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Is it legal to tow a non-running unregistered car?


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I live in California and was wondering if it's legal to transport a non-running car on a car transport where the wheels are not touching the street if it is not currently registered?  or do I need to get a one day permit to transport it?  Thanks, Marc.

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May depend on the state but in Florida, if it is in/on a trailer or even on a tow dolly, it does not need to be registered or have a plate.

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I live also in California and am an attorney since the 1980s. If the car is not being driven then do not worry. "Don't worry about the horse being blind. Just load the wagon". If an expensive vehicle you might want to  have some insurance in case the car is destroyed in transit. 

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I always heard that as long as the car's wheels are not touching the roadway the car does not need to be licensed or even insured.

Friend in high school's Dad had a used car lot so we transported non-running, non-registered cars pretty regular and that was the rule we always went by.

But if it was a runner we had the option of just slapping a Dealer plate on it and driving it.

Edited by zepher (see edit history)
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1 hour ago, marcapra said:

I live in California and was wondering if it's legal to transport a non-running car on a car transport where the wheels are not touching the street if it is not currently registered?  or do I need to get a one day permit to transport it?  Thanks, Marc.

 

Marc,

 

Your thread title says “ tow “.

 

If you actually tow a vehicle - by definition at least one axle with wheels

is making contact with the road.

 

You would need to get a permit unless you were a licensed tow operator 

engaged in business and you would be ill advised to not have insurance 

on the towed vehicle.

 

If a wheel comes off - or a body part flies off - you are liable.

 

 

Jim

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No problem if no wheel (other than the trailer) is on the ground--except for the flying debris issue, of course.  I transported a 1925 parts chassis on an open trailer from central Oregon to the Bay Area, but made sure to tarp-and-tie any areas where stuff might come loose.

 

Trulyvintage, he indeed said "tow" in the title but the text of his question clarified that he intends to "transport" on (presumably) another vehicle such as car trailer or rollback.

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I live also in California and am an attorney since the 1980s. If the car is not being driven then do not worry. "Don't worry about the horse being blind. Just load the wagon"

  Well, it looks like we have some opposing views here.  I got out my Non-operated Vehicle Notice, and it says "Before operating, parking, or towing this vehicle on the streets or highways ... renew the registration."  But if the definition of tow is one or more axles' wheels are contacting the road, I think I'm OK if the car is up on a U-Haul Auto Transport.  After all, I've seen flatbed trucks carrying crushed cars, and I doubt they are currently registered!  Marc.

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Not really opposing views--it's all about the definition of "towing."  To me (and I think the Pipples' Republik) "towing" means one or more wheels of the unregistered is/are of the public street, road, or highway.  This is not the case if the unregistered vehicle is on a car trailer, rollback, flatbed, etc.  In such a case, the unregistered vehicle is merely cargo.

Edited by Grimy
clarification (see edit history)
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It's been 30 years, but I had to get a one-day moving permit to flat-tow (within town, only 10 miles) a long-wheelbase 1939 Cadillac which wouldn't fit on my open car trailer of the time (I've since upgraded...)

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I have hauled non-running junk cars without registration using a tow dolly, such that the rear wheels would be riding on the road. That includes the Alfa Romeo in my "avatar." I have been told it is not legal here in California but did it anyway. I was not stopped, but if I were would have plead ignorance.

 

Completely off the ground on a trailer; no problem.

 

It is a good question you pose though. It is not beyond the realm of possibilities that they would even want a car on a trailer registered.

 

Edited by mike6024 (see edit history)
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Califunny is SO wonderful! (Excuse me now while I go puke!) Because they are so efficient and reliable (retch), I have several times had to fight with the state,  a few fights that lasted for years, over state errors claiming my legally "non-oped" vehicle had been seen on a public street. No matter that my legally non-oped vehicle had never been within a hundred miles of the location, or that my vehicle was a Chevrolet while the offending vehicle was clearly noted as being a Dodge (one time was a Toyota!). The state offered NO recourse other than to pay nearly a thousand dollars in fees and penalties for what was CLEARLY a bookkeeping error on their part!

The one bright (?????) spot is they have made me almost an expert on one thing. ABSOLUTELY NO (nada, none!) part of an unregistered vehicle is allowed to touch the ground on any part of a public roadway! But you can haul almost anything on a legally licensed car hauler/trailer, provided it is loaded on private property.

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 FYI, A tow dolly (for placing one axle of a car on the dolly) does not have to be registered if there is no car on it.

 If there is a car on it, the car must be registered.

 

 This in not to say that you will not be stopped by a policeman that does not know the law, thinking that it is a trailer.

 

By law, it is not a trailer.

