Buying a Car Out of State | Everything You Need to Know

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Most people try to buy a car in-state and relatively close to their homes for convenience. After all, most people plan on driving their new car home after handing over the cash! But others might want to purchase a car out of state for a variety of reasons, including potentially lower costs and buying a rare car model. However, buying a car out-of-state comes with a few unique challenges and hurdles to clear.  This guide will break down everything you need to know so you can buy a car out-of-state with as little fuss as possible.

Why Purchase a Car Out of State in the First Place?

Although there are some extra hassles and things to consider when buying a car out of state, there are also some good reasons to do so. For example, many people look for particular car models (especially vintage car models) and can only find them in out-of-state markets. This may make purchasing a car out of state and necessity if you're dedicated to buying one kind of car above all others. Furthermore , car prices can vary dramatically from state to state based on things like taxes, emission standards, and other factors. This means that you can sometimes find a car for cheaper out-of-state than if you tried to buy it in your home state, even when accounting for gas and other costs. Ultimately, there are both positives and negatives to buying a car out of state that you should keep in mind when making your decision.


  • Some rarer car models can only be found in certain states
  • Car valuation differs significantly across states -- this can sometimes result in lower sales prices compared to your local dealership's prices
  • Some cars can only be purchased in certain state s due to emissions standards and other factors


  • The process is definitely more complicated for buying a car out of state compared to buying a car in your own state
  • You'll have to determine how to get your car to your home state, whether it's by driving it yourself or shipping it, which can add a huge cost to the purchase's bottom line

Things to Consider Before Buying a Car Out of State

Although there are challenges, sometimes it's worthwhile to buy a car out-of-state. There are several things you should consider before finalizing the purchase, however.

Sales Tax

When you're reviewing the prices of car models out-of-state, it can be tempting to pull the trigger and make a purchase quickly if you find a car that's significantly cheaper compared to similar models in your home state. However, keep in mind that you'll need to pay sales tax on your new car in whatever state you register it.  There are several states that don't charge sales tax at all, including Delaware, Montana, Alaska, New Hampshire, and Oregon. But other states will charge you sales tax once you register the vehicle. Therefore, the total cost of the vehicle out-of-state could be either close to or equal to the cost of the vehicle in your home state when you factor in this extra charge. This is not universal, however. While most states require that you register any owned vehicle in your home state, some do not. Contact your state's department of motor vehicles to learn whether this rule applies in your case.


Emissions standards are not uniform across state lines. Emissions standards are just guidelines or rules for fuel consumption or composition that determine which cars are allowed to drive in what states, and what fuel those vehicles can use. As an example, California has particularly strict emissions standards due to consistent smog problems in the Central Valley. Thus, certain older vehicles are not allowed to drive in California without being modified to take different fuel or to otherwise minimize their emissions hazards. In general, California is considered to be the strictest state in terms of emissions standards.  Checking to see whether a new vehicle is "California certified" is a good way to discern whether that vehicle will be drivable in most states.


You'll also need to think about how you will get your new car to your home state . If you plan to drive the car home, you'll first need to get to where the car is parked. This may involve paying for a one-way plane ticket and flying to the car, or driving your current vehicle to your new car with a passenger who can drive your previous car home as well. Alternatively, you can ship your car. There are plenty of shipping companies that can bring your car from wherever it's located to your home address in a matter of days or weeks. But many of these shipping companies charge high prices for this service, particularly if your car is located in states like Alaska or Hawaii. Of course, this all changes if you’re starting a trucking or car company and are purchasing large amounts of vehicles. In this case, bulk transportation (through hiring a shipping company) is the only real option. Certain car dealerships may have special deals or relationships with shipping companies, which may negate the high prices to some extent. Bottom line: think about this hurdle before purchasing a car out-of-state so you aren't caught off guard with extra costs or time constraints.


Registration limitations and rules vary from state to state as well. Some states require you to have a temporary registration if you decide to drive your car from out-of-state back to your home state. If this is the case for your transaction, speak to your car dealership – many of them can help with registration paperwork or requirements. If you're buying the car from a private seller, you'll need to look up your state's temporary and permanent registration requirements yourself. Some states don't require temporary registration at all. Double-check no matter which state you hail from just to be sure.

Car Insurance

Similarly, some car insurers require you to have car insurance coverage for your new vehicle before you purchase it or when you drive it home.   This all depends on your insurance company, however. Some insurance companies include policies that will extend your current car insurance coverage to any new vehicle purchase provided that you notify them within a certain timeframe. It's a good idea to contact your insurance provider and find out what their policy is on this point before purchasing a new vehicle out-of-state.

Key Steps to Buying a Car Out of State

After you've considered the above factors and decided to buy a car out-of-state, follow this step-by-step process to make sure you don't miss anything.

Get the Vehicle's History Report

It's always a good idea to get the vehicle history report before any purchase.  Organizations like Carfax are usually great for this purpose, as they can give you key information about a new vehicle like its:

  • Accident history
  • How often maintenance has been performed
  • If there were any major repairs
  • How many miles it has been driven
  • And more

You can compare all this information to the official info from your car dealer or private seller. Never go through with a car purchase without checking out the vehicle history report, both in-state and out-of-state.

Inspect the Car or Have It Inspected

You should also inspect the car personally or hire someone to inspect the car for you. In a pinch, you could have a dealer or private seller take extensive pictures and video footage to stand-in for an inspection, but it's not really a replacement for the true thing. Inspecting the vehicle allows you to take it for a test drive and make sure that everything is running smoothly before you hand over the cash.

Pay Any Taxes

As mentioned above, you'll need to know your state's sales tax policy before you make a purchase.  Most states that require you to pay sales tax also require you to pay those fees before you register the car, meaning you'll need to have the money ready by the time you head to the DMV. Keep this in mind and have the money ready if you purchase a new car out-of-state.

Pay for the Title and Registration

You'll always have to pay for a new title and registration regardless of your home state.  The big thing to remember is that each state has different time limits – some states give you multiple months while others may only allow you 30 days to get this chore done. Be sure to do this ASAP so you aren't hit with any fees.

Get the Car Insured

Lastly, make sure your car is properly insured.  Your car insurance provider should be able to help you with this process quickly and easily. Just don't forget to do it based on what your policy demands (either immediately prior to taking ownership of the vehicle or immediately after).


Ultimately, buying a car out-of-state can be a little trickier than purchasing one in your home state, but, it's often worthwhile and hundreds of thousands of people do it every year. Follow the above tips and you'll buy a great car without being saddled with surprise fees or unnecessary charges. For more resources on loans and financing, check out Seek Capital’s blog for articles that can give you all the lending info you need, especially if you’re looking to start a small business or explore personal credit options ! Sources,from%202002%20levels%20by%202016 .

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