Car Buying Tips

What Happens If I Buy A Car In Another State?

By TheCarzingTeam November 8, 2021 | Car Buying Tips

Car Buying Tips

In the past, you had to visit local dealerships or check the classifieds section of the newspaper to see what cars were available for sale near you. But the internet has drastically changed the way people shop for cars. Now, you no longer have to choose a car based on what’s available for you. Thanks to the internet, you can purchase a vehicle from thousands of miles away with just a few clicks of the mouse.

If you’ve never purchased a car in another state, you may have a lot of questions about how the process works. What happens if I buy a car in another state? What will I need to do before and after the transaction? Is purchasing a car from another state a good idea? If you’re preparing to buy a car in another state, here’s everything you need to know to ensure the process goes smoothly:

Why Should I Buy A Car in Another State?

There are a number of reasons why you may want to buy a car in another state, including:

  • Easier to locate a specific vehicle. If you want a specific model, trim level, or color, you may have trouble finding it in your local market. This is especially true if you’re shopping for a vintage or rare model. In cases like these, looking in other states may be the only way to purchase the car of your dreams.
  • Better deals. Special discounts, offers, and promotions can vary depending on the dealership. It’s possible that you may be able to find a better deal on a vehicle located in a state nearby. 
  • Regional availability. Specific models and vehicle features are more popular in some regions. For example, it may be hard to find a vehicle with 4WD in the South since drivers in this region don’t deal with rocky terrain, snow, or ice on a regular basis. If you want a vehicle with 4WD, you may need to look in other states where this feature is popular.

What to Consider When Buying A Car in Another State

What to Consider When Buying A Car in Another State

There are a number of things you need to consider and plan for in advance before buying a car in another state, including:

  • Pre-Purchase Inspection
  • Sales Tax
  • Insurance Coverage
  • Title and Registration
  • State Inspection Laws
  • Transportation

Pre-Purchase Inspection

Pre-Purchase Inspection

Many people who buy a vehicle in another state do not travel to look at it in person before purchasing it. Why? Traveling to check out every car that catches your eye is expensive and time-consuming. If you can’t see it in person, the next best option is paying a local mechanic to inspect it for you.

Research mechanics that are located near the vehicle you want to purchase. It’s best to find your own mechanic instead of using one recommended by the seller. This way, you can ensure that the mechanic will provide an unbiased assessment of the vehicle’s condition. Once you find someone, let the seller know that the mechanic will be inspecting the vehicle on your behalf.

You can also purchase a vehicle history report. This report will provide a wealth of information about the vehicle’s accident history, mileage, and condition.

Taking these steps will protect you from purchasing a vehicle that is not in good condition. 

Sales Tax

If you’re planning on buying a car, you need to budget for the cost of the car in addition to the fees associated with purchasing a car. One of these extra fees is sales tax.

Sales tax rates vary from state-to-state. In fact, some states don’t even have sales tax. So how does it work if you purchase a car in one state, but live in another? You will need to pay sales tax in the state where you register the vehicle, not the state where you purchase the vehicle.

For example, say you live in California, but purchase a vehicle in Oregon. The state of Oregon does not charge sales tax on vehicle purchases, but the state of California does. In this case, the state tax laws in California apply even though the purchase was made in Oregon. This means you will need to pay sales tax to the state of California in order to register your vehicle. 

Insurance Coverage

You will also need to think about your insurance coverage before purchasing a vehicle in another state.

Many providers allow you to extend your existing coverage onto a new vehicle for a limited period of time as long as you notify them in advance. If this is how your policy works, your new vehicle will be covered by your existing policy for a short time immediately after it is purchased.

However, some insurance providers do not offer this type of coverage. If yours does not offer it, you will need to make arrangements to secure coverage on your new vehicle right after purchasing it.

Because the rules can vary depending on the policy, it’s important to get in touch with your insurance provider to find out what you need to do to stay covered. 

Title and Registration

You will need to transfer the title to the vehicle and register it in your name as soon as possible after purchasing it in another state. Every state has its own rules regarding how quickly you must complete these steps.

Most states give you 30 days to sort out the title and registration after purchasing a vehicle. But remember, the rules in your home state apply, not the rules in the state where the vehicle was purchased.

If you purchase a vehicle from a dealership in another state, the dealer might handle the title and registration process for you. But if you purchase the vehicle from a private seller, you will need to work with them to complete the necessary steps.

State Inspection Laws

State Inspection Laws

Some states have established certain requirements that all vehicles must meet in order to be registered in the state.

For example, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) has established strict emissions requirements for all vehicles that are registered in the state. If the car you purchase in another state does not meet these requirements, you will need to pay for the necessary modifications before getting it registered.

States may require more than just emissions inspections. If you live in Louisiana, for example, your vehicle will need to pass a safety inspection before it can be registered in the state. Various parts of the vehicle will be inspected, including the brakes, mirrors, seat belts, steering mechanism, lights, wheels, and tires.

To avoid issues with registering your new car, make sure you are familiar with your state’s car inspection laws before purchasing a vehicle out of state. 


The final thing you need to consider before buying a car in another state is transportation. In other words, how will you get the vehicle home once you buy it?

Do you plan on driving to purchase the vehicle? If so, you will need to bring someone with you who can drive one car home while you drive the other. Or you may want to arrange to trade in your existing vehicle before making the trip home.

If you’re buying the car from a dealership, they may be willing to help you arrange to have the car delivered to you. This would save you the time and trouble of traveling to pick it up in person.

Explore all of your options so you have a plan in place before you purchase a vehicle in another state.

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