Can You Drive a Car Without Plates After Buying It? Answers by State

The rules for vehicle registration after purchase vary by state, and in some cases, even by county or local DMV office. Most states allow you to drive a new car for at least a few days before you need to have license plates or temporary plates. You’ll need to apply for temporary plates or a temporary permit while you wait for your official plates to arrive — typically by mail. For more details, including driving laws listed by state, see below.

State Laws for Driving Cars Without Plates After Purchase

All 50 states require vehicles to be registered and titled with your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) or local transportation agency.[1] To prove registration, you must attach a visible license plate or plates.

However, when you purchase a car (new or used), it may not have plates yet, or it may have plates registered to the previous owner. Depending on where you live, you may be allowed to drive the car without plates for a few hours, days, or at least from the point of sale to your home or local DMV.

While you wait for your official plates to arrive — typically by mail — you’ll need to apply for temporary plates or a temporary permit. You can only use a temporary plate or permit for a set amount of time before you’re required to have official plates affixed to the vehicle. Time frames vary by state and are listed below.

Some states also have policies that vary based on how you purchased the vehicle. Different laws may apply depending on whether you went to a dealer or made a transaction with a private seller. See the table below for vehicle registration laws by state — we’ve also linked to each state’s DMV website (to the most appropriate page, if available) so you can find more specific information.

State Can you drive a car without plates? Required registration time for new vehicles How long are temporary plates valid?
Alabama Yes, with bill of sale paperwork 20 days 20 days
Alaska Varies; check with local DMV office 30 days Varies; check with local DMV office
Arizona No, for purchases from a dealer; for a private sale, you can get a 3-day permit 15 days Until new registration arrives
Arkansas Varies; check with local DMV office 30 days Varies; check with local DMV office
California Yes, with a temporary plate 10 days 90 days or until new plates arrive
Colorado Yes, for up to 3 days (from a non-licensed dealer) 60 days 60 days
Connecticut Varies; check with local DMV office 10 days Varies; check with local DMV office
Delaware Varies; check with local DMV office 30 days 30 days
Florida Varies; check with local DMV office 30 days 30 days
Georgia Varies; check with local DMV office 30 days 30 days, but you cannot get them from a private seller
Hawaii Policies vary by island 30 days Policies vary by island
Idaho Varies; check with local DMV office 30 days Varies; check with local DMV office
Illinois Yes, for up to 24 hours (only from point of sale to DMV) 30 days Varies; check with local DMV office
Indiana Varies; check with local DMV office 60 days 30 days
Iowa Yes, for up to 30 days with bill of sale paperwork 30 days Varies; check with local DMV office
Kansas Yes, with 60-day permit 60 days 60 days
Kentucky Yes, with a 30-day permit 15 days Until new registration arrives
Louisiana Yes, with a 60-day permit 60 days 60 days
Maine Yes, with a 10-day transit plate 10 days 10 days
Maryland Yes, with a 30-day permit 30 days 30 days
Massachusetts No, and there are no temporary plates 10 days for new purchases and 7 days for registration transfers N/A
Michigan Yes, from point of sale to home within 3 days of purchase (with proof of title) 15 days 15 days
Minnesota Yes, with a 21-day permit 21 days 21 days
Mississippi Yes, for 7 days (when you buy from an authorized dealer) 7 business days (plus 48 hours for out-of-county purchases) 7 days
Missouri Yes, with a 30-day permit 30 days 30 days
Montana Yes, with a 40-day permit 40 days 40 days
Nebraska Yes, but only with a dealer-provided in-transit tag 30 days Until new registration arrives
Nevada Yes, with valid insurance and movement permit 30 days for private sales; before the temporary permit expiration for dealer purchases Until new registration arrives
New Hampshire Yes, with a 20-day temporary plate 20 days 20 days
New Jersey Typically no, but some dealers may issue temporary tags 10 days Until new registration arrives
New Mexico Yes, with 30-day temporary tag 30 days 30 days
New York Yes, with a 30-day in-transit permit 30 days, and an inspection is required 30 days
North Carolina Yes, with a temporary plate 30 days 30 days
North Dakota Yes, for up to 5 days with proof of ownership 30 days 30 days
Ohio Yes, with a temporary license plate 30 days 30 days
Oklahoma No; you must register a new vehicle before driving it 30 days 30 days
Oregon Yes, with a trip permit 30 days 30 days
Pennsylvania Yes, with a temporary plate 90 days 90 days
Rhode Island Yes, with a temporary plate 20 days for dealer purchases; 5 days for private sales Until new registration arrives
South Carolina Yes, with a temporary permit 45 days Varies; check with local DMV office
South Dakota Yes, with a 45-day seller's permit or 5- to 15- day permit from the county treasurer's office 45 days Varies; check with local DMV office
Tennessee Yes, with temporary tags or dealer drive-out tags Varies; check with your county clerk's office Varies; check with your county clerk's office
Texas Yes, with a 5-day transit permit 30 days You can get temporary permits for one trip, 3 days, 6 days, or 30 days
Utah Yes, with a temporary permit and bill of sale 60 days 15 days
Vermont Yes, with a transit plate (good for 10 days inside of Vermont and 30 days out-of-state) 30 days (an inspection is required within 15 days) 60 days
Virginia Yes, with a 3-day trip permit Varies; check with local DMV office 30 days
Washington Typically no, but you may be able to get a 3-day trip permit 15 days Until the new registration arrives
West Virginia Yes, with a temporary plate 10 days 60 days or until the new registration arrives
Wisconsin Yes, for up to 2 days You have 2 days to start the registration process and get temporary tags 90 days
Wyoming Yes, for up to 45 days with the title or bill of sale 45 days for private sales; 60 days for dealer purchases You can get temporary plates that are good for 30, 60, or 90 days

Buying a Used Car Without License Plates

A licensed used car dealer will typically help you with the necessary paperwork to register your used car and apply for new license plates or a license plate transfer. (You may decide to transfer the plates from your old car to the newer vehicle, as this is often cheaper than applying for new plates. Keep in mind that you should only transfer plates registered under your name — not someone else’s name. In some states, it’s illegal to operate a vehicle with someone else’s license plates.[2]

If you purchase a used car from a private seller, you’ll likely need to make a trip to the DMV to register the vehicle, complete a title transfer, and apply for new plates or a transfer. In most instances, you’ll be issued temporary plates or a temporary permit to display while you wait for your official plates.

Registration and transfer costs vary by state. Before heading to the DMV, you’ll want to prepare to bring the following:

  • Your driver’s license
  • Title
  • Proof of insurance
  • Emissions test or vehicle inspection report, if required

It’s also a good idea to contact your local DMV about the requirements in your state before purchasing a car from a private party. If you need to insure your car after purchasing it, we explain how to get car insurance quickly.

2 comments

  • Ron Davidson says:

    You need to revise the last bit on Massachusetts. You can only transfer plates from another vehicle if the vehicle the plates are coming off of, has been disposed of prior to purchase of the new vehicle.

    • Lindsey Desmet says:
      First Quarter Finance logostaff

      Thank you for bringing this to our attention, Ron! We have updated our article to include this information.