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Purchasing a used car in another state and driving it across the country

I’m planning on purchasing a friend’s Honda civic in Washington D.C. and driving it back to New Mexico. My friend wants to take her license plate off the car when I take the car, but there’s no way for me to register the car in NM until it is physically present (I can’t get a license for the car until it’s in NM). So do I take the license plate of of my current and put it on the newly purchased car so I can drive it back to NM? Is it legal for me to drive the car with a plate registered to someone else? I can’t drive across seven states without a license plate!

What about a temporary plate? They can often be gotten for as little as $10 at the local DMV. You just have to tell them what the plan is…they can help.

I think that your only legal solution to the problem is to transfer title in DC, and obtain temporary plates from DC. Then, upon arriving in New Mexico, you will have to go through whatever process exists in that state for transferring to New Mexico registration.

Will this cost more than any of the plans mentioned by the OP? Absolutely
Is it worth that money to avoid legal problems enroute? To me, the cost would be worthwhile, but perhaps the OP is more interested in saving money, at the possible risk of spending time in the lockup of a remote town until the legal tangle regarding registration is resolved.

As the old saying goes, “You pays your money, and you takes your choice”.

It would be easiest for you to drive the car to NM with the existing plates and the send her the plates when you arrive and register the car in your name with NM. If you haven’t looked at the MVD site already, here it is:

You might call the MVD and see what they say. They should be the experts, and they are there to help you.

Telephone Toll Free: 888 683 4636 or 888 MVD INFO

Since this is a friend, if she trusts you with the plates, then it should be legal for you to drive to New Mexico and then transact the sale by mail or fax from there on that date. After all, she’s allowed to let someone borrow her car or take it for a test drive with her plates on it.

Whatever you figure out, do not drive the car one inch unless it’s validly covered by insurance. Your plan of putting the wrong plate on would probably cause problems there. That could cost you a huge amount of money.

You must show proof the car is owned by you or in a trust controlled by you before you can register the car in your name in any state. To do that, you must first legally transfer the car out of your friend’s control into your control. And, putting a plate registered to another car on your new car would get the car inpounded and you stranded in any jurisdiction should you be stopped by the police.

I think if you present the scenario to the NM DMV there is a solution. Documents can be faxed, or send FedEx so you can have the title. In PA you need a digital picture of the VIN # to show the agent as well. You don’t have to show anyone the car to walk out with a plate. You can get insurance for the car, just give the insurance agent the vin # and the money and you have insurance.

Take the properly signed title transferring ownership, the current mileage, proof of insurance, and your checkbook to your local DMV and you should be able to get a plate for the car. When you get to DC put on your plate, she keeps her plate and off you go.

I’m with her, I’d never let someone drive off with my plate on the car. In many states you need to show the plate was “turned in” to DMV or a police agency to cancel the car insurance.