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Buying a Car Out of State

Can I Buy a Car Out Of State?

Yes, you can. There’s nothing to stop a buyer from crossing state borders to buy either a new or a used car. However, there are a few things to consider.

As With Any Car Purchase, Do Your Research

For starters, even though the car may be a fair distance away, never buy a car or truck sight unseen.

First, get the Carfax Vehicle History Report to dig into its past. Then, go visit the seller to make sure the car is as advertised, and be sure to take a test drive. Even better, take the time to have a used vehicle inspected by a local mechanic who can evaluate its mechanical condition – particularly the parts you can’t see – and alert you to any possible problems.

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Driving the Car Home

You’ll receive a signed title from the seller that names you as the current owner, but you will have to transfer the title to your home state, and register the car there as well. If you buy a car from a dealership, they may give you a temporary registration sticker.

If you buy from a private party, you should be prepared to be stopped by law enforcement on the way home for not having a license plate. Show them the paperwork for the car. Some states offer “trip permits” that let you drive an unregistered car for a few days – enough time to get it home and get it registered.

It’s also a good idea to contact your insurance company immediately upon purchasing any car to be sure you’re covered for the ride home. Some states require dealerships to obtain proof of insurance before completing the sale.

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Registering the Car

Once you’ve bought the car, you have a certain number of days to register the title at your local DMV, usually paying a fee. You’ll probably have to show proof of insurance, as well. Bring along identification: This typically includes a government-issued photo ID (your driver’s license should do), along with a utility or tax bill that proves your address.


If you’ve bought a car from a dealership, they will likely collect sales tax and pass it along to the proper agency in your state. You might have to pay the difference if the seller’s state sales tax is lower than your state’s. You may also have to pay any applicable local sales taxes.

If you’re buying a used car from a private party, you may have to pay taxes on the transaction price when it’s registered. It’s best to ask the DMV representative.

State Inspection

In many states, an emissions test or smog check will be required to get a car registered, and that could delay your registration process. It pays to check with your state DMV’s website beforehand to see what’s required to save you time and effort. Have the seller show proof that the vehicle has passed its last emissions test to avoid any surprises later on.

Where Is It Cheapest To Buy A Car?

Local supply and demand are key elements in determining a vehicle’s transaction price, whether new or used. For new cars, manufacturer rebates and financing incentives can vary by region. We’ve seen incentives on some models differ by as much as $1,500 depending on location. Check the automaker’s website to see whether the offers change based on location. It may be worth a long drive to get a bigger rebate or zero-percent financing if it’s not being offered where you live.

What’s more, prices for specific types of used vehicles can vary by region. For example, convertibles tend to be in greater demand – and command more money – in warmer climates than colder ones. Conversely, four-wheel-drive trucks and SUVs tend to be more valuable in northern states than in the South.

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Traps to Watch Out For

Be wary of out-of-town used-car classified listings that involve a third-party agent using a funds-transfer service. There’s a good chance the vehicle will never be delivered and you’ll never hear from the “seller” again.

Another growing problem is vehicle “cloning.” Here, thieves obtain a legitimate vehicle identification number (VIN) from a car matching the year, make, model, and color of a stolen vehicle and swap or duplicate the identifying digits. Be sure to check a VIN and decode its information.

Finally, watch out for “title washing.” This is where con artists illegally remove “salvage” or “flood” designations from vehicle documents to make wrecks look like problem-free models, at least on paper.

To avoid issues like the ones mentioned above, you should consider obtaining a Carfax Vehicle History Report before purchasing a vehicle. A Carfax Report can confirm the number of owners and the odometer reading. The Carfax Report may also indicate if the car has ever been in a crash, flooded, or salvaged.

If you have questions about this story, please contact us at Editors@carfax.com