In Pennsylvania, you don't need a driver's license to buy or register a car. And, while getting car insurance in Pennsylvania without a license can be difficult, it’s not impossible. Here is everything you need to know about buying and registering a car in Pennsylvania without a license.

Do I have to have a Pennsylvania driver's license to buy a car in PA?

The answer to the question, "Can you buy a car without a license in PA?" is yes, you absolutely can. However, you will not be able to test drive the car or drive it off the lot once you have made the purchase. There is no law in Pennsylvania that says you must have a valid driver's license to buy a car. You will need some form of government-issued ID to complete the transaction as well to title or register the car.

There are a number of reasons a person may need to purchase a vehicle without a license. Here are just a few:

  • You are disabled and need a car for your caregiver to drive
  • You own a business and need a vehicle for your licensed employees to drive
  • You have an underage child who has a license but can't legally finance a vehicle
  • You have a personal driver who will be driving you around

Can you register a car without a license in PA?

Technically, the answer is yes, but you do need some form of Pennsylvania approved identification.

The Driver and Vehicle Services section of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) states that individuals are required to have a valid form of Pennsylvania identification to apply for a vehicle title and registration.

PennDOT notes that the Department of Driver Services will only allow agents to issue title and registration documents to customers who provide one of the following credentials for identification purposes:

  • a valid Pennsylvania Photo Driver's License
  • a valid Pennsylvania Photo Identification Card
  • a valid Pennsylvania Photo Exempt Driver's License
  • a valid Pennsylvania Photo Exempt Identification Card
  • a valid U.S. Armed Forces Common Access Card - Dependents of Armed Forces Personnel must provide a valid United States Uniformed Services Identification and Privilege Card (DD Form 1173)

So, while you do not need a Pennsylvania driver's license, you will need to show a valid form of ID from the list above so that you can title and register a car in Pennsylvania.

Can you register a car in PA with an out of state license?

The quick answer is no. According to the Pennsylvania DOT site, you need a valid Pennsylvania identification to register a car in the Keystone State.

Can you register a car with a suspended license in Pennsylvania?

Yes, you can but you will need a valid Pennsylvania identification document from the list above to do so. Remember, just because you can register a car doesn't mean you can drive it. If you get caught out on the road with a suspended license you will be facing a major driving offense on your record, sky high insurance premiums as well as possible jail time and a longer license suspension.

How to register a car in PA?

According to the Pennsylvania DMV website, the following is necessary to register a car in PA:

  • All new residents are required to apply for Pennsylvania title and registration of their vehicles within 20 days of establishing residency in Pennsylvania.
  • You must give the DMV your out-of-state title when applying for a new one
  • Be aware that if you still owe money on a car that has an out-of-state title, you may have to refinance the balance pay off the out-of-state bank or lender.
  • You won’t be issued a Pennsylvania title until the out-of-state title is submitted with a completed “Form MV-1.”

In order to title and register your vehicle, you will need to bring the following items with you to the authorized agent:

  • A valid title for all of the vehicles you want to register in Pennsylvania, issued in your name, from your previous state.
  • Proof of Pennsylvania insurance, such as a valid insurance identification card, declaration page of an insurance policy, a copy of a valid binder or a copy of an application for insurance to the Pennsylvania Assigned Risk Plan for all of the vehicles you will be registering. These documents must indicate both effective and expiration dates.
  • A tracing of the vehicle identification number (VIN) or the verification of the VIN by an inspection mechanic or notary public at a dealership or issuing agent.
  • Appropriate title, lien, registration fees and sales tax (if applicable). Make checks or money orders payable to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Please do not send cash.
  • If you are titling and registering a leased vehicle, the leasing company will also be required to complete Form MV-1L (PDF).

Do you have to have a valid driver's license in order to get car insurance in Pennsylvania?

We have already established that without a valid license you can buy a car in Pennsylvania but you need a valid Pennsylvania identification (not necessarily a driver's license) to register and title a car in your name. However, getting insurance can be a bit more difficult.

Insurance companies see nothing but risk in an unlicensed driver so you may have to exclude yourself from the car insurance policy as well as supply personal information on the person who will actually be driving the car.

There are a number of reasons you may need car insurance coverage even if you don't have a vehicle:

  • Underage driver in the house: The majority of insurance companies will not let a driver under age18 purchase insurance coverage on their own because they cannot legally enter into a contract in most states. This means that if you have a teen child in the house who drives you still need insurance coverage regardless of whether you drive or not.
  • Personal driver or caregiver: If you have lost your license, it is suspended or can no longer drive due to health reasons, you may need a personal driver and if they are driving your car, you will need to insure that car.

While it can be difficult, you can certainly buy a policy without a valid license, but you may have to be an excluded driver.

Instead of using your own driver's license information on the application for a policy you may be allowed to apply for a policy using the name and license number of the primary driver of your car, whoever that may be. This way you are listed on the policy for a car you own but you will not technically a driver on the policy.

A primary driver on an insurance policy can be anyone that is licensed and will be driving your vehicle. You can use a teen driver, a spouse, even a roommate or caretaker. It's important to remember that the premium will be based on the primary driver's record so choose someone with a good driving record to help keep your premiums affordable.

You may also need to list yourself as an excluded driver on the policy. This means that if you are caught driving your vehicle or any other vehicle, you will not be covered. This means that you will be solely responsible for the cost of any damage you do to your car as well as other people and their vehicles if you drive a car as an excluded driver.

Not every insurance company is willing to exclude the owner from their own policy so you will probably have to shop around for the right coverage. It is a good idea to call a number of insurance companies, explain your particular situation and see what they are able to do for you in regard to putting an insurance policy in place without a driver's license.

What are the minimum insurance requirements in Pennsylvania?

Every state has minimum car insurance requirements to be legal out on the road. When registering a car, you must show proof of Pennsylvania auto insurance. This means all motor vehicles subject to registration such as cars, vans, motorcycles, recreational vehicles, trucks and buses must have liability insurance. You are in compliance with the PA law if you have liability insurance in the following amounts:

  • $15,000 for injury or death of one person in an accident
  • $30,000 for injury or death of more than one person in an accident
  • $5,000 for damage to property of another person

This insurance is referred to as 15/30/5 and is woefully inadequate if you are in a serious accident. This means that you will be on the hook for any accident costs that go beyond your coverage levels.

You may want to get higher limits to better protect yourself and your assets. If you have a loan on your vehicle, your lien holder will normally require you to have collision coverage and comprehensive coverage on the vehicle as well.