by Armando Martinez
If you're in the market for a used car, you may be wondering how you can get in the car and drive right away before your permanent registration and in some states, your new license plates, arrive.
In most states, when you buy a car from a dealership, they will take care of getting registration and license plates for you. But if you're buying privately, you'll need to do this on your own after your purchase is final. Keep your purchase documents with you or in your vehicle, as proof of ownership, until you complete the temporary registration process.
This blog post will outline everything you need to know about how to get temporary registrationwhen buying from a private seller. Plus, we'll offer some tips on what to do if you run into any trouble along the way.
What Are Temporary Tags?
Temporary tags allow you to drive a car that is not yet registered, and it is the buyer's responsibility to obtain them.
Temporary tags provide proof of ownership and temporary registration. This tag often comes in the form of a paper license plate and is valid for a limited time.
Once you get a temp tag, you'll often need to get the car inspected and pay any required fees for permanent registration before the tag expires. Once the vehicle is registered, you'll receive permanent registration and license plates.
The main advantage of getting temporary registration is it allows you to drive the car immediately after purchase. You can get temporary tags from the state DMV where your car will be garaged.
There are a few situations in which you might not be able to get a temporary tag for a private car sale — for example, in some cases when you're buying a car from out of state or purchasing a vehicle with a salvage title. However, these situations are uncommon.
How Does a Buyer Purchase Temporary License Plates for a Private Sale?
To get a temp tag, you'll need to meet a few requirements, which vary from state to state. However, there are some common steps to follow across states.
Below are the essential items you should prepare before filling out a temporary license plate application at your local DMV.
Ensure You Hit All Insurance Requirements
Car insurance is normally required to obtain a temporary license plate.
States require different types of insurance, but you'll generally need liability insurance. Liability insurance covers damage you might cause to other people or property while driving. It does not cover damage to your own car.
In some states, you may be able to get a surety bond instead of insurance. A surety bond is a guarantee that you will pay for any damage that you cause while driving.
Get the Vehicle Inspected
Some states require an inspection certificate before issuing a temporary license plate. The safety inspection ensures that the car is safe to drive and meets all registration process requirements.
To get your car inspected, you'll need to take it to an authorized inspection station. You can usually find these stations at auto repair shops or some gas stations. An inspector will check the car to ensure it meets all of the requirements, including the brakes, lights, and tires.
The inspection certificate is typically valid for 30 days. This means you'll need to register your car within that time to avoid inspecting the vehicle again.
Double-Check That Your Vehicle Is Eligible
Not all vehicles are eligible for a temporary license plate. In general, only passenger cars and light trucks or vans can get temp tags.
Some states have additional requirements, so check with your local department of motor vehicles to see if your car is eligible for a temporary license plate before you buy it.
Pay All Necessary Fees
There are usually fees associated with getting a temporary license plate. These fees vary by state, but they are typically around $5 to $30. Additional application fees, service fees, or a title fee may apply. All financial obligations must be met before the license plate can be issued.
Driver’s License or State ID Card
You will need a valid driver’s license or state identification card to get a temporary license plate. You must provide this to the DMV when applying.
Ask the Seller All the Right Questions
To make the process of getting temporary plates from the private seller as easy as possible, do your research ahead of time so you can ask the seller the right questions.
Get the car's history report to check for any accidents or damage that may have occurred. You should also ask to see the car's registration and title. These documents will help you verify the car's identity and make sure that the seller is the rightful owner of the vehicle.
You should also get proof of purchase, such as a bill of sale, to finalize the transaction and obtain your new title.
With all of these steps complete, you should be able to get your temporary license plate and hit the road without any problems.
Determine the Length of Time the Temporary Permit Is Valid
Temporary license plates are only valid for a certain amount of time. This varies by state but is typically between 30 and 90 days.
Make sure you know how long the permit is valid before buying the car. This will ensure you have enough time to register the vehicle in your name. This time allows you to transfer the title and registration, inspect the car, and pay any fees associated with the purchase.
This article was written by Armando Martinez. Armando Martinez is among the nation’s experts on automotive titling, registration, DMV services and document operations. With nearly two decades of experience across a broad range of financial services functions and some of the largest names in auto, from Wells Fargo to Uber, Armando combines vision and ingenuity with a wealth of information so auto shoppers and sellers can learn from his experience.