I am traveling by auto entirely within the US. No passport, didn't bring SS card, title or other papers.

Emergency eldercare extended my visit, and both my registration and driver's license expired. I want to return home in the next 2 weeks.

I can't renew my registration online because this is an emisson test year. It's paid up, they are just holding my tags. I am not near any other state that does emissions tests.

I can't renew my driver's license online because this is my year to come in for a vision check/new photo. I will pass.

Should I get DL and reg here?

On the driver's license, bad news: this state wants proof of a) SSN and b) "right to remain in the US", I didn't bring it. Good news: I am in their system, since I had a driver's license here years ago.

On the registration, this state wants title (it's at home) and proof of in-state insurance (I would have to buy that from another insurer at painful cost). This car is not in their system.

I am willing to fly back to my home state (I can) but that will only handle the license, I'd still have to fly back and "drive the gauntlet" with a car with expired tags.

Paying a haulaway company to trailer the car home would be unaffordable and unjustifiable for this car.

I am worried about

  • Jail, lawyers, having my car impounded, prohibitive $1000 fines (I can risk a few $100 wrist-slap fines.)
  • getting caught in a paperwork catch-22.
  • breaking my healthcare, which is currently provided by my home state. I am healthy, and am willing to risk having no healthcare for the journey.
  • breaking my excellent, high-limit auto insurance. On principle I refuse to drive without top insurance.
  • breaking anything an employer would need to hire me.

So I am trying to get a sense of the risks of going as-is, versus the complications of attempting the paperwork jungle. For instance it would be insane to spend 3 months grinding paperwork if the downside risk is a $100 fine.

How do I get my car and myself home sanely?

  • Which state is the car registered in? Some states have an extension mechanism if the car is out of state. Jan 24, 2018 at 20:23
  • @ZachLipton CA. Jan 24, 2018 at 21:15
  • how many "states away" are you from CA ? if the car is inexpensive, could you just sell it and forget about it? just an idea.
    – Fattie
    Jan 24, 2018 at 22:56
  • 2
    California issues both Temporary Operating Permits and One Trip Permits for cars that can't be (re-)registered for some reason (I once got the former when my car failed a smog test and I needed to drive it). One or the other of these should be available for your circumstance.
    – user38879
    Jan 24, 2018 at 23:25
  • 2
    @Harper CVC 12814: "If the person is absent from the state at the time the license expires, the director may extend the license for a period of one year from the expiration date of the license." I can't find any rules or procedures for this, but I'd call the DMV and ask how to request such an extension, then deal with it when you get back. Jan 25, 2018 at 0:47

2 Answers 2


I would fly (or take Amtrak/Greyhound) home and renew the license, and get the receipt that your tags are "in suspense" pending the emissions test. I doubt you will be stopped driving home—don't speed—and if you are you can probably talk your way out of it with the receipt.

I would not try driving on an expired license.


Or if flying or taking a train home is prohibitively expensive, get someone else to drive the car (and you ride shotgun).

Ask around, see if anyone is willing to drive at least some of the way with you. Kind of a modern, legal, reverse hitch-hiking.


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