Buying a car today is not like it used to be. You can choose from a number of online websites to search for the car, truck, or SUV that fits your exact specifications. Typically, it’s best to start your search close to home. However, if you can’t find what you’re looking for nearby, you can broaden your search outside of your local area. You can even search your whole state or the entire country to find the car that’s best for you.
Having the ability to search for a vehicle over such a wide area is positive since it provides you with more choices. However, if you find the perfect car in another state, there are some important steps you need to take related to the vehicle’s title, registration, taxes, insurance, and inspections. You’ll also need to decide if you’re planning a road trip, flying to the car’s location, or having it shipped.
If you’re going to go through the extra work involved in buying a car from another state, it’s very important that you make sure you’re getting the best deal on exactly what you want. Some of the extra steps for out-of-state buying are going to cost you money. So, if you can find a similar vehicle at a comparable – or even slightly higher – price within state lines, you should consider that car first. However, some cars simply aren’t widely available in certain areas. No matter what you decide, you can probably make it all work out as long as you follow the necessary steps.
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1) Be Sure to Get a Vehicle History Report
Whenever you buy a car, you should get a vehicle history report from a company like Carfax. This is even more important before you follow through with an out-of-state vehicle purchase. It’s beneficial to make sure there are no issues before you move forward. If there is a lien listed on the report, you’ll need to have it released before the car crosses state lines. If there is an open recall, you can ask the seller to get it taken care of before you take ownership.
2) Have the Car Inspected Before You Buy
If you’re driving to a dealership in a neighboring state, search for a local mechanic ahead of time. Book an appointment to take the car to the mechanic during your test drive. However, if you choose a car that’s located a long distance away, it would be wise to hire someone in the local area to test drive and inspect the car for you. This is especially true if you don’t plan on visiting the dealership or private seller before you buy the car and have it shipped.
Some online dealerships offer a free return policy. If this is the case, you could wait and have the car inspected as soon as it’s delivered, though returning the car and starting over is a hassle that could be avoided with a pre-purchase inspection.
3) Pay Your Taxes
Some states don’t have sales tax. However, if the state you reside in charges sales tax, you’ll be required to pay. Taxes and fees on vehicle purchases apply to the state the car is garaged in. Most states require that you pay all fees before you can register the car. If you purchase the vehicle through a franchised dealer, your salesperson should be able to take care of most, if not all, of the paperwork for you. This should include details related to taxes and fees. Still, it’s imperative to do your homework and know what you’re getting into ahead of time.
4) States Have Different Inspection Requirements
Make sure you visit your state’s Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) website. Gather information about the state’s specific safety, emissions, and/or odometer inspection requirements. After you've purchased the car, you'll probably have to visit the DMV in person to take care of your paperwork and get your official title and registration. Make sure you know exactly what paperwork and forms of identification are required before you head to the DMV.
The process varies from state to state. In some cases, you can take care of some of it online or through the mail. Again, a franchised dealership may be able to assist with at least some parts of the process.
5) Beware of California’s Strict Standards
The California Air Resources Board (CARB) has strict emissions standards. Cars must meet these standards to be registered and titled in the state. If the car doesn’t meet California’s criteria, you’ll have to have the vehicle modified. In some cases, this is a simple and inexpensive process. However, that’s not always the case. It’s also important to note that California is not the only state that follows CARB’s rules.
6) Title and Registration
Regardless of the time left on the previous state’s registration, you will have to pay for a new title and registration for the new state. It’s important to find out how much time you have before the new state requires that the vehicle is registered. It could be as few as 30 days, though some states give you more time.
Different states have different rules when it comes to titling. This is especially true with salvaged titles, but there are other exceptions as well. Making sure the car is correctly titled is critical since it may impact financing and insurance.
7) Make Sure the Car Is Properly Insured
Contact your insurance agent and explain the situation. Various states and lenders have different rules related to insurance limits and deductibles. Your agent may allow you to use your current car’s policy for a brief time before switching insurance. There may also be an insurance grace period between the time of purchase and the time the car actually enters the new jurisdiction. These are all important details to sort out ahead of time so you don’t end up driving a car that’s not properly insured.
More Shopping Tools From U.S. News & World Report
No matter where or when you’re buying a new or used vehicle, you need to take the time to sort out all the specifics in advance. Get your financing and insurance worked out ahead of time. Make sure it fits your budget. Check out several reviews of the car you’re considering, as well as details like its fuel economy, crash test results, and predicted reliability ratings.
U.S. News & World Report provides all the above resources in one place. We rank new and used cars based on a multitude of data and the consensus of a variety of expert automotive reviewers. Our rankings factor in each car’s safety and predicted reliability ratings as well.
To save you money, we provide hundreds of current manufacturer-sponsored new car lease and financing deals each month, as well as used car listings and certified pre-owned vehicle incentives. Our Best Price Program will help you find the dealer in your area offering the lowest pre-negotiated prices. Shoppers who use the program save an average of over $3,000 off their new vehicle.
Use the U.S. News Best Price Program to find the best local prices on your next car.