How to Buy a Car Out of State 101: Everything You Need to Know and More

How to Buy a Car Out of State 101: Everything You Need to Know and More

Buying a new or used car can sometimes feel like a lengthy, challenging process: browsing the seemingly countless makes and models, hunting for the best price. With used vehicles, you also have to consider other factors like deciding between purchasing from a certified pre-owned seller or taking the risk of buying as-is from a private party.

But what if you find the perfect car for you, and it just so happens to be out of state? Is it just as simple as traveling there, signing the papers, and driving home? Unfortunately, no. It happens to be more involved than that. 

Buying a car out of state involves additional steps because of differing regulations throughout the country, as well as other administrative tasks that you'll need to complete as part of the purchasing process. 

Here's our guide to finding and buying a vehicle from another state. 

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Buying a car out of state: Budget and research

Before zeroing in on a particular car, it's first best to find out much you can spend. If paying in cash, avoid spending all of your savings. If you decide to get a loan and have monthly payments, a good practice is never to spend more than 20 percent of your take-home pay.

Next, getting pre-approved for a loan can smooth out the process of buying a car. With pre-approval out of the way, you can focus on researching and locating what you want. Also, pre-approval suggests you're a serious shopper and simply not haphazardly looking around.

As with any vehicle purchase, you'll want to thoroughly research what kind of car you need before going any further. How is the climate where you live? Do you have a family? Do you need extra cargo space? These are just some of the considerations to take into account when deciding on a vehicle.

If you're buying a used car, it pays to research current market pricing. Two reputable sources for this information are Kelley Blue Book and the National Auto Dealers Association, or NADA for short. These organizations have websites where you can enter the make, model, year, mileage, and condition to find out what you can expect to spend. If you plan to trade in your old car, you can also find current trade-in values.

With this information at your disposal, you can start searching the web for your vehicle. Shift’s website has a large selection of fully inspected cars located across the country that are ready to go. The website is user-friendly, and you’ll be able to find various makes and models to suit your needs and budget. And Shift also offers financing, making it a one-stop-shop for finding just the car you’re looking for. 

Buying a car out of state: Locating your vehicle

If you're buying a used car, it's a good idea to get a vehicle history report. A vehicle history report from trusted sources like Carfax or Autocheck will alert you to an odometer rollback, the number of owners, a salvage title, or past major collisions. Consider it extra peace of mind when you spend your hard-earned money.

You can buy any of Shift's cars directly online from the comfort of your home, knowing it has no hidden issues because all Shift vehicles pass a 150-point inspection and get a fair, up-front price from the get-go. For extra reassurance, any car you buy from Shift has a seven-day refund policy. In case you aren't fully satisfied with your purchase, you're able to return it with no questions asked. These are just some of the ways Shift makes it easy to buy a car regardless of its location. 

Buying a car out of state: Administrative tasks

If you find just the car you want at the best price in another state – be it from a traditional dealership or a private seller – usually, you have to take care of additional paperwork to make sure you meet all regulations. But that's not the case with Shift, which streamlines the process for you. Read on to learn more.

First among those is paying local sales tax. Buying a car in a state with no sales tax – such as Oregon, Delaware, and New Hampshire – may seem like an excellent way to save money. But you'll still have to pay your home state's sales tax upon returning. If you're buying your vehicle from a dealership, they'll likely include the required tax in the final price, so you don't have to worry about it once traveling back.

If you buy from a private party, you may owe tax on the transaction price once you register the car. The best source of information on this is your state's DMV.

After purchasing a used car from a private seller or a traditional dealership, the next step is to register the vehicle at your local department of motor vehicles. Be sure to get it registered within 30 days because you may be responsible for fines if you don't. Once you complete this step, you'll get a license plate and a title with your name on it. 

Getting a used car inspected is another critical step, as emissions standards vary from state to state. If a vehicle doesn't pass inspection, it can delay the registration process, further holding up your purchase. 

Lastly, you want to be sure your new purchase has car insurance from the start. Depending on your provider, your car may have insurance coverage from the moment you buy it, or you may need to get coverage as soon as you sign the papers. If you're taking out a loan, the lender may require the car to be insured before funding is approved. 

With all of these details to take care of, it's reassuring to know you can buy from Shift, who are with you every step of the way. With Shift's expertise and experience selling used vehicles, you can rest assured your used car purchase will be good to go from the moment you take delivery. And beyond administrative tasks, Shift offers financing and best-in-industry extended service contracts, too.

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Buying a car out of state: Getting it home

If you buy from a dealership, they'll provide you with temporary license plates for getting the car home. 

If you buy from a private party, you'll get a signed title and bill of sale that shows you as the owner. That will prove handy on the drive back if the police happen to stop you for not having license plates. But if you provide your photo ID, bill of sale, and title, you'll be good to go. 

"Trip permits" are available in some states that allow you to drive for a period of time in an unregistered car, giving you time to register it once home. 

If the used car you plan on purchasing happens to be in an entirely different region of the country altogether, paying a specialized company to transport it may be the best option. That will ensure your vehicle is safe and in excellent condition when it arrives.

But wouldn’t it be ideal if you could make your purchase and the seller takes care of delivery for you? Shift does just that, delivering your new car directly to you, making for a seamless buying process. And if you’d like to take a test drive before signing the papers, in some markets, a Shift concierge will drive your car to you for no charge, letting you get a feel for its driving performance and interior. 

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Buy a car out of state: Summing it up

Depending on how you look at it, finding and buying a car can be simultaneously fun and a hassle. But when you buy a car out of state, it's important to remember the additional steps you'll need to take to make sure everything's in order. Paying sales tax in your home state, getting the car registered, and checking with your insurance company are just a few of the tasks you need to complete to make sure your out-of-state car purchase goes smoothly.

Shift can make buying a used car out of state a smooth process that’s just as easy as buying local. With their financing and delivery options, you’ll have all of the details worked out and be ready to hit the road as soon as your car arrives. And with their 150-point inspections and best-in-industry service contracts, you’ll have a vehicle you can count on mile after mile. 

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Author
Shift Editorial Team