Title, registration, proof of insurance and license, please
January 27, 2011 10:09 AM   Subscribe

This Saturday I'm picking up a used car in Milwaukee and bringing it down to Chicago. I haven't had a car in 2 years, I lost my driver's license and I only have on-street parking. I'll buy insurance on Saturday once I know the VIN. I'll register the car and get a new license Monday morning. What can I do to make sure I'm not screwed on Sunday?

I'm mainly worried about the city goons attacking this little parked car from when I get back on Saturday to when I can proudly affix my papers Monday after work. Is this a valid concern? I can't find any documentation that addresses this situation in the state website. I'm also more than a little nervous about the drive from Milwaukee to Chicago.
posted by ictow to Travel & Transportation (21 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Is there a friend who would be willing to drive the car back for you? It could be like a mini road trip. As for the street parking, I wouldn't worry about it too much. If it was going to be for a month, maybe. My SO got away with this in Chicago for weeks.
posted by marimeko at 10:13 AM on January 27, 2011

From the question, I assume you're concerned about the goons and an uninsured car versus the goons and an insured car since it'll be parked in the same place? If that's the case, find a paid parking garage.

The driver's license thing is a bit trickier. If you know the number and you have other photo ID (official ID, like a passport), I would wing it. If that makes you nervous, talk a friend with a license into driving for you.
posted by shoesietart at 10:23 AM on January 27, 2011

Can't you go to the DMV (or your state equivalent) today or tomorrow to apply for a replacement license? That way you get a piece of paper to carry around as proof of license, plus you know your license number, which you presumably need in order to get insurance.
posted by Joh at 10:26 AM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

I lost my driver's license

This is a phrase with two meanings. Do you mean that you can't find it, or that it expired or was otherwise legally taken from you? I'd strongly suggest getting a new license before you do this. If you want to be totally risk-free, I'd find a lot to park in over the weekend because if your unregistered car gets towed, it might be difficult to even find it since they won't know how to contact you as the owner of the car. Will the car have plates at all? Do you have time to get temporary plates before Saturday?
posted by jessamyn at 10:27 AM on January 27, 2011

If you did misplace your license, you can figure out your license number based on your personal details. (Generates the correct number for me, and the few other people I've checked it with).
posted by borkencode at 10:50 AM on January 27, 2011

Response by poster: I work until 4:45pm and I don't have a car, so there's no way I can get to the city offices before they close at 5pm. Even if I could, I can't get temporary plates or register the car because I don't own it or have the VIN yet (tell me if I'm wrong about this). Monday morning's the earliest I'm going to be able to take time off work to deal with everything.

I physically lost my valid driver's license. And by city goons I meant city officials, not miscreants. I'm worried about what they can/will do to the temporarily unregistered vehicle.
posted by ictow at 11:16 AM on January 27, 2011

ictow, we're suggesting you go to the city office to apply for a replacement license, not to try and register a car you haven't bought yet. You should be able to buy insurance for the car over the phone, at the point that you buy, with all info in hand. You will undoubtedly need your license number, so hopefully you can figure it out using borkencode's fascinating link.

Or take a friend with a license and insurance (that covers other cars) for company, sharing the drive, and psychological backup.
posted by Joh at 11:21 AM on January 27, 2011

While this will likely be alright (presuming you don't speed or drive recklessly), it is still a bad idea to drive without a license. If you can, bring a pal to drive your car home.

Can you hold off on getting the car until you actually have a license?
posted by fenriq at 11:31 AM on January 27, 2011

You probably know this already, but I-94 between Milwaukee and the IL border is full of speed traps. Obey the speed limit and all traffic laws religiously. You don't want to have to take off of work to go to court in Racine.
posted by desjardins at 11:33 AM on January 27, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for the advice regarding licensing. I'm still trying to find someone to travel with. Once the vehicle is in Chicago and parked on the street, am I likely to encounter trouble between Saturday night and Monday night?
posted by ictow at 11:40 AM on January 27, 2011

Will the car have plates at all? Do you have time to get temporary plates before Saturday?

