What to know when buying a car out of state

Buying a car out of state

Sometimes the perfect car is just a short trip to the dealership away. Other times, you’re looking at buying a car out of state – and that comes with a bit more legwork.

Doing your research first, however, will put you on the front foot.

Tips for buying across state lines

Check your home state requirements
Check the laws that affect registering an out-of-state vehicle with your own state’s department of motor vehicles (DMV) or vehicle registry body to get an overview of the process.

Look at requirements for vehicle standards, including emissions, inspections, transporting the vehicle and any other registration and titling conditions.

Remember there’s insurance to arrange, and that sales tax is always payable in your home state.

With that knowledge on board, you’ll be in better shape to shop.

Emissions standards are important
A key concern when buying a car out of state is checking the vehicle on sale meets the emissions requirements of your own state.

California has the strictest emission standards in the country and 13 other states, as well as the District of Columbia, follow the same standards set by the California Air Resources Board (CARB).

They are: Arizona, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, along with the District of Columbia.

If you’re considering buying a car from any of those CARB states, it’ll safely meet the requirements of all 50 U.S. states.

On the other hand, some cars are specifically made for non-CARB states, so it might not be possible to register them if you live in a CARB state.

There are exceptions to this, though. For example, a vehicle with more than 7,500 miles on the clock is no longer classed as new and so can be registered in California, as long as it passes the smog test.

Check with your dealer to confirm the vehicle you’re interested in can be legally registered in your home state.

If buying from a private seller, you can check the plaque, often located under the hood, to see whether the car can be sold in CARB states, and refer to the requirements of your state’s DMV.

Know the tax
Let the dealer know you’re buying a car out of state when you’re making the purchase. The dealer may collect the sales tax and send it on to your state’s DMV, otherwise it’ll be payable when you register the vehicle.

Get temporary registration and proof of ownership
When you’ve signed on the dotted line, the dealership staff will give you a temporary registration. If buying from a private party, you should ask the seller for a signed title to prove you’re the owner, and you may need to apply for temporary registration, too, advises Edmunds. Once back in your own state you can register the vehicle fully.

Financing an out-of-state car purchase

Buying a car out of state typically comes with some extra steps, but a little research goes a long way and may set you on the road to a smooth purchase process.

If you’re looking for financing, consider online lender RoadLoans, a provider of auto loans in states across America. We accept applications for new and used car loans, as well as private party loans, from people with all types of credit. If approved, you’ll know the terms of your auto loan before you shop for a vehicle.

Apply in minutes and get an instant loan decision.


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