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How to Sell?

Can You Sell A Car With Expired Registration?

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Written by: Michael Becker
Last Updated:

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Quick Answer:

Some states allow you to sell a car with an expired registration. However, buyers are usually unwilling to buy such cars and, therefore, may ask to lower the price.

Certain states require the seller to provide a valid registration to the buyer when transferring the title. In this case, you should consider selling to a car-buying company such as Peddle, Wheelzy or CarBarain since they are known to purchase cars even with expired registration.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Importance of Registration: Car registration is crucial for legally driving a vehicle on public roads. Without a valid registration, driving or parking on public streets can lead to legal consequences, including fines.
  2. Handling Expired Registration: Options include renewing the registration, obtaining a temporary tag for short-term legal driving, or applying for a non-operational title to avoid active use and associated costs.
  3. Selling to Online Companies: For cars with expired registration, online car-buying companies like Peddle, Wheelzy, or CarBrain can be ideal, as they typically do not require current registration for purchasing vehicles.

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How I Sold My Car With Expired Registration

Four years ago I bought a 2002 Toyota Corolla with some body damage for $800.

My goal was to invest up to $300 to fix the car and sell it for at least $1,500, making a $400 profit.

However, after a detailed inspection, I discovered the car also had serious transmission and engine problems and expired registration.

State I lived in required to have an active registration before selling. Even though the late registration penalty was only $20, I would have also needed to pay $151 for registration renewal.

As fixing the car would cost me more than it is worth, I decided to sell it as it is.

Knowing it would be hard to sell the car in its condition and registration is required to sell privately, I decided to sell it online.

I requested cash offers from Peddle, Wheelzy and CarBarain, but Peddle’s offer was the highest: $750. The biggest advantage is that those companies only required a clean title and had no registration requirements.

I accepted the offer and Peddle’s representative arrived the next day to pick up the vehicle. He inspected the car, I signed the title and got paid right on the spot.

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Car Title vs. Registration

A car title and car registration are both important documents related to vehicle ownership but have different purposes.

A Car Title is a legal document that establishes who owns a particular vehicle. It contains important information about the car: make, model, year, VIN, and the owner: full name and address.

When selling a car, the Certificate of Title is required in all states, as it is needed to legally transfer ownership to the buyer.

Car Registration, on the other hand, does not prove ownership. It is intended to confirm that vehicle is allowed to drive on public roads. Car registration links the vehicle to the owner and must be renewed periodically.

Failing to do so may result in fines.

Why Is Car Registration Important?

Each car has a unique identification number, and when registered, that number is associated with the owner’s name. So, if anything happens involving the car, the authorities will know who to contact.

But more important is that car registration allows vehicles to drive on public roads legally. If your car has no registration and you drive or park on public roads, you risk getting fined. 

This is important to notice when you are selling a car. If a potential buyer wants to do a test drive and your car has no registration legally, you are not allowed to do so unless a test drive is arranged on private land.

Reasons registration is required:

  • Allows to legally drive on public roads
  • Used to determine the owner when tracking criminal activities
  • Used to assess taxes and penalties

The fine for driving without registration varies significantly depending on your location as each state, and sometimes even different cities within a state set its own penalties. However, generally, fines can range anywhere from $50 to $500.

In some jurisdictions, driving without registration can also result in the vehicle being impounded, and the driver may potentially face additional penalties, such as points on their driving record.

In addition to the direct penalties, being caught without registration could indirectly increase your car insurance rates.

Cons of Selling a Car With Expired Registration

Even though you are legally allowed to sell a car with expired registration in most states, finding a buyer might be a challenge.

Many buyers might be concerned about why the car isn’t registered, suspecting the car has been poorly maintained, there might be problems with the car itself, or any unpaid fines. 

Additionally, buyers will be responsible for renewing the registration immediately after purchase and might face some issues at the DMV.

This could mean you’ll have to lower your price to get it sold.

Additionally, if your state mandates valid inspection and emission tests, you’ll face a roadblock. You won’t be able to obtain these essential documents unless your vehicle can be driven to the designated inspection locations.

Potential Fees When Driving With Expired Registration

If you drive your car with expired registration and get pulled over, you will get a ticket, plus it is highly likely you will need to pay penalty fees at DMV.

Traffic ticket fines for driving with an expired registration can range from $50 to $200 or more, depending on the state and period of expired tags.

Penalty fees for late renewal, on average, range from $10 to $100. For example, in California, it is 20% of the vehicle license fee due for that year + $30 for late registration and late CHP (California Highway Patrol) if renewal is late for 11 to 30 days.

Additionally, you can expect higher insurance premiums.

Best Way to Sell a Car With Expired Registration

If you want to sell your car with expired registration privately and still get the best possible price, consider renewing your registration or obtaining a temporary registration tag

1. Renew Registration

If your car registration is expired or is soon to be expired, and your state requires you to have it renewed or you predict that you won’t be able to sell your car until it does, the best choice is to simply renew it.

Why you should renew your registration:

  1. It is illegal to drive with expired registration
  2. If there are any unpaid fees, you still will be eligible to pay those even if you sell your car.
  3. Buyers won’t be confident in buying such a car as they might think it is something wrong with it
  4. Renewed registration proves the value of the car and makes it easier to sell

When registration is soon to be expired, you will get a renewal notice from DMV. The notice usually includes the amount of fee you will need to pay and the exact expiration date.

