what must you do to legally own a vehicle in illinois

What Must You Do to Legally Own and Operate a Vehicle in Illinois?

Not every teen is gifted a car for their 16th birthday. If you’re looking to purchase your first gently used vehicle, there are a number of hoops you must jump through before you can lawfully own and operate a vehicle in Illinois. But before we get to that, you’ll first need to obtain your Illinois driver’s licence.


What Teen Drivers Must Do to Receive Their Illinois Driver’s Licence

Teen drivers seeking a basic license to operate a car in Illinois are issued a Class D license. Drivers must be at least 16 years of age, successfully completed an approved driver education course, 50 hours of practice driving, have held a Learner’s Permit for at least 9 months, and pass the three parts of the driver’s license exam in order to obtain a driver’s license in Illinois. First time Illinois applicants must also present two forms of acceptable identification to prove your legal name, date of birth, Social Security number, residency and signature to receive their driver’s license.

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Steps You Must Complete to Own a Vehicle in Illinois

Looking to purchase your own car in Illinois? Beyond testing and acquiring your Class D driver’s license there are additional steps you must take to own a vehicle in the state.


  1. You Must Have a Car Title.

All vehicles in the state of Illinois require a Certificate of Title whether or not they are registered. This document shows that you own the vehicle.

  1. Register the Vehicle in Illinois. 

To register your vehicle in Illinois, you must have an Illinois Certificate of Title. When you register your vehicle, you are providing the state with a record of that vehicle. Registration allows you to legally use your vehicle on Illinois roadways. Registration fees must be paid annually. 

  1. Possess Liability Insurance (at minimum).

All vehicles operated in Illinois must be covered by liability insurance, which covers injuries or damages you may cause with your vehicle to other persons or their property. Vehicle owners are required to provide insurance information at the time of registration renewal. Once the vehicle owner signs the registration or renewal application, he/she affirms the vehicle is properly insured. Some vehicle classes are required to carry higher liability coverage under other laws, but liability is only required for a class D license. Evidence of liability coverage must be carried by the motorist or in the vehicle and shown to law enforcement officers upon request.

Penalties & Fines for No Insurance

According to the Office of the Illinois Secretary of State, “The license plates of first time offenders are suspended until a $100 reinstatement fee and current evidence of insurance are provided. Repeat offenders are required to serve a four-month suspension period, pay the $100 reinstatement fee and provide current evidence of insurance before being eligible for reinstatement. While the license plates are suspended no one may operate your vehicle; however, you may operate other vehicles that are insured.”

  1. Pass an Emissions Test.

In compliance with the Clean Air Act, certain vehicles in various areas of Illinois must pass an Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) emissions test in order for the Secretary of State’s office to renew the vehicle’s license plates. The IEPA is required by law to notify owners of the scheduled test month and year for their vehicle. Vehicle emissions testing is required in the following counties: all of Cook, DuPage and Lake, and parts of Kane, Kendall, McHenry, Will, Madison, Monroe and St. Clair. If you move from the area in which testing is required, you must notify the IEPA.


Driving Requirements by State Vary

Remember, these are the rules for new teen drivers in the state of Illinois.  Different rules and conditions apply for those 18 years of age or older or out of state. View driving requirements by state here.

Top Driver provides drivers education courses in Illinois, Michigan and Ohio both in person and online according to each respective state’s requirements. At all of the Top Driver driving schools we teach both teen and new drivers to be safe and intelligent drivers. 

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