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Buying a Car in Another State? Here’s All You Need to Know!

  • Auto Insurance
  • Natasha Young
  • 7 minutes

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When you buy a car in another state, the process can be even more daunting. When new car inventory levels continue to decline, finding a reliable new or used car gets even more difficult. If you’re considering buying a car in another state, be sure to thoroughly research the process.   

What should I consider before buying a car in another state? 

Out-of-state purchases raise a number of issues that would not arise in an in-state transaction. 

Cost differences  

Buying a car out of state entails a number of costs that cannot be avoided. To avoid paying for the vehicle transported, either have an inspector come look at it or go see it in person (or both) before making a purchase. To avoid these fees, you should only buy out of state if you are unable to get the specific model or level of customization you desire in your home state. 

Most of the time, where you live, not where you buy the car, will determine how much sales tax you must pay. But to drive it home, you’ll need temporary registration from the state where you bought it. You’ll have to deal with two Department of Motor Vehicles offices or similar state car agencies.

Tax payments 

You don’t have to pay any additional taxes if you buy your car outside of your home state. Generally speaking, you’re responsible for sales tax in the area where you live, but the rules vary by state. Plan to return the vehicle to another state within a short period of time. You may be able to avoid paying sales tax altogether and only have to pay applicable taxes when you register and obtain a title in your home state.  

A dealership may also charge you the correct sales tax for your state of residence and send it to the appropriate government agency on your behalf. If you’re applying for a vehicle title, for example, you’ll need to check into the specifics of your state’s tax laws. 

Do I have to pay taxes twice if I buy a car out of state Texas?

When you buy a car in another state, you must pay the local Texas auto sales tax, the difference between the sales tax in Texas and your home state, and any DMV filing fees. You won’t have to worry about any other fees or taxes besides that and the price of the car.

Buying a car in another state

State’s emissions requirements   

Many other states have followed California’s lead in enacting stricter emissions regulations for automobiles. For those moving from a state without the California Air Resources Board (CARB) standards, you’ll want to make sure your new car is “California-certified” before purchasing it. 

The California Department of Motor Vehicles recommends checking the vehicle’s emission label under the hood to see if it is California certified. Labels on vehicles should state whether they comply with California regulations or whether they are legal to sell in the state. Make sure your used car complies with the federal EPA emissions requirements, no matter where you plan to register it, no matter how old it is. 

Are there any restrictions on where I can buy and register a car? 

You can buy a car in one state and register it in your home state, even if the registration process is different in each of those states. Make certain the vehicle can pass the emissions test and the vehicle inspection in your state before you buy it. To make sure the title is free of liabilities, you’ll want to check it out. 

How can I buy a car in another state? 

Check the authenticity of the seller and get a vehicle history report 

Your desired car model is available at a discounted price can be deceiving at times. You must be able to inspect the vehicle in person or by a mechanic or have someone you trust accompany you.  

Because of the reputation of the dealership, this isn’t usually a problem. But you also want to learn how long the car can be held by a dealership in case other interested buyers emerge, putting your plans at risk. If you’re looking to buy a car, it’s a good idea to conduct an independent inspection of the vehicle. This could also give you leverage in negotiations.  

When purchasing a classic car or other vehicles that aren’t new, you may also want to pay for a professional appraisal of the vehicle’s worth. This is to secure financing or to share with your insurance company in order to get accurate coverage. Run the VIN through a service like VINCheck or simply Google the number; requesting a vehicle history report from CARFAX or AutoCheck is also a smart choice to understand the complete history of the vehicle.  

Make an appointment with your insurance agent to discuss your policy 

You should call your insurance agent every year to ensure your coverage is up to date, but you should also do so right before you buy a car out of state to double-check. It’s important to have adequate coverage if you’re making a dream purchase or checking something off your bucket list.   

Depending on your policy, your insurance provider may grant you a grace period during which you can purchase new coverage for your current vehicle. It’s a good idea to get a new policy in place before you buy a new car if you don’t currently have any car insurance or the value of the car, you’re buying differs significantly from the value listed on the policy you currently have. If you are on the lookout for the affordable yet best insurance for your car, we suggest you visit Way.com.

Make transportation arrangements 

If you don’t want to fly or otherwise arrange for transportation to the location, you can hire someone to drive the car back to you. There is a slew of businesses that specialize in arranging transportation arrangements as well as in transporting vehicles directly. Transporting your car enclosed is safer, but it can also be more expensive, so weigh the pros and cons based on the value of your vehicle. 

It is possible to drive home a car that you bought in another state. But you’d better stay away from considering that if you’re buying from Massachusetts. A temporary license plate issued by the state in which you purchased the vehicle is required by all but Massachusetts. After purchasing a vehicle, you’ll need a “drive-off tag” to legally drive it off the lot. 

Once you’ve returned to your home state, you’ll need to register your new vehicle at your local department of motor vehicles. Your vehicle’s permanent license plates will be delivered to you at this time. 

Can I buy a car out of state and bring it to California?

You must register your out-of-state car with the California DMV within 20 days of bringing it into the state if you want to keep owning it or within 20 days of buying an out-of-state or non-resident vehicle in California to avoid getting fined.

Double-check registration and taxes 

Make sure you don’t need a temporary registration in the state where you bought the car before you drive out there to get it. If you’re pulled over by the police for driving without a license plate, you don’t want to be caught without a license plate. For most states, you’ll be able to register your car within a 30-day window of time after it arrives in your state. The sales tax due is usually paid at this point. 


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