Buying a car out of state

Buying a Car Out of State in 2020: What to Watch Out For?

Chris Carter

Chris Carter

Are you interested in purchasing a vehicle from a different state? Read on to learn about key things to watch out for and have your big questions answered.


Buying a car is one of the largest purchases that most people ever make. It is not uncommon for someone to need to cross state lines to find the vehicle of their dreams, or get that great deal that they are after. This guide will show you ways of buying a car out of state in 2020 and some helpful items to look out for along the way.

Why would you buy a car out of state?

Before jumping into buying a car out of state, it is important to answer the question: why? Buying a car out of state can help you save a lot of money, as dealers in different areas may be more likely to negotiate. Also, you might live near a state line. This could mean that the two closest dealers are located in two different states.

Sometimes, specific dealers have sales goals that they are desperate to hit. This means that they can be losing thousands of dollars just to sell the vehicle so that the manufacturer will pay them bonus money. When this happens, you can take advantage of the game – and save big by scoring on a highly discounted car.

Pre-owned or used vehicles are also commonly purchased across state lines. Used cars are unique and it can be hard to find exactly what you are looking for in your home state. Traveling across state lines might be essential if you are interested in a very specific vehicle with select options.

Buying a car out of state is ultimately just like every other car purchase. The most important thing to remember is that you must be prepared, protect yourself, and get the best possible deal.

Things to watch out for when buying a car out of state

Buying a car out of state is a great way to save big on your next car purchase. However, it is important to remember that you are still buying a vehicle. This means that the amount of due diligence required does not change just because you are shopping further from home.

Evaluate the vehicle closely

Even if you just drove across the country to look at this vehicle and the photos online look great, be sure to look closely in person. It is easy for sellers to misrepresent vehicles, especially through photos, so carefully evaluate the condition of the vehicle with your own eyes. This is true for both new and used vehicles, as new vehicles can also have hidden damage or strange equipment/options. 

One great way to avoid making a costly mistake is to take the vehicle to a local mechanic for evaluation before purchase. Most mechanics will charge you a flat rate for this service and it is a worthwhile investment. This allows someone else to have an objective view of the vehicle, instead of just relying on your detective skills. 

You Have to Get It Home

It is easy to forget that you must drive your new vehicle back to your home state. The excitement and joy of scoring that great deal will slowly wear off when you realize that you haven’t made hotel reservations and it is late at night. Be sure to think through how long the drive will take both ways, including the time spent at the dealership. 

Also, remember that you will be often driving home without a license plate on the back of the vehicle. If you are pulled over, you will need to have the vehicle’s title and proof of insurance to show to the officer. When you are certain that you will be moving forward with the purchase, call your insurance company to add the vehicle to your policy. 

Taxes when buying a car out of state

Unfortunately, taxes are paid in the state where the vehicle is registered. Even if you cross state lines to purchase a vehicle, you cannot escape the high taxes of your home state. If you are buying the vehicle from a dealership, the dealership should collect the correct amount of sales tax from your state. If you are buying from an individual, you will need to pay the sales tax when you go to register the vehicle in your name. 

Tips and Tricks for buying a car out of state

Know the Vehicle’s History

Before driving across state lines, be sure to check the vehicle’s history. Most dealerships will provide you with a free copy of the Carfax or AutoCheck report for used vehicles. Be sure to carefully examine this report for oddities like gaps in ownership, or past damage and accidents.

Also, be sure to look at where the vehicle was originally sold. For example: if the vehicle has spent a lot of time in a cold climate where salt is sprayed on the roads, you need to check for rust and other serious damage on the vehicle. 

Know Who You Are Buying From

Be sure to carefully research the dealership that you are purchasing the vehicle from before traveling across state lines. Although I’d like to think that all dealers are good, this is just not true. Search for reviews from the dealership to make sure that you are dealing with someone reputable. Also, check their social media profiles and websites for commentary regarding how well they treat customers.

Make Sure The Car Is Available

Nothing is worse than driving several hours only to find out that the vehicle you are interested in was sold earlier that day. Make contact with the dealership several days before your drive and ask for them to hold or reserve the vehicle for you. Most will do this at no charge. Also, this makes sure that the dealership is expecting you and the vehicle is clean and ready for a test drive and further inspection. 

Have Your Documents In Order

Consider all of the required documents before driving several hours to look at a vehicle. You need to make sure that you have your required documents, financing, insurance, and other related items in place before making the trip. This will allow you to complete the transaction in one trip, rather than having to make the drive again. 

Consider State Emissions

Not all states have the same emission requirements. Be sure that the vehicle you are purchasing can legally be registered in your state. If not, you have a real mess on your hands. A simple search of your car’s VIN in a state database can reveal if you can register the vehicle. Also, dealers can help you with this information as well.


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