This is the biggest question. If it at least has plates that look valid (meaning they have a within-date sticker on them, or whatever is appropriate for that state) then you can probably get by. Even if the registration is not actually valid, as long as it looks OK, the chance that law enforcement will run the plate is pretty minimal, and it will not look out of place on the street for a night or two, assuming overnight parking is OK (I have no specific knowledge of Chicago parking -- I base that on years of parking on-street in the Boston area). If it has no plates, or the sticker is out of date, the chances are decent to good that you will get pulled over and be in the kind of trouble that involves judges.
posted by Rock Steady at 12:09 PM on January 27, 2011

I should add, if you are buying it at some kind of dealership or something, they will probably be able to give you temporary plates when you pick it up. If you are buying it from a friend or Craigslist type situation, it may be an issue.
posted by Rock Steady at 12:11 PM on January 27, 2011

Response by poster: Private seller. In Wisconsin, where I'll be purchasing the vehicle, plates stay with the owner, not the car.
posted by ictow at 12:23 PM on January 27, 2011

I've read this a few times but I'm not clear: If the plates are staying with the owner, are you planning on driving with no plates? That will absolutely get you nailed, and in a big way.

If that's not the case: Assuming you have non-Illinois plates, you will probably be fine to park the car for a few days so long as you otherwise obey parking regulations. Ravenswood Ave between Irving Park and Lawrence has hundreds of parking spaces with no restrictions, for instance. There are lots of similar places in the city. If you have IL plates, they might run then to see if you need a city sticker, and the trouble would begin. Out of state, less likely.
posted by SpiffyRob at 12:43 PM on January 27, 2011

Response by poster: I don't have Wisconsin plates because they stay with the owner and I don't live in Wisconsin. I don't have Illinois plates because they stay with the car and I haven't owned a car in 2 years.

None of this is according to my preference. Based on an off-hand remark, my dad arranged the purchase of the car without my knowledge; now I have to go pay for it and bring it home without getting massive tickets. It's feeling like a real poop-storm.
posted by ictow at 1:04 PM on January 27, 2011

Response by poster: Based on Jessamyn's excellent advice, it looks like my best bet is to keep my head down and squeak to the nearest currency exchange once I cross into Illinois.
posted by ictow at 1:13 PM on January 27, 2011

Yeah driving a car with no plates is a pretty serious "we'll pull you over and possibly arrest you if we see it" situation, to be avoided at all costs. So, either you need to find a way to get something on the car that looks official to get to the border, or you need to find another way to do this. I've driven lots of quasi-sketchy cars all over the place for a variety of reasons and I'd suggest

1. calling the DMV and asking for suggestions. You are not the first person who has had this problem, guaranteed.
2. Finding any old license plate and slapping it on so you can get to IL. This is against the law and not preferable.
3. Dropping this in your dad's lap and saying "There is no legal way to do this and I can't get arrested for $_REASONS, so help me find a way to do this legally" and maybe getting a runner to go to the DMV for you or do something else that you can't do because you're at work.

I know you're in a jam here, but I'd be more concerned about being arrested in Wisconsin than having your car towed. Maybe finding a friendly person who will let you park there car there in WI and then doing the paperwork and coming back on the bus/train and driving it back legit?
posted by jessamyn at 1:19 PM on January 27, 2011

Response by poster: In case anyone ever finds themselves in this situation, Wisconsin is saner than Illinois and actually has information.
posted by ictow at 1:49 PM on January 27, 2011

I've been in this situation (in New Jersey, moving a car to Washington). The solution was to do the title transfer at the NJ DMV, get temporary plates on the spot (most states will do this for you), then park on street with temps for a few days until the car was registered.
posted by zvs at 3:38 PM on January 27, 2011

From what I can tell from the IL DMV site and my own experience, you should be aware that license plates go with the owner in IL as well. That is, if you get a new vehicle after selling or trading in the old one, you get to keep your plates.
posted by eleanna at 3:54 PM on January 27, 2011

I've called the Wisconsin DMV before and talked to a real, live person. They're very nice.
posted by desjardins at 6:35 AM on January 28, 2011

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