Can You Buy a Car if You Have a Learner's Permit?

You may face some obstacles if you try to buy a car without a driver's license.

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It's normal to have a lot of questions when you or your dependent is learning to drive, which may include: Can I buy a car with a learner's permit?

The good news is that an official driver's license isn't required to buy a vehicle (although you'll need one to drive on your own). So you can buy a car with a learner's permit. However, you might have trouble registering or insuring the vehicle without a driver's license.

Challenges of Buying a Car Without a License

If you're trying to find the right vehicle before you have your official driver's license, you should prepare for a few potential obstacles:

  • Insurance: Buying a car with a learner's permit requires finding an insurance company that's willing to work with you. Some insurance providers won't offer auto insurance policies to someone without a driver's license. Additionally, companies that insure unlicensed drivers could charge higher premiums
  • Registration: Different states have different rules where vehicle registration is concerned. Some states, such as Ohio and Delaware, require a driver's license before you can register your vehicle
  • Financing: Getting a car loan without a driver's license might also be challenging. If you have a learner's permit or other state identification that you can use to prove your identity to a lender, the process could be easier. Of course, you may also need to satisfy an auto lender's other borrowing criteria — such as minimum credit score and debt-to-income ratio requirements — in addition to proving your identity

4 Steps to Buying a Car Without a Driver's License

The following four steps can help you navigate the process if you're asking yourself: "Can I buy a car with a learner's permit?"

  1. Figure out your budget. Whether you're buying a vehicle in cash or applying for an auto loan, it's important to know how much you can comfortably spend on the purchase. If you're borrowing money, be sure to calculate the monthly payment you can afford along with the overall cost of interest and fees.
  2. Secure financing. Unless you plan to pay for a car in cash, it can be helpful to see if you pre-qualify for an auto loan before you start shopping for a vehicle. As an unlicensed buyer, you might consider listing someone else on the loan with you — like a parent or spouse — to make the financing and insurance process easier.
  3. Search for an insurance provider. Many lenders may require you to have a comprehensive auto insurance policy (a.k.a. full coverage) when you finance a vehicle. Also, most states require a minimum amount of liability insurance. So you may want to find an insurance company that offers insurance to people without a license before you can close on most auto loans with a learner's permit.
  4. Find the right vehicle. Once you know your budget and have financing (or cash) available, you can start shopping around for the right vehicle.

Bottom Line

You might be able to buy a car with a learner's permit. However, registering the vehicle may not be possible in certain states. You could have trouble setting up affordable auto insurance coverage as well. So if you're able to delay purchasing a vehicle until after you qualify for an official driver's license, you could save yourself a lot of potential stress.

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Michelle Black
Michelle Lambright Black is a leading credit expert with nearly two decades of experience in the credit industry. She's an expert on credit reporting, credit scoring, identity theft, and the intersection of credit and financing. Michelle is also an experienced personal finance and travel writer, with thousands of articles featured in major outlets throughout the U.S.