Can I Buy a Car from Out of State?

Get Car Financing
Even with poor credit.

By

Meghan Carbary has been writing professionally for nearly 20 years. A published journalist in three states, Meghan honed her skills as a feature writer and sports editor. She has now expanded her skill-set into the automotive industry as a content writer for Auto Credit Express, where she contributes to several automotive and auto finance blogs.


, - November 14, 2018

Buying a car from out of state can be a time-consuming process with a lot of details to pay attention to. Whatever your reason for purchasing a vehicle from another state, there are some things you need to make sure of – the tax, title, and registration requirements for the state you live in.

It's Where You Drive That Matters

The rules that govern your car depend on the state you live in, and those rules can vary greatly from state to state. Think you can save money on purchasing a vehicle in a state without sales tax? Think again. The taxes on your car get collected at your state DMV or secretary of state office when it gets re-titled and registered in your state.

If you’re purchasing a vehicle from a dealership in another state, you need to know if that state has a reciprocity agreement with your state. If they do, the dealer can collect the appropriate taxes and forward them to your home state. In non-reciprocal states, you can roll the taxes and fees into your loan, so the dealership can give you a check to pay them when you register and title your car (which you have to do). But, no matter if you’re buying from a private seller or a dealer, you have to take care of this yourself and sometimes the process can be complicated.

States also differ on the their license plate laws. In some states, the tags stay with the vehicle when it’s sold. In others, they stay with the seller. In most cases, whether you buy from a dealership or private party, you need to apply for a temporary in-transit tag that allows you to drive to your home state. To do this, you must visit the local DMV in the seller’s state and you typically need the car title, a valid driver’s license, proof of insurance, and proof of purchase (if you buy from a dealer, they do this for you). In some states, you may need an emissions test before you can be given a temporary tag. The cost of these temporary permits also vary by state.

It pays to really do your homework before jumping into an out-of-state vehicle sale. Rules and regulations can have minor details that turn into major hassles if you're not prepared for them. Make sure you know your state's laws, and those of the state you're buying from, so you don't run into any problems purchasing the car or driving it back home.

Tips for Buying a Car from Out of State

Besides differences in license, registration, and tax requirements, there are other complications that can arise when you're purchasing a vehicle across state lines. Below are some tips to help you be as prepared as possible for this arduous process.

  • Get it in Writing – When you're buying a car that's currently on the other side of the country from you, you need to make sure it’s still going to be there after you make the trip. If possible, get a confirmation in writing from the seller or the dealership, but, at the very least, communicate that you're coming and have them confirm the vehicle isn't going to be sold out from under you.
  • Don't Buy Sight Unseen – Getting that confirmation is worth it, but if the seller asks for you to guarantee the purchase financially in order to hold onto it, walk away. There's no reason to put down a large sum of money on a car you haven't been able to see, inspect, and test drive.
  • Get a Vehicle History Report – Before you even consider driving two or more states away to have the vehicle put through the rigors of inspection, make sure you get a vehicle history report. In many cases, this alerts you to any past damage that may have occurred.
  • You May Need an Emissions Test – Make sure you know the specific emissions requirements for where you live. Some states follow the California Air Resources Board (CARB) guidelines, and they're the strictest air quality standards in the country. Some states even have different emissions guidelines in different counties, so get specific when you're researching the regulations.

Buying a Car Closer to Home

It's completely possible to buy a car across state lines, but you may not want to. Save yourself the headache of having to work out the details of a long distance sale, and look to CarsDirect to help you buy local instead. If you're worried about credit issues holding you back or just aren't sure where to go in your area, fill out our easy online auto loan request form and we'll match you to a dealer in your area.

We work with special finance dealerships nationwide that have the lending specialists available to help people in many different situations. What are you waiting for? Get started today!

Need a Car Loan?

It only takes a minute.

Meghan Carbary has been writing professionally for nearly 20 years. A published journalist in three states, Meghan honed her skills as a feature writer and sports editor. She has now expanded her skill-set into the automotive industry as a content writer for Auto Credit Express, where she contributes to several automotive and auto finance blogs.


Search New Cars by Loan Payment »

View estimated loan payments based on local rebates and financing offers.

Loan approval is not guaranteed and is subject to credit application and approval of the lender. Individual loan terms may vary. Use of this website constitutes acceptance of CarsDirect.com's Terms of Use, Disclaimer, Privacy Policy, and Cookie Policy.