Using a car from out of state?
March 2, 2009 2:18 PM   Subscribe

Car-registration-filter: Can I bring my mom's car from out of state to Illinois, and use it as my own, without transferring ownership?

We've had this Volkswagen Jetta in the family for about eight years. It's paid for, runs perfect, and is sitting unused since my mom bought a new car.

The car is in my mom's name, insured in her name, and registered in South Carolina. I'm in Chicago, but would like to bring the car up for grocery shopping and occasional day-trips. It would sit parked about 70% of the time.

I would like to avoid transferring ownership and incurring the various costs associated. I would also prefer just to pay my mom to insure the car since she pays a lot less than I would. I'm on my mom's insurance as a permitted driver.

I still have a valid South Carolina Driver's License, if that matters.

My question(s): is there a problem with this plan? What happens if I get into a fender-bender or receive a ticket? My neighborhood doesn't have permit-parking, so I'm not worried about that aspect.

Thanks for any advice!
posted by wfrgms to Travel & Transportation (14 answers total)
I've been in this exact situation (substitute NH for SC) for the past 18 months or so, and haven't had any problems. Would you be willing to drive it back to SC every year to renew registration and inspection? Registration can be done in absentia, inspection (in NH at least) cannot. However you can (in NH at least) defer the inspection until "the next time it is driven in the state of registration." In my case, this is never.

Now, I've not been pulled over or in an accident, so it's possible I'm just deluding myself into thinking this is legit. I suspect that if insurance knew that it was spending the majority of time in a state other than that where the policy originated, they'd want to adjust the terms. For what it's worth, I had no difficulty registering for city (Evanston) parking permits with out of state plates.
posted by SpiffyRob at 2:26 PM on March 2, 2009

Technically, this is illegal. If you get a ticket for a moving violation or equipment, this could turn into a bigger headache.

From a practical standpoint, the bigger concern is insurance. If you ever need to file a claim, the insurance company could well investigate, find that the car was not actually based at its insured address, and at a minimum, deny it. Potentially, they could also go after you for fraud.

Are you near an iGo or Zipcar spot? That might be a better alternative than transplanting the Jetta if you aren't willing to go to the expense of doing it right. (And with your stated car needs, you're probably right to want to avoid the cost and fuss.)
posted by j-dawg at 2:33 PM on March 2, 2009

I don't know if Illinois will actually care, but they probably have a rule on the books that if a car spends more than n days in a row in the state (possibly with an exception for fulltime students) then it needs to be registered in state.

The bigger issue, as others have pointed out, is insurance. The car insurance rate is based on where the car lives -- if it's insured as being at your mom's house, but is at yours and the insurance co finds out, they can deny coverage.

You don't want to be in this situation.
posted by zippy at 2:42 PM on March 2, 2009

Response by poster: I'm already a Zipcar member, but I'm not near any of the cars, plus they have recently cut back on the number of cars available at the lots I frequent... ergo, bringing the car up is suddenly more appealing.
posted by wfrgms at 2:42 PM on March 2, 2009

Could become a problem if you're ever pulled over/ticketed. From

"As a new Illinois resident, you may continue to drive on your valid out-of-state driver's license for 90 days. CDL holders must obtain an Illinois CDL within 30 days of becoming an Illinois resident."

However, I drove a car (a Jetta, in fact) with out of state plates here in Chicago (lived in Edgewater) for about two years and never had a problem. Eventually I decided it was time to register, so a few hundred bucks later I'm legit.
posted by evisceratordeath at 2:58 PM on March 2, 2009

You can likely get away with it for a fair amount of time, provided you never get a ticket or get into an accident. But once you do have a violation or an accident, it can cause a small nightmare (as I learned when I moved to Chicago but kept my car reg'd/insured out of state... and got hit with a huge extra fine when I got what would have otherwise been a minor traffic ticket about six months later). And yeah, if there's actually damage involved, the insurance company may not cover it, may drop coverage, etc.

So it's a gamble. You might win. You might not.
posted by scody at 3:11 PM on March 2, 2009

It would technically be a form of insurance fraud to pay your mother to insure the car under her name. The reason for this is because your mother has obtained that policy based on information she's given the insurance company, information that likely includes her as the primary driver and her residence as the place where the car will normally be parked at night. If you take the car to IL, yet leave the car on her policy, you & she are changing the terms of the policy without informing the insurance company. Like other posters have said, this will cause a huge headache if you are in an accident or cited for a moving violation.

