Navigating the Process: Buying a Car Out of State


Purchasing a car out of state can be an exciting but potentially complex process. Whether you’re seeking a specific model or searching for a better deal, buying a car from another state requires careful planning and attention to detail. In this guide, we’ll walk you through the essential steps to take when buying a car out of state in the US.

Buying a Car
Buying a Car” by Danny Choo is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Researching the Vehicle:

Vehicle Availability: Begin by searching for the specific make and model of the car you’re interested in. Explore online listings, dealership websites, and classified ads to find vehicles available in other states.

Vehicle History: Obtain a vehicle history report using the vehicle identification number (VIN) to check for any past accidents, title issues, or other potential red flags. Services like Carfax or AutoCheck provide comprehensive vehicle history reports.

Comparing Prices: Compare prices of similar vehicles in your local area and the state where the car is located. Consider factors such as mileage, condition, and features to determine if the out-of-state purchase offers a better deal.

Understanding Tax and Registration:

Sales Tax: Research the sales tax rates in both your home state and the state where you’re purchasing the car. Determine if you’ll need to pay sales tax in both states or if you can receive a credit for taxes paid in the state of purchase.

Registration Fees: Contact the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) in your home state to inquire about registration fees for out-of-state vehicle purchases. Some states may require additional paperwork or inspections for out-of-state vehicles.

Temporary Tags: In some cases, you may need to obtain temporary tags to drive the vehicle legally from the state of purchase to your home state. Check with the seller or your local DMV for information on obtaining temporary tags.

Arranging Financing:

Pre-Approval: Get pre-approved for an auto loan from your bank, credit union, or online lender. Having financing in place before shopping for a car gives you leverage during negotiations and streamlines the buying process.

Loan Terms: Compare interest rates, loan terms, and monthly payments from multiple lenders to find the best financing option for your budget and financial situation.


Title Transfer: Ensure the seller has a clear title to the vehicle and can legally transfer ownership to you. Review the title transfer process for both the state of purchase and your home state to understand the requirements.

Bill of Sale: Obtain a bill of sale from the seller that outlines the terms of the sale, including the purchase price, VIN, and signatures of both parties. This document serves as proof of the transaction.

Inspection and Transportation:

Vehicle Inspection: If possible, have the vehicle inspected by a qualified mechanic or inspection service to ensure it’s in good condition and meets your expectations.

Transportation: Determine how you’ll transport the vehicle from the state of purchase to your home state. Options include driving the car yourself, hiring a transportation service, or arranging for delivery through the seller or dealership.

Finalizing the Purchase:

Payment: Arrange payment with the seller according to the agreed-upon terms. Payment options may include cash, certified check, wire transfer, or financing.

Paperwork: Complete all required paperwork for the title transfer, registration, and any other documentation needed to finalize the purchase. Ensure you have copies of all documents for your records.

Buying a car out of state can be a rewarding experience, but it requires careful planning and attention to detail. By conducting thorough research, understanding tax and registration requirements, arranging financing, gathering necessary documentation, and arranging for inspection and transportation, you can navigate the process with confidence and secure your dream car from another state.