Texas doesn't require a driver's license for vehicle registration or ownership, but an owner who does not have a valid license cannot drive. A person just needs a valid photo ID to buy or register a car, but registration requires having insurance, which often requires a valid license to obtain. If someone has a suspended license and drives anyway, not only will they be liable for any damages should they get in an accident, but if they get caught, they can face misdemeanor charges.
Buying a Vehicle Without a License
Anyone in Texas can buy a car without a license, although they cannot drive it. While there is no law that prevents a person who doesn't have a license from buying a car, they'll need a valid, government-issued photo I.D. for the transaction, including titling and registering the vehicle. A person buying a car can show IDs, including:
- A passport.
- Military identification card.
- Department of Homeland Security identification.
- Citizenship and Immigration Services identification.
- Department of State identification.
- Identification from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
- Status of Forces Agreement identification.
A person without a valid driver's license may buy a car for various reasons, such as they:
- Have a disability and need a car for their caregiver to take them around in.
- Own a business and need transportation for employees with a valid license to use.
- Have a minor child who has a license but can't finance a vehicle.
- Have a driver who will transport them from place to place.
Registering a Vehicle Without a License
A vehicle owner can also register and plate a car in Texas without a driver's license. However, to register a vehicle in the state, they will need proof of insurance, which does require a valid license.
It is possible to get insurance without a driver's license, but the buyer who does this will have to exclude themselves as a driver when drawing up a policy and give the insurance company the names and contact information of the people who will drive the car. A suspended license at the time of insuring a vehicle also makes it difficult to calculate a premium rate.
Insurance Coverage Without Driving Privileges
Some reasons a person with a suspended license may need insurance coverage can include:
- Being a parent or guardian to a minor driver: Insurance companies do not let drivers under 18 purchase coverage on their own, as most states prohibit minors from legally entering into contracts. Despite this, minor drivers still need insurance.
- Having a personal driver or caregiver: A person who has a suspended or revoked license, or who no longer drives due to health issues, may need a driver. If they have a driver who is using their car, that person will need insurance.
The primary driver on a car insurance policy can be anyone with a valid license. The insurance company will calculate the premium based on that person's driving record, so it's important that the record is excellent in order to keep the cost down. An unlicensed owner who gets behind the wheel won't have insurance coverage of any kind; if they get in an accident, they will be responsible for any damage to their car as well as to someone else's.
Driving on a Suspended License
A person convicted of driving with a suspended license faces a Class C misdemeanor charge, which carries a fine of $500. This charge becomes a Class B misdemeanor if the driver has a previous conviction, had their license suspended for driving while intoxicated (DWI), or did not surrender their license to the state after the suspension. Class B misdemeanor offenders face the same fine and up to six months in jail.
The Texas Transportation Code allows drivers to face a second license suspension which will be the same length as the first if they get caught driving on an invalid license. Not only will they pay criminal penalties for driving on a suspended license but other fees will make the infraction even more costly. The driver will have to pay towing and daily storage fees for their vehicle. They will also need to pay a license reinstatement fee of $100, a higher rate for SR-22 insurance and an annual $250 surcharge for three years.
Getting a Texas Driver's License Reinstated
A driver who has their license canceled, denied, suspended or revoked can get it reinstated, provided they follow the necessary steps. They should look at the Texas Department of Public Safety Driver License Division's eligibility page to determine the agency's requirements, which vary depending on the circumstances of the case. There, they can also submit forms and fees, which will take from 24 to 48 hours to process.
If the driver did not owe a fee or has already paid it, they must submit any remaining forms or compliance items by mail, fax or email. Forms must include their complete name, birth date and driver's license number on each document and suspension notice copy if they have it. They can send their information to the Texas Department of Public Safety, Enforcement and Compliance Service, P.O. Box 4087, Austin, TX 78773-0320, fax to 512-424-2848, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Reinstatement orders that are not online will take 21 business days to process.
Driving Without a License on Your Person
A person may have a valid license and sometimes leave it at home before getting in the car. They may not get stopped by law enforcement, but in the event they do, they may get a warning or a ticket for failure to provide their license.
Texas law allows drivers to avoid a conviction for not having their license on their person by showing proof of having one in good standing to a judge. This will also prove they're legally able to drive and help them avoid penalties with exception of a minimal dismissal fee.
- Texas Department of Motor Vehicles: Photo Identification Requirements for Vehicle Title Application
- Car Insurance: Can you Register a Car Without a License in Texas
- Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers: Suspended License
- Texas Department of Public Safety: License Eligibility
- Texas Department of Public Safety: Reinstating Your Driver License or Driving Privilege
Michelle Nati is an associate editor and writer who has reported on legal, criminal and government news for PasadenaNow.com and Complex Media. She holds a B.A. in Communications and English from Niagara University.