Additionally, if you are in an accident and are found to be at fault, the victim of the accident could go after your mother for damages since she is the owner of the car and the owner of the insurance policy. I'm not sure what level of coverage you have, but if it's not very high, than this would really be putting your mother at risk.

Honestly, I totally understand why you'd want to do this, but frankly, it would be a selfish thing to do. If you had an accident or got a ticket, it could have a huge impact on your mother. Better to just bite the bullet and put it in your name (and register it in IL).
posted by pecanpies at 3:26 PM on March 2, 2009

If you keep your South Carolina driver's license, you should be alright in case you get pulled over by a cop. Because your license matches your car's registration, you won't be scrutinized. You may have to stretch the truth if questioned (just moved, just visiting, medium-length business trip, etc.)

I don't know what will happen in case of an accident if your mom's insurance company gets involved.
posted by qvtqht at 3:44 PM on March 2, 2009

You might not be technically misrepresenting where the car is garaged until your Mom's next renewal when she will probably have to sign a new application, but you should read the policy to see if she's agreed to make the insurance company aware of a change in location as a condition of coverage. If she has agreed to do so, they can deny coverage if you're involved in an accident. Since it's your Mom's car and she's insuring it, do you really want to expose her to liability while also putting her coverage at risk?
posted by contrariwise at 4:41 PM on March 2, 2009

qvtqht, if the OP lives in IL, then actually, she wouldn't be OK in that scenario. She only has 30 days from the date she moves to IL to get a new license with her correct address. If that 30 days has passed and she hasn't gotten a new license...she most likely gets a citation.
posted by pecanpies at 6:46 PM on March 2, 2009

I'm pretty sure this is correct:

1- There are two kinds of insurance- collision/comprehensive for the car, and liability for you. Gotta have that setup correctly in IL, or it won't be valid. I'm sure the policy has some limitation on it that says if the car moves somewhere else, you have to notify them within x days.

2- Have to get an IL drivers license if you live here.

3- In Illinois, you register a vehicle by purchasing the plates. You buy a plate for a year, and you get to put that plate on any car you want, provided you transfer the registration to that new vehicle. (Also, when you sell a car, keep the plates even if you get new ones- the plates are yours, not the car's.)

4- The title shows who owns the vehicle. I am pretty sure the title and the plates don't have to match- your mom can own the vehicle and you can buy plates for it.
posted by gjc at 7:33 PM on March 2, 2009

Forgot to add- to do what you want to do, you'll probably need to go to a full-service facility and talk to the special services people or a manager.
posted by gjc at 7:43 PM on March 2, 2009

I know a lot of people who have done this over the years in Chicago. You could conceivably run into some problems with your insurance if there is some sort of accident. I have never known that to happen, but it's clearly a possibility. You could also eventually get a nasty letter from the State or a city sticker ticket from the City if they record your car locally over a period of time (although this is rare and I have only heard of it in weird situations). What I have known to happen in a situation like this is that the car gets towed, the local driver can't show sufficient ownership on order to get the car from impound (especially from the City, instead of just a private tow company) and then it sits for days or weeks racking up huge fees until some affidavit or something gets sent to the right place. $600 or so later, you have your car back. I wouldn't wish Chicago towing hell on anyone, but people who cheat the system are probably first in line for that wrath.

If you are certain that your car will never, ever get towed and you're not otherwise going to get a bunch of parking tickets, it's probably not a risk. That said, just register your car here. I would like to avoid transferring ownership and incurring the various costs associated. So would we all. Grow up and pay what you are legally required to pay. Insurance and tags are pretty cheap in Illinois. If you're trying to cheat your way around NJ fees and insurance, or something, maybe I would understand. But how much cheaper can IL be for comparable coverage that takes into consideration that you are the driver? Not that much, so grow up and register your car locally.
posted by iknowizbirfmark at 10:30 PM on March 2, 2009

Note: Most insurance plans allow for full time students and folks in the military to reside in other states without any problems. You'll need to check that the insurance covers it but otherwise you are all set if you fall into either category.

Ditto for the DMV and licensing, as you wouldn't necessarily be a resident. Illinois details here which says you are exempt if vehicle is: Owned by a non-resident of this state and not required by law to be registered in this state.

I have personally done this. I still payed all the local parking/city fees and such, so I wasn't ripping the state off, and I let my insurance know, so I wasn't taking advantage of those great folks either. You'll may still want to check with the DMV - I was in a different state.
posted by zenon at 3:37 PM on March 3, 2009

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