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If it is on (not touching the ground) a trailer or truck you are fine.  More states are putting in place a net/cover clause if parts could come off, might be Federal rule?  You will need a bill of sale if you cross state lines (Federal Offence if you can not prove ownership).

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8 hours ago, wayne sheldon said:

Califunny is SO wonderful! (Excuse me now while I go puke!) Because they are so efficient and reliable (retch), I have several times had to fight with the state,  a few fights that lasted for years, over state errors claiming my legally "non-oped" vehicle had been seen on a public street. No matter that my legally non-oped vehicle had never been within a hundred miles of the location, or that my vehicle was a Chevrolet while the offending vehicle was clearly noted as being a Dodge (one time was a Toyota!). The state offered NO recourse other than to pay nearly a thousand dollars in fees and penalties for what was CLEARLY a bookkeeping error on their part!

The one bright (?????) spot is they have made me almost an expert on one thing. ABSOLUTELY NO (nada, none!) part of an unregistered vehicle is allowed to touch the ground on any part of a public roadway! But you can haul almost anything on a legally licensed car hauler/trailer, provided it is loaded on private property.

that brings back memories of when my 1953 pontiac chieftain custom catalina having the calif. personalized plate "PONTIAC" had my registration renewal put on hold for three unpaid parking tickets and those tickets weren't mine, the ticket issuer mistakenly wrote pontiac where you write down the license plate, thinking they were writing in the make of vehicle, lol. even DMV was too lazy to see that, really, a ticket is issued to a 1965 blue pontiac four door sedan and the "PONTIAC" plate belongs to a 1953 ivory and green pontiac two door hardtop, lol.

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10 hours ago, Trulyvintage said:

 

Marc,

 

Your thread title says “ tow “.

 

If you actually tow a vehicle - by definition at least one axle with wheels

is making contact with the road.

 

You would need to get a permit unless you were a licensed tow operator 

engaged in business and you would be ill advised to not have insurance 

on the towed vehicle.

 

If a wheel comes off - or a body part flies off - you are liable.

 

 

Jim

 

You do NOT need a permit to use a tow dolly in most states. I've done it many times with no issues whatsoever.... 

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Just make sure you stay out of Tennessee. I've read several stories of guys pulling empty trailers on their way to buy a car and they get pulled over. The cop asked if they were paying cash for the car and when they replied yes he confiscated the money because he said it may be used to buy drugs. Google it if you don't believe me....

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I built an open race trailer once.

I was a dealer at the time (turns out a boat trailer that totals over 1800 pounds loaded is a motor vehicle in Oregon) so I wired my dealer plate to the back of the race car.

Fortunately the cop understood my intent.

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I must have done what you are wanting to know about at least 80 times in the San Diego area and never had a problem with the law over a non-current registration while doing so. Towing with the vehicle's tires ON the street is a totally different problem.

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Before I get too immersed in this thread, I have to ask whether we're just talking about semantics. When I first read the original post, I thought I knew what marcapra was asking. Was it OK to flat tow a car, with at least two of it's wheels on the ground? Now I'm wondering if we are using towing and trailering interchangeably?

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47 minutes ago, Buffalowed Bill said:

Before I get too immersed in this thread, I have to ask whether we're just talking about semantics. When I first read the original post, I thought I knew what marcapra was asking. Was it OK to flat tow a car, with at least two of it's wheels on the ground? Now I'm wondering if we are using towing and trailering interchangeably?

This is not the same as what you stated....

" I live in California and was wondering if it's legal to transport a non-running car on a car transport where the wheels are not touching the street if it is not currently registered?  or do I need to get a one day permit to transport it?  Thanks, Marc."

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If the law says they need to be licensed how do dealers get away with untitled cars being delivered to them. They are not even titled!  

I would argue it is not on the road you can transport it without plates. Personally I would still have insurance to be safe. 

Have fun

Dave S 

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1 minute ago, JFranklin said:

Does anybody out there remember when we had a free country in the USA?

Yes, Early in my lifetime, our dad's got home from WWII and built everything that the self anointed want to destroy today. 

 

Bob

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This towing post, brings something out of my memory:

 

I was about 16 years old; and someone gave me a 1953 Chevrolet Bel Air Coupe.  The owner and his buddies decided to do a in-frame overhaul , rings, bearings, valve job. Well, they put it together and it would not get the engine to turn over. Then they got disgusted and let it set.  The owner said I could have the car, if I wanted to learn to be a mechanic.

 

They had the rods all mixed up.  No damage to new bearings. put it together correctly and it was fine.

