When you buy a car, whether it is new or used, you have to register it with your local DMV. You can get fined or have your vehicle impounded if you drive around without registering it.
But what about parking it in your own driveway? Surely, you should be able to keep an unregistered vehicle on your private property. In most states, you won’t be in any trouble. But some states and cities have different rules.
What You'll Learn Today
- Where Can I Park My Unregistered Car?
- Can You Park An Unregistered Car On The Street?
- Can You Drive an Unregistered Car?
- How Long Can Your Leave Your Car Unregistered
- Can You Insure an Unregistered Car?
- How to Register A Car In The US
Where Can I Park My Unregistered Car?
Generally, most states have no problem if you have an unregistered car as long as it is not in a public space. That means no driving it on public roads or parking in any public space whether it is the street or a parking lot.
The biggest reason for this is that unregistered cars are difficult to track. The government basically doesn’t know who owns the car. So in case of anything like a crime or accident involving the car, it will be difficult to track down the owner.
The other issue is that unregistered cars often also lack insurance. So if an accident happens on a public road or in the street, there’s no liability insurance to pay for damages or injuries.
So if you have an unregistered car, the best place to keep it is on private premises. Here are some ideas. Note that not all these are legal in some cities. Check your local laws before you pick a place to park your unregistered car.
In Your Driveway
In most places, it is fine to have an unregistered car in the driveway since it is a private space. But some cities, towns and HOAs may have different rules.
In some places, you cannot have an unregistered car at all in your driveway. In others, you can but it should not be visible from the street.
The state of the vehicles matters, too. If the reason you have not registered the car is because you are working on it or are planning to dispose of it, your local municipality or HOA may have issues with you having a half-built or junk car in your driveway.
Inside Your Garage
Your garage is the best place to keep an unregistered car. Because it is totally private and out of sight, it is legal in most states and cities.
For example the town of Windsor in Connecticut forbids parking an unregistered or inoperable car on your property unless it is within an enclosed structure such as a garage. Many towns and municipalities have similar rules.
Private Parking Lot, Garage or Car Storage Facility
If you are not able to park an unregistered car in your home, check if there’s a nearby private garage or storage facility that you can pay to park your car in.
You’ll need to inquire if they are okay having an unregistered car in their facility. Some facilities require a car to be registered while others are fine as long as you have auto insurance.
Another great option if you cannot keep an unregistered car at home is renting out a storage facility large enough to hold your car.
We recommend looking for storage units specifically designed for vehicles. They’ll be more spacious and have stronger security. They also come with higher insurance limits that will cover the cost of the car in case of fire, theft or some other kind of risk.
Can You Park An Unregistered Car On The Street?
If you are thinking of parking an unregistered car on the street, don’t. It’s most likely illegal in your state and city. Even if the street is right outside your home, it’s still a public space.
The same way you cannot drive an unregistered car on public roads, you also cannot park it on public streets. Your car will attract citations, fines and could even be towed away.
In any case, many cities have laws about leaving a car parked in the street for too long. Many have a 72-hour limit after which the car gets towed away.
Something else to keep in mind is that an unregistered car will be more attractive to thieves. They know the car will be harder to track down without license plates. So you have plenty of reasons not to leave an unregistered car on the street.
Can You Drive an Unregistered Car?
No, you cannot drive or tow an unregistered car on a public road in any US state. All vehicles must be registered (and insured) before they are allowed on public roads.
The only place you can drive an unregistered car is on private roads such as on a race track. And even then, the facility might have their own rules regarding vehicle registration.
What if you need to transport an unregistered car say to have it inspected or taken to a junkyard. How do you get it to the destination without breaking any laws?
You have two options.
One, you can hire a car transportation company. As long as the car is on another vehicle, it is treated as any other cargo and doesn’t have to be registered.
The other option is to check if your state or city offers drive permits for unregistered vehicles. Such permits are temporary and you’d need to have a good reason to apply for one.
How Long Can Your Leave Your Car Unregistered
In most states, there is no specific timeframe for registering a car. You are supposed to register it as soon as possible after acquiring the car so that you can legally drive it on public roads and park it on the street.
In fact, some auto dealers handle the registration for you so that the car is ready to drive as soon as you pick it up.
If you are planning to keep the car at home or in a private facility (and you are sure it’s legal to do so in your city), then you can go for as long as you want without registering it.
But if you drive the car or park it in the street without registering it, you will be fined. These fines can be hundreds or thousands of dollars. Some states increase the fine the longer you go without registration and your car can eventually get impounded.
Can You Insure an Unregistered Car?
Yes, you can and you should insure an unregistered car. Typically, you need proof of insurance to register your car. But you don’t need to have registered a car to insure it.
Even if you will not be driving the car, it’s still a good idea to get it insured.
Remember that home insurance doesn’t cover vehicles on the property, whether they are registered or not. So if there’s a catastrophe at home that damages the car, you will not be reimbursed for the cost of your car. Here’s an insurance expert explaining it.
Just because you are not driving your car doesn’t mean it’s not exposed to any risk. It could be stolen or damaged in a flood or house fire.
You don’t need liability insurance since you won’t be driving the car. We recommend getting comprehensive insurance, also called parking insurance. Get the car insured even if you decide to park it at another private garage or in a storage unit.
How to Register A Car In The US
Once you are ready to register your car, it’s usually an easy and straightforward process. But beware the long lines at many DMVs.
Unfortunately, most states require you to register the car in-person especially if it’s the first time. After that, some states let you renew registration online.
Before you register your car, check what your local DMV needs in terms of documentation. Most states require the following documents:
- Proof of current car insurance.
- Driving license.
- Bill of sale from the dealer or private seller.
- Car title or lien.
- For some states, documentation showing your car passed the emissions test.
- Some states also need proof of vehicle inspection.
Once you have all the necessary documents, fill out the car registration form and submit it along with payment.
Car registration fees vary widely from state to state. Arizona is cheapest at $9.50 while Florida is the most expensive state to register a car with a fee of $225. But in most states, it’s around $50.
Registration costs can also vary depending on the size and weight of your vehicle.
Once you register a car, you can now drive it on public roads and park it on the street. You’ll need to renew the registration every 1-2 years depending on the state.