Oct 30, 2020
By Mariclare Cranston, Content Specialist

How Do You Buy a Car in a Different State? 

On the fence about buying a car out-of-state? It can be worth it. If you want a specific trim level or color that local dealers don’t have, you may find it in a neighboring state. Dealerships can very often help you locate the car you want, saving you the hassle of managing the process yourself.

You may find unbeatable savings at a dealership in another state. Or you may have found the perfect car or truck in a private sale.

No matter what your reason for shopping for a car out-of-state, there’s definitely a lot to think about. You’ll need this checklist to make sure you’re not missing any important steps.

Your “Buying a Car From Out of State” Checklist 

1. Check the fees and features

It may seem like you’re getting a great deal at an out-of-state dealership, but be sure you’re looking into their fees. Different states may have different or higher fees, which could erase the savings. Pay attention to features, too. If you live in an area that gets a lot of snow, All Wheel Drive is going to matter to you. But if you’re buying from a dealer in a warmer area, they may neglect to tell you that a car is front wheel drive.

2. Request a vehicle history

One of the most important reasons to get a vehicle history report before buying a car out of state is to ensure there are no liens on the car. If there is, it will need to be removed before the car crosses state lines. The history report will show you any prior accidents or major repairs. And if you’re buying a car from a hurricane-prone area, you’ll also want to check the history for flood damage. You can use a service like CarFax to get a vehicle history.

Your dream car may be sitting in someone’s driveway and not a dealership lot. Get the ins and outs of buying a car from a private seller. Read Now

3. Get an inspection

If you’re buying a used car, make sure you have it inspected by a trusted mechanic. Opt for a professional mechanic rather than someone the seller recommends, even if you can’t physically be there for the inspection. You want to make certain the car is mechanically sound and will pass emission requirements.

4. Know your state’s registration requirements.

Once you purchase your car, you’ll have to register it in your home state. Some states will require you to register within a certain time period, even as little as 30 days. Check with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) for guidance on what inspections they require for registration. This is especially true if your home state has strict inspection standards.

Requirements may include emission testing, odometer testing, and safety testing. If you’re purchasing from an out-of-state dealership, they may be able to help you with registration in your home state. Keep in mind that you’ll need to get a temporary registration from the DMV in the state you bought the car so that you can legally drive the car home. Make sure to have that paperwork with you when you do.

5. Pay sales tax

You’ll be required to pay sales tax in your home state so be sure you hang on to your sales documents. Once you’re home, you can visit the DMV, your tax preparer, or even a trusted dealership. They will be able to help you calculate and collect the sales tax.

Is buying a new or used car better? This quick 2-minute video highlights the pros and cons of both. Watch Now 


6. Take care of the insurance

Check in with your insurance carrier. You may be allowed to drive the car home under your current policy. But, you may need to purchase a new policy before you can drive the car anywhere. Have that conversation with your carrier well in advance of your scheduled pick-up date so you’re not left driving an uninsured car.

7.  Take Care of Transportation  

If you’re transporting your car home rather than driving it, don’t forget to factor that cost into the total expense of your car. If you’re driving the car yourself, make sure the deal is solid before you head out to pick it up. And if you’re hiring a transportation service, only work with reputable companies.

There’s a lot of foot work involved with out-of-state purchases. But making sure you have everything in order protects you from headaches later on. Use this checklist and you’re well on your way to enjoying your new ride…headache-free.

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