So you’re getting ready to pick up your new car from a private buyer. How should you get it home and registered? This is a fairly simple hurdle that buyers often deal with incorrectly.
When you buy a car from a dealer, the dealer provides a temporary tag so you can drive the car until the actual tags arrive at the dealership, and then they bring you in to replace the temporary tags.
When you buy from an individual, often times the seller will let you drive away with the tags and ask you to send them back or turn them in to the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) once they get their new tags. That’s a terrible idea. If you’re the seller don’t ever do this.
When you let someone else drive off with your plates you could get in trouble with the state if the other party then commits a crime or has an outstanding arrest warrant. One of my friends actually had to go to court to get his situation cleared up when he gave the tags to the buyer of his old car.
The right way to go about this is to meet the seller at the DMV to complete the sale. Here the seller removes the old tags and turns them in while you register your car and get tags right then. This is best but can also be challenging from a logistical and scheduling point of view.
The next best option is to obtain a trip permit so you can legally drive it without license plates from the seller’s location to DMV so you can get the car registered. Every state has a provision for this. Check your state’s DMV page for more info (see AAMVA’s list here). They’re usually a couple of bucks.
All you do is pay online, print it out and place it in the window of your car. Usually these permits are valid for a couple of days. That way you can leave the old tags with the seller when you drive off your registration is covered. Just be sure to get the permanent tags before the trip permit expires.