Buying a car out of state? Here’s what you need to know


(iSeeCars) – Used car prices are up and inventories are down as a result of the chip shortage. Expanding your search radius is a smart way to help you find the car you want at a reasonable price in today’s market. As a result, buying an out-of-state car might be your best option for saving money. And since car prices vary geographically, you may find yourself wanting to cross state borders even as the car buying landscape begins to stabilize.

How to buy a car out of state and is it worth it? We’ve got the important answers to help you navigate the process of buying a car in a different state than a dealership or private seller.

Why should you consider buying a car out of state?

Similar to the price of used cars, the price of new vehicles can also vary from state to state. Manufacturers’ incentives may vary from region to region, so you may find a better deal for a new car in a different state. Also, if you want a specific model or trim in demand, it may only be in stock in other condition. The same goes for classic or vintage cars.

Just as prices can vary from state to state, some cars are in larger quantities in different states. For example, some electric vehicles are only marketed in certain states that have adopted a Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) program. There may also be a higher inventory of used hybrids and electric vehicles in these states, increasing the likelihood of finding a good deal.

The popularity of vehicles can also vary from state to state. For example, four-wheel drive is not required in the temperate southern states, so you may find a better deal on an all-season vehicle in one of those states compared to the Northeast. Conversely, you may be able to find a better deal on a convertible in a more severe climate condition because they are less in demand.

Finally, buying a car in a neighboring state presents fewer obstacles than buying one across the country. When determining vehicle savings, be sure to factor in travel and accommodation costs. Also, you may go to the dealership and find out that the car is not for you after you have inspected it. If you are driving a long distance to look at a used car, be sure to do your due diligence to make sure the trip is worth it.

How to buy a car out of state

Now that we’ve covered why it might be a good idea to buy a car out of state, here are the important steps to take:

Get a vehicle history report

If you are buying a used car, you should always ask for a vehicle history report, whether in your home country or abroad. A history report such as CARFAX or AutoCheck will detail information about the previous owner and any issues the car had (such as accidents, recalls, etc.) in the other state. It will also provide the correct odometer reading. Understanding the history of a used vehicle will help buyers determine the condition of the vehicle when deciding whether it is a smart purchase.

Online research tools such as iSeeCars free VIN check can provide a free CARFAX or AutoCheck report as part of its comprehensive VIN check tool. The iSeeCars VIN Verification Report will supplement the vehicle history report with additional important information that a buyer should know before purchasing a used car. Simply enter the vehicle identification number (VIN) on the iSeeCars VIN checker tool to access the full analysis.

Get a vehicle inspection

This is another important step in buying a used car. You must arrange for an inspection of the vehicle by a local independent mechanic that you select and pay for. You can take the car to a mechanic during your test drive. (See our What to look for when buying a used car section for more tips on getting the most out of your test drive.) This will ensure that the car is mechanically sound and has a good fit and good workmanship. The added cost of a mechanical inspection is a good investment compared to the aggravation and hassle of knowing what to do with a problematic car you didn’t see coming before you bought it.

As part of the inspection, you should ask it if it meets the emissions standards of your home country.

Be aware that some states have more stringent emissions requirements than others.

Pay the correct sales tax

If you buy a car from a dealership in another state, the dealership will usually collect your sales tax and send it to your state’s tax collector. Dealers probably charge the amount required for the state of the dealership, so you’ll have to pay the difference if your home state’s taxes are higher. When your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles registers your new vehicle, they’ll likely check the bill of sale to make sure you’ve paid the correct sales tax. Make sure you have your bill of sale when you register at your local DMV. Keep in mind that sales tax is collected for the state of residence, so buying a car in a state with lower sales tax won’t save you tax.

How to drive the car at home

The dealership or seller will sign the title to you and issue you with a temporary registration tag so you can drive the vehicle to your home country. If you buy from an individual, you will receive a signed title and bill of sale that prove you are the current owner. Because you won’t have a license plate on the car, you could be stopped by law enforcement on your way home. Show them your ID, as well as the car’s title and bill of sale. Some states will allow you to drive an unregistered car for a few days with a temporary travel permit, which will cover you until you can register the car. Be sure to check your state’s rules to determine the best course of action.

Obtain a state inspection

In most states, an emissions test or smog test is required to register a car. You may also need to perform odometer and safety tests. Be sure to check your state’s DMV website to see what is required.

Register the car

You will have a certain number of days to register the car at your local DMV. Upon registration, you will receive a license plate and a new title in your home country. To register your car, you will need out-of-state title deed, proper identification, proof of address, and proof of insurance.

If the vehicle has a salvage title or other brand title, make sure you understand your state’s requirements before finalizing the vehicle purchase.

Get auto insurance

Make sure the car is insured. Never attempt to drive the car out of state without first calling your insurance company and having it insured. Accidents happen and you don’t want to risk being discovered. Typically, this will simply be a matter of providing your insurance agent with the year, make, model, and VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) of the car. The whole process takes a few minutes and can be handled while you are at the dealership, waiting for the sales documents to be processed.

Some insurance companies cover new vehicle purchases for a grace period before you add the car to your policy. However, if you are financing the vehicle, your lender may require that you have specific insurance coverage in place before the loan can be granted. And some states will require dealers to verify vehicle insurance as part of the purchasing process.


Buying a new or used vehicle is a complicated process, and purchasing a vehicle in a different condition can add another layer of complication. However, it may be worth saving if you’re willing to take the extra steps.

This article originally appeared on


Previous LU restricts its presidential recruiting firm
Next RCMP police dog injured in search