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Guide to purchasing a car in a different state

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A comprehensive guide to buying your next set of wheels from a different state.

After a long search, you’ve finally found the perfect car. It has all the features you want, an affordable price tag and it’s even the right color. There’s just one problem — it’s in a different state.

The potential hassle involved in buying a vehicle in a different state is enough to turn some people off a car altogether, but it doesn’t have to be that way. With the help of our comprehensive guide to purchasing a car from a different state, you can ensure that the entire process is as smooth and hassle-free as possible.

Costs to consider when buying a car from another state

Aside from the purchase price of the car, there are other costs to consider when buying a vehicle in a different state:

  • Getting your new car home. You can choose to pick up the car yourself or have it shipped to your location, but either way, you’ll need to account for the price of getting your car when setting your budget.
  • Transfer title and registration. When you bring the car to your state, you’ll have to pay to have the title and registration transferred to you. Some states give a few as 30 days to make this transfer.
  • Insurance. A new car could come with an increase to your insurance rates. Each state has its own minimum liability, so make sure your car is covered before transporting it.

Where to find a car

If you’re searching for your car nationwide, you have lots of options that include:

  • Buying from a dealer. Some dealers will work with customers in different states and hold the vehicle while you make arrangements to pick it up. Though others won’t. Contact the dealer and make sure everything is set up properly before spending time and money on a deal that might fall through.
  • Buying at an auction. An auction house may provide shipping for your newly-purchased car, and unlike a dealer you’ll have to pay the taxes yourself. Unless you’re confident about your knowledge of cars and want to bid over the phone, it may be better to visit the auction so you can see the car in person.
  • Buy from a private seller. A private seller can be a good option if you do your research and have the car inspected before you agree to buy.
  • Buy online. Websites like eBay and Craigslist can help you connect to private sellers or dealership inventories you might not otherwise have access to, but proceed with caution. You won’t know what you’re getting until you can inspect the car yourself, and it may not be as good a deal as you expected.

Can I get a loan when I want to buy a car in another state?

Although each lender will have different rules about how the loan is applied, in most cases, you’ll likely be able to use a car or personal loan to purchase a car in a different state. However, this doesn’t mean that all the expenses will be covered by the loan amount. You’ll still want to keep these three costs in mind when applying for a loan:

  • Taxes. You’ll need to pay your state taxes if you don’t purchase your car at a dealer. Depending on the cost of your vehicle, this may be hundreds or thousands of dollars — not usually an amount most people have on hand. When looking for a loan, see if your lender can finance the taxes as well as the cost of the car.
  • Title transfer. Some states only charge a small fee for transferring a title. Others may charge over a hundred dollars. You should either save this money before you make your purchase, have your seller handle it or roll it into the cost of the loan. It may not be much, but it’s an important step when buying any car.
  • Insurance. Your insurance premiums will almost certainly increase when you add a new car to the policy. Before you finalize your purchase and pick up your new car, check to see how much extra you’ll be paying each month. If there are any charges for adding a new vehicle to your policy, you might be able to have your lender factor these, too.

Before you buy: Inspecting the car

The Internet is invaluable when you’re researching cars in other states. While it’s not the same as kicking the tires, doing some research online can help you find useful information about a car’s condition, features, service history and warranty.

You may be tempted to buy a car sight unseen, but that can be risky. Even if you trust the seller, you won’t know for sure the condition of the car and if you’re getting a fair price. You could end up paying for unexpected repairs.

Test driving a car you want to buy is ideal, if you can make that arrangement. Sometimes you can tell if there are any issues with the body or interior that was left out of it’s description. Anytime you buy a used car it’s a good idea to get an inspection from a licensed mechanic to determine if there are any issues under the hood.

Before you buy: Vehicle background checks

When you buy a used car from a seller out of state, conduct a full check of the vehicle’s history just as you would when buying from someone just down the road. This allows you to determine:

  • Whether the car has been damaged.
  • Whether the car is listed as stolen.
  • Whether the car is leased or has a loan taken out on it.
  • If the VIN number and registration is legit.
  • The sales history.
  • The accuracy of the odometer.

