personal driver or caregiver. If you are purchasing a vehicle for someone else to drive, it's typically not required for you to have a valid driver's license. However, the licensed driver will need to be listed on the insurance in order to legally drive the vehicle.

All of these are reasons why someone may want to buy a car without a driver's license. As long as you're not looking to drive without a license, then there are ways to get and even finance a vehicle without a license.

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The CarsDirect editorial team is dedicated to providing our readers with the latest on new and used cars, expert opinions on which vehicles make the grade, and all the fun stuff in between.


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