CA - Driving a private purchase used car home

Know this may not be the right forum, but I cant seem to get a straight answer on this. Figured this forum would be full of knowledgeable people.

I’m considering purchasing a used car from a private seller in California. If the plates stay with the car and I insure it in advance, can I legally drive the car home without having it registered in my name? On various online forums, I’ve seen three answers: 1) Yes, it’s fine, as long as you register it within 10 days. 2) Only if you apply for a temp operating tag in advance (I don’t see an option for this online) 3) No, you can’t. Have it towed to the dmv.

Pretty sure it’s the 1st answer.

1 Like

Do you also live in CA? If so number 1

1 Like

Also agree on 1st answer. As obviously you will be leaving the transaction with the car just have a generic “Bill of Sale” signed / dated / w/ odometer reading by the seller. Some states have a form you can print off the DMV site for private party transaction.

It wouldn’t hurt to either print out a copy of the insurance card or have on your phone just in case you get pulled over.

In general-If the registration is still valid you have up to 30 days to show proof of insurance and keep driving until the renewal of registration becomes due…you have to transfer it in your name within 10 days of purchase-so yes, your answer #1 is correct…
Also, if you have AAA they can help you with the transfer and no waiting at a DMV office or use a DMV Kiosk at some local grocery stores to avoid the lines at DMV (or make an appointment and go in)
Seller needs to provide you with a Valid SMOG Certificate upon the sale FYI

Am I the only one that wants to see the car towed to the dmv?


I have purchased many vehicles in CA private party and just had signed title and insurance card from my other car (most policies provide automatic coverage for newly aquired vehicles for 14 or 30 days). Make an few dmv appointments now if your still looking as waits can be alot longer than the 10 days you have to pay registration fees.