You will need to provide your car details, such as license plate number or VIN, and pay the fee.

Ways to renew registration:

  • Online
  • DMV office
  • By mail

If you choose to renew your registration by mail or online, this might take up to a few weeks until you get a registration tag. If you renew it in person at the DMV office, you will get the sticker immediately.

If your car has expired registration and was not driven, the process of renewal is similar, but you might need to take some extra steps.

  • Check for Any Outstanding Issues – check if there are no unpaid parking tickets, fines, or previous registration fees. You will need to pay any fines related to the car before renewal.
  • Vehicle Inspection – some states require to provide vehicle inspection documents before renewal. In this case, you might need to obtain a temporary registration tag to be able to get the inspection.

2. Obtain Temporary Registration

Most states offer temporary tags that last 30 to 60 days. You will be likely to be asked to provide car details, such as make, model, year, and VIN, and your ID card or driver’s license.

The cost of a temporary registration tag can range anywhere from $10 to $50. In California, for example, it’s $50 for 60 days, and in Ohio, it’s $20.00 for 45 days.

In most cases, you can get a temporary registration permit if:

  • No unpaid fees
  • Need to get a safety inspection and/or emissions test
  • You have ownership rights of the vehicle
  • Vehicle is insured

3. Sell To Car Buying Service

Car-buying services such as Peddle, Wheelzy, or Carbrain will buy your car even if it has an expired registration.

If there is no unpaid fees or fines, the only document you will need to provide is a Certificate of Title and your ID or driver’s license.

If you decide to sell your car to Peddle, you need to fill in an online form and provide your car details, such as make, model, year, and mileage and describe its condition.

You will get an instant cash offer, which is valid for 7 days. After you accept the offer, you will need to schedule the pickup.  Peddle provides a free towing service, and they will send a representative to your location to collect your vehicle.

The representative will then perform a visual inspection to verify the condition of your vehicle. If the condition is confirmed to be as described, the representative will collect the paperwork and tow the vehicle.

You can choose to pay on the spot or via check.

If you have unpaid fees or fines, you can still sell the car to Peddle but need to cover the late fees yourself.

4. No Test Drive

If you find a person that is willing to pay the full price, you still should make sure that they do not drive the car on public roads – this is against the law, and if caught, you will be the one to pay the fine.

To avoid such risk, you should inform potential buyers that there is no test drive option unless you can arrange it on private land.

To prove the car is in good condition and running, you can provide a recent inspection report or service records.

Another option would be to obtain a temporary registration tag and raise the price for such an amount. For example, if you are selling your car for $3650, and got the temporary permit to drive for $50, raise the price to $3700 to avoid loss.

5. Lower Car Price

If you do not want to renew your registration or get a temporary permit and are still eager to sell it privately, the best option would be to lower the price of the vehicle.

You should be clear about the reason for expired registration and any unpaid fees, if any, with the buyer. Otherwise, it will be hard to close the deal as buyers usually feel that they are taking a risk buying such a vehicle.

If you have unpaid fees and no budget to pay them off, I suggest lowering the car price and using sale money to pay off debt, as it is still your responsibility.

You should check with your local DMV to find out what penalty fees are and calculate if lowering the car price is worth it; maybe you will earn more by renewing your registration or better off selling the car to Peddle after all.

6. Obtain a Non-Operational Title

Planned Nonoperation (PNO) means that the vehicle will not be driven, towed, stored, or parked on public roads or highways for the entire registration year.

This can be an option to save money on registration renewal. However, this identifies your vehicle as not being roadworthy.

The price of such a vehicle will drop significantly, and potential buyers won’t be able to take it for a legal test drive.

You still will be able to get a 1-day temporary permit to drive your vehicle, which can be used to get needed inspections or arrange a test drive. 

The cost of non-operation titles ranges between $20 to $30.

7. Sell To Scrap Yards

If the car you selling is an old junk car better suitable for parts, I suggest selling it to scrap yards. Even if they offer you a lower price for the car, you will money on registration renewal and time trying to sell it privately.

Selling junk cars to scrapyards can also be an option if you do not have the necessary paperwork, such as a Certificate of Title or Bill of Sale.

People Also Asked

Is it legal to sell a car with expired registration?

In most states, it is completely legal, but you might face issues finding potential buyers.

Additionally, selling a car without registration may lower the price of the car and disables you to legally offer test drives.

How often do I need to renew my car registration?

Requirements depend on the state, but usually, it’s every 1-3 years.

Several months before the registration expires, you will get a notice for renewal. Make sure to mark the expiration date in your calendar to avoid any late renewal penalty fees.

Grace periods of late renewal depend on the state:

  • Iowa, Oklahoma, and Colorado – 30 days 
  • Texas – 5 days
  • California, Arizona, and other states –  no grace periods

How much does car registration cost?

The cost of renewal depends on the state and region. According to Visewoter, car registration fees in 2024 vary from $9.5 to $225

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Michael Becker


About the author:

Michael Becker is a car enthusiast and expert who has been working in the automotive industry for over 15 years. He started his career as a salesperson at a local dealership, where he learned the ins and outs of the car market. Then he moved on to flipping cars for a profit.

Michael has also helped many of his relatives and friends to sell their cars, using his knowledge and skills to get them the best deals. He will guide you through the process and help you avoid the common pitfalls.

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