There are specialist companies that conduct a full car history checks. You can also check out the car history through the transportation department of the state you’re buying the car from.

Registration

Your car’s registration and title transfer depends on where you buy the car. Dealers will issue temporary registration until you visit the DMV in your state. Though a private seller won’t. You’ll need to transfer the bill of sale to your name before you can register your car. You could even apply for temporary registration before you pick the car up to drive away legally.

Laws are different across states, so check out the laws with the DMV before bringing your car home. Some states, like California, require your car pass an emissions test to be driven in that state. You can include this in your mechanic’s inspection.

Getting your new car home

You have a few different options when it comes to bringing your car from one state to another:

  • Drive it back yourself. If you don’t mind a road trip, you can drive or fly to pick the car up and then drive it home. Just remember to factor the costs of traveling into your budget.
  • Have someone else drive it back. Don’t have the time to pick the car up yourself? You may want to ask a friend or relative to do the job for you. They may be willing, but you’ll want to cover their expenses.
  • Have it shipped. There are numerous carriers that specialize in shipping cars across the US. Look around for a reputable company by checking online reviews and requesting recommendations. Compare quotes from multiple companies before choosing one.
  • Ask the seller to drop it off. In some cases, it may be possible to negotiate for the seller to deliver the car to your door. You’ll need to cover the cost of fuel, the seller’s transport home and compensate them for their time.

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Rates last updated September 24th, 2018

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Name Product Product Description Minimum Credit Score Term of Loan Requirements
car.Loan.com Car Loans
Apply with a simple online application to get paired with a local auto lender. No credit and bad credit accepted.
300
Varies by lender
Must be a US citizen with a current US address and employed full-time or have guaranteed fixed income.
Auto Credit Express Car Loans
Get connected with an auto lender near you, even if you have bad credit.
300
Typically 3 to 6 years
Must be employed full-time or have guaranteed fixed income of at least $1,500/month and be a current resident of the US or Canada.
LendingClub Auto Refinancing
Lower your monthly car payments and save on interest through a fast and easy online application process.
Fair or poor credit
Minimum of 2 years
Car must be less than 10 years old with fewer than 120,000 miles. Current loan must have a balance between $5,000 and $55,000 and at least 24 months left in its term.
MotoRefi Car Loan Refinancing
A car loan connection service for borrowers looking to refinance.
525
1–6 years
Must have an income of at least $2,000/month and have a vehicle with less than 100,000 miles.
myAutoloan.com Car Loans
Get up to four offers in minutes through one simple application. Multiple financing types available including new cars, used cars and refinancing.
550
24 to 84 months
Must have a Social Security number; make $24,000+/year; have no open bankruptcies.
LendingTree Auto Loans
Compare multiple financing options for auto refinance, new car purchase, used car purchase and lease buy out.
670
Typically 1 to 7 years
Must be a US citizen and 18+ years old. Must have good to excellent credit.
Capital One Auto Financing
You could qualify for a car loan of up to 40000, but not all dealers accept this bank's financing.
Good to excellent credit
36 to 72 months
Valid street address; existing Capital One accounts in good standing. Car must be a 2006 model or newer with less than 120,000 miles.
Wells Fargo Auto Loans
Auto loans with high loan amounts to cover your car purchase or refinancing needs.
Good to excellent credit
1 to 6 years
Your income and assets must support your existing debt obligations and the desired loan amount.

Compare up to 4 providers

Bottom line

When you find the perfect car, you don’t have to let the fact that it’s in a different state stop you from sealing the deal. There are plenty of ways for you to bring your car home, and you can easily compare your options to find one that suits your needs so you can drive off with the car you really want.

Frequently asked questions about buying a car interstate

Image source: Shutterstock

Kellye Guinan

Kellye Guinan is a writer and editor with finder.com and has years of experience in academic writing and research. Between her passion for books and her love of language, she works on creating stories and volunteering her time on worthy causes. She lives in the woods and likes to find new bug friends in between reading just a little too much nonfiction.

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