 

But anyhow:  Flat towing it home with a chain and pipe between the tow vehicle and the 53, something happened.  My dad was towing me with a Chevy pick-up. I am in the 53. and all of a sudden, the car began to shake at about 50 mph. The left front wheel fell off.

 

Oh my, too much excitement for this 16 year old.  We got everything slowed down; and the finally stopped.  We were able to find the wheel; of course this all was done under the  cover of darkness.

 

Just try any of that, today.  The fines would cost a fortune.

 

intimeold

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When I was 15, I bought a car and to get it home (only 2 blocks away) my father would not let me start it, but he followed me with his car when I pushed it with a few friends.

 

 Probably illegal, but also probable amusing to any police that may have seen it.

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I clearly remember a neighbor guy towing a Packard with a Harley Davidson once.

I was a little kid at the time and probably smarter than those guys.

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Body shop ordered a car carrier (car hauler) to pick up and deliver a freshly restored vehicle. Body shop had car hauler fax in a sheet that stated that the hauler was covered. Problem was that hauler's staff made an error as the pick up was from a sub-contractor of the carrier (which is normal in the car hauler business). Coverage was a problem. Owner paid $200,000 for the restoration. Carrier did not have insurance for the sub-contractor's truck or the sub-contractor's driver for this particular job.  The sub-contractor (as is often the case) was a one man show with no assets and hence no insurance. The driver of the truck that the carrier hired as a sub-contractor picked up the vehicle and crashed after picking up the vehicle and in transit to the owner's residence.  The antique vehicle was totally destroyed. With no insurance for the carrier or the sub-contractor the owner's only recourse was to sue the body shop for negligence. Sadly, the body shop's insurance does not cover negligent referral to a car hauler.   Bottom line: If an expensive vehicle is being hauled confirm 100% that the car hauler (be it the one hired or a sub-contractor that shows up to pick up the car) has insurance coverage.  The way to do this and protect yourself is get the insurance card from the driver of the car hauler on date of the pick up when the car carrier comes to pick up the vehicle and immediately with a phone call in the vehicle's VIN number and name of the driver of the vehicle to the insurance company on the card.  Insurance companies have a list of trucks and drivers' names that they insure for each customer's fleet of car haulers. If the driver or the vehicle picking up the car or the truck's VIN number is not on the insurance policy as a covered vehicle or covered driver the carrier will alert you that there is zero coverage and then you can decide to take the risk or tell the driver to go away without your priceless restored vehicle. 

 

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We once towed a 36 foot racing sloop sitting on a truck frame with tires that were missing chucks of rubber down the Eisenhower expressway in Chicago,  My older (not wiser) brother was working as a Commonwealth Edison line man at a warehouse that was scheduled to be demolished the next day.  Inside was this wooden racing sloop complete with the mast and sails.  At least the mast was laying on the boat and not standing up.  The deal was he paid a dollar and the boat was his but it had to be out of the warehouse that night. He called me to help. We hooked the truck frame to his Ford F100 pickup ( I'm sure the lead keel alone outweight the truck) and I followed with my flashers on. The only way to avoid narrow streets was to take the Ike from Racine Ave out to Wheaton (about 18 miles or so) where he lived. It was abot 3:30 in the afternoon on a Friday so we were in the heart of the rush hour traffic.  The looks drivers gave us hauling this beast down the road was priceless.  We were doing fine when a Chicago cop came along and pulled us over.  He asked""What the hell we thought we were doing". We told him the story and he said OK he would give us an escort to the edge of Chicago then we were on our own. 

We made it just past Harlem avenue in Oak Park when a state cop put on his lights. Same outcome and he gave us an escort to the East/West tollway.  The next problem was the toll booth but we got thru it with just paying a second toll for the boat.  We picked up our final escort about a mile after that which took us to the Wheaton exit and the rest was clear sailing (pun intended). My brother spent two years redoing all the varnish and wood work on the boat, sold it for a good profit and moved to California.  

 

The cops were all amazed about how he got the boat and that is probably why they were so good about it. So if you are towing something just have a really good story and you may just get away with out getting a ticket!.

Have fun.

Dave S 

Edited by SC38DLS (see edit history)
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Same here in TN.  Towing vehicle must be registered and insured. Also, trailers up to 4000 lb gross weight don't have to be registered or have tags - but they can be if needed to travel out of state where registration and tags is required.  You can even build your own trailer and have it registered as long as you have it inspected first by the state. Some states don't allow that

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On 4/10/2019 at 7:51 PM, JFranklin said:

Does anybody out there remember when we had a free country in the USA?

 

Mexicalifornia is a whole other country dependent on and trying to rule the US.  Or at least that's what they think. 

 

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