Can you register a car without a license in NY?

Car Insurance Registration

Yes, but there is more to it.

In New York state, you don't need a license to buy or register a car but getting insurance without a license (regardless of which state you live in) can be difficult. However, it is certainly not impossible.

Here are the answers to your most pressing questions about how New York car insurance laws when it comes to buying and insuring a vehicle without a license in NY.

Key Highlights
  • You are not required to have a driver's license to buy or register a car in New York.
  • While it can be more difficult, it is possible to buy a policy without a valid license, but you may have to be an excluded driver.
  • You can also register a car with a suspended license in NY, with a valid government ID, but you won't be able to drive or insure it.
  • To fulfil the insurance requirements in NY, you should have auto liability insurance coverage. The insurance should remain in effect and should be issued in the name of the vehicle owner.

Can you buy a car without a license in NY?

Absolutely, although you will not be able to test drive it or drive it off the lot once you have made the purchase. There is no law on the books that says you must have a valid driver's license to buy a car. However, you will need some form of a government-issued ID to complete the transaction and to title or register the car.

There are a number of reasons you may want to purchase a vehicle when you don't have a license.

Here are just a few:

  • You have a disability and need a car for a caregiver to drive.
  • You own a business and need a vehicle for licensed employees to drive.
  • You have an underage child who has a license but can't legally finance a vehicle.
  • You have a driver.

Can you register a car without a license in NY?

The quick answer is no.

According to the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles, you are not required to have a driver's license or learner’s permit to apply for vehicle registration or title certificate in the state of New York. These requirements also apply to registering vehicles like a boat, a snowmobile or an ATV.

However, getting a driver’s license has benefits beyond those for the driver – a study from the Fiscal Policy Institute estimates that each driver in New York could save $17 per year on their auto insurance policy if every qualified driver was able to procure a license.

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

Yes, but you will not be able to drive it.

In New York, a license or permit is not required to buy or register a car as long as you have a valid government ID. Just because you can register a car doesn't mean you can drive it. Getting caught driving on a suspended license is a major offense and will result in sky-high insurance premiums, as well as possible jail time and a longer license suspension.

Learn more about getting a license in another state if your license is suspended.

Can you register a car online in NY?

No, online car registration is not possible in New York.

However, if you buy the car from an auto dealer, they can usually handle this task for you. Private party transactions will involve a trip to the DMV office.

Per the New York DMV website: "You must come to a DMV office. You or your business must register and title at a DMV office any vehicle you own or lease. You cannot register or title a vehicle online. When you purchase a new vehicle through an auto dealership, the auto dealer can register and title the vehicle, and issue plates (and charge a fee for this)."

Can you register and insure a car with a permit in NY?

Yes, you can register a car with just a driver's permit.

You do not have to have a license or permit to simply register a car, but insuring it could be more complicated without a license or permit.

However, buying a car with a permit is difficult as most drivers with permits are underage. Typically, auto dealers won’t sell to minors and you have to be 18 to buy a car in most states. Furthermore, auto insurers are unlikely to insure underaged drivers as an auto policy is a contract and can’t be legally entered into until the age of maturity, which usually is 18.

Learn more about driving alone with your driver's permit in New York state.

Can you insure a car without a license in NY?

We have already established that without a valid license you can buy, register and title a car in your name. However, getting insurance will be a bit more difficult.

Car insurance companies see nothing but risk when they look at an unlicensed driver, which means you may have to exclude yourself from the policy and supply personal information on the person who will actually be driving the car.

Here are just a couple of the more common reasons you may need car insurance even if you don't have a vehicle:

  • Underaged driver in the house: The majority of insurance companies will not let a driver younger than 18 purchase insurance coverage on their own because they cannot legally enter into a contract. 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, your license is suspended or you can no longer drive due to health reasons, you may need a driver who is insured.

While it can be more difficult, it is absolutely possible to insure a car without a valid license in NY, but you may have to be an excluded driver.

Instead of using your driver's license on the application for an insurance policy, you may be allowed to apply for a policy using the name and license number of the primary driver of your car. This way, you are listed on the policy but not as a driver.

A primary driver on an insurance policy can be anyone who is licensed and will be driving your vehicle on a regular basis. It can be a teen driver, a spouse, a roommate or a caretaker. However, the premium will be based on the primary driver's record so choose someone with a decent driving record to help keep your premiums affordable.

In addition, you may need to list yourself as an excluded driver on the policy. This means that if you end up behind the wheel of your car (or any car for that matter) you will have zero coverage. 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 all insurers are willing to exclude the owner from their own policy, so you may need to shop around for the right coverage. There are insurance companies, such as Esurance, that allow another person to insure your car, even if they don't have an insurable interest in the vehicle.

The best advice is to contact a few auto insurance companies, explain your situation and see what they’ll allow you to insure a car without a license in New York.

Read about the penalties for driving without a valid inspection sticker in New York state.

What are the minimum insurance requirements in New York?

Every state has minimum car insurance requirements to be legal out on the road. New York law requires that you have auto liability insurance coverage.

The minimum amount of liability coverage is:

  • $10,000 for property damage for a single accident.
  • $25,000 for bodily injury and $50,000 for death for a person involved in an accident.
  • $50,000 for bodily injury and $100,000 for death for two or more people in an accident.

In order to meet New York’s requirements, your liability insurance coverage must:

  • Remain active while the registration is valid, even if you don't use the vehicle.
  • Be New York State insurance coverage, issued by a company licensed by the New York State Department of Financial Services and certified by the New York DMV. Out-of-state insurance is never acceptable.
  • Be issued in the name of the vehicle registrant and remain in the name of the registrant at all times.

Check out our experts’ recommendations for What's the cheapest car insurance in New York?

– Michelle Megna contributed to this story.