Registering a car as planned non-operation (PNO) in California means that the car cannot be driven, towed or parked on a public highway or roadway for the entire year of registration.

That means that if an owner is planning on selling a vehicle on PNO status in California, they will need to fully register the vehicle if they want to allow potential buyers to test drive the vehicle or take it out on the road.

Key Highlights
  • A car listed as PNO in California cannot be parked on public roads or highways and must be parked in a private area. This means someone cannot test drive a vehicle that is PNO status in California.
  • If the vehicle is found operational or parked in a public area and the owner is cited, full registration plus penalties for that year are due.
  • Off-highways vehicles (OHV) must file for PNO status before the registration expiration date.

Can I sell a car that is on PNO status in California?

Yes, technically. You can sell a car listed as PNO, but it cannot be parked on a public street or test driven by a potential buyer. The PNO status means that the vehicle is in a non-operational status, according to the California DMV.

If you plan on selling a vehicle to someone who wants to test drive your vehicle and then drive it away from where you have it stored, you will need to remove the PNO status with the California DMV. This requires you to register and insure the car so that it is back on the road legally.

In other words, selling a car isn’t considered use of the car, but the activities related to selling the car may be considered use. The DMV says specifically that if at any time the vehicle is operated or parked where it may be subject to citation, then full registration fees and penalties for that year become due.

However, just because the vehicle is in non-operational status, you may still be able to move the vehicle for one day under certain conditions. You can do this by obtaining a Vehicle Moving Permit (REG 172) from a California DMV office. Reasons for the one-day permit include a vehicle or smog inspection, a repair or alteration, permanent wrecking or movement to a new storage space.

The one-day permit bypasses the need to reinstate full registration and no additional fees are required. That said, none of these purposes are related to someone test-driving a car in PNO status in California for potential purchase.

If you want to allow someone to test drive a vehicle you intend to sell, you should contact the California DMV to find out what steps are needed to remove the PNO status. If you must register, insure and smog your vehicle, remember to compare car insurance rates in California to find the best deal for the short time you need insurance before the vehicle is sold.

Remember to tell the insurance provider that the mileage will be limited on the vehicle, which may allow you to get a low-mileage discount and bring your rates even lower.

Check out our experts’ recommendations on what’s the cheapest car insurance in California.

– Michelle Megna contributed to this story.


  1. State of California Department of Motor Vehicles. “Reporting Vehicle Status.” Accessed October 2022.
  2. State of California Department of Motor Vehicles. “Planned Nonoperation Filing.” Accessed October 2022.
  3. State of California Department of Motor Vehicles. “Vehicle Industry Registration Procedures Manual.” Accessed October 2022.