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All of that assume there are plates on the car. If the seller left his plates on the car, well, that was a mistake. If you sell a car private-party, you should take the plates off. It's on the buyer to ensure the car is properly tagged. Most states off short-term tags for just this reason (transporting newly purchased cars that haven't had registration updated).

>If the seller left his plates on the car, well, that was a mistake.

That's not always the case. In some states the plates are "owned" by the vehicle, not a person and are transferred with the vehicle on sale.

In California the plates stay with the car, not the owner. Other states are different.

I did not know that. That seems like a terrible idea for exactly the reason we're discussing this. Does CA have a web site available where a seller can relinquish ownership? If not, it seems the time between the actual sale and one or other of the seller or buyer going to the DMV would have the car in legal limbo wrt ownership.

It is indeed a terrible idea to have thhe plates follow the car. There is a website, but it only updates the DMV database in a timely, the database the city police / courts use can be > 6 months out of date.

In Indiana, the plates stay with the owner. Yet you can relignquish ownership of a vehicle either in the office or online. I'd not be surprised to find out that other states have a similar option.

You usually need to show up in person to register a vehicle. If you intend to buy a car and drive it to a different state then you may not be able to register it in the origin state because most state stipulate that you can't register a vehicle if you do not reside there or have an address there (otherwise people in small shitty states would drive a couple hours to an adjacent state to save a few hundred on tax/registration/insurance). Registering it in the destination state would be similarly impossible without the title/bill of sale in hand and some states require an inspection prior to registration. Inspections stations need to be licensed. This means it's in some cases impossible to legally buy and drive a car bought private party because you can't register it where you buy it and you need have the car inspected before registering it where you're bringing it.

Depending on the states in question the fine for invalid registration is usually much less than the cost of having the unregistered vehicle towed from A to B so many people just slap an old plate on the back and cross their fingers.

Are there no exceptions for driving directly to a closest inspection place? In canton of Zurich, this is the AFAIK only case when you can drive without license plates (if you want to register your car and the DMV wants to inspect it, you can drive it plateless to DMV).

Most states in the mid-Atlantic region will issue 24-hour or 7-day temp tags for just this purpose (transport a new-to-buyer car from out-of-state).

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