buying a car in another state

8 Steps to Take When Buying a Car Out of State

Buying a car out of state can be complex, especially if you’re purchasing from the owner and not through a dealer.

New vehicles come off the showroom floor with a host of features guaranteed to meet state standards. But with a used car, you must prove that it’s in compliance with the automotive specs of its new home. You’ll also want to verify that the used car’s history matches the seller’s version before you buy.

Follow these 8 steps if you’re buying a car located out of state

  1. Get financing pre-approval.
  2. Know what you’re buying.
  3. Get auto insurance.
  4. Prepare to move the vehicle.
  5. Transfer the title.
  6. Get a temporary registration.
  7. Complete your out-of-state purchase.
  8. Get the necessary inspections.

Follow these eight steps so you make sure that a vehicle purchased out of state will be street legal where you live.

1. Get financing pre-approval.

If you plan to finance your vehicle, it’s a good idea to get preapproved for an auto loan before shopping. Factor in sales tax based on the state where you live, not the one you buy from.

2. Know what you’re buying.

Make sure to test drive the vehicle, and if time permits, drop it by a local mechanic for a thorough inspection. Check that your incoming out-of-state vehicle can pass the inspections in your state before you seal the deal. Otherwise, you may face expensive modifications to get it licensed.

Also, purchase a vehicle history report from the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System or CarFax. You can see the vehicle’s service records, odometer rollbacks and damage from accidents.

While you’re at it, order a free Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) check from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or the National Insurance Crime Bureau. Most states require it.

3. Get auto insurance.

Some insurers will add new coverage to your existing auto insurance policy and you’re good to go. “As long as the new vehicle is going to be registered in their home state, their agent should be able to insure it over the phone,” according to Taysa Ballard, agent for Mark Geil State Farm Insurance in Reno, Nev.

ALSO READ: 12 Factors That Determine Your Auto Insurance Cost

4. Prepare to move the vehicle.

Once your purchase offer is accepted, make arrangements to move your new vehicle home. If you’re out of state alone with a car, you may decide to hire a mover. But if you’re out of state without a car, you could drive it home yourself.

5. Transfer the title.

In order to travel with proof of legal ownership, be sure to have the seller sign the back of your new vehicle’s title before you depart.

6. Get a temporary registration.

You’ll need a temporary registration that confirms ownership so you can drive home legally. But you can skip this step if you hired a mover.

To obtain a registration, you’ll need the transferred title and possibly proof that the vehicle passed its last emissions test. The state may issue a sticker that will serve as a temporary license plate for the journey home.

7. Complete your out-of-state purchase.

Once you arrive home with your new wheels, you’ll want to complete the documentation requirements. Time may be of the essence because temporary documents you obtained may have expiration dates.

At your local Department of Motor Vehicles, you can turn in your transferred title for a new one issued by your state. Be prepared to present a government-issued photo ID (i.e., your driver’s license) and a utility or tax bill as proof of address.

By showing proof of insurance, you’ll also transform that temporary vehicle registration for a new, in-state set of license plates and tags.

8. Get the necessary inspections.

And finally, take your out-of-state vehicle for necessary state inspections to verify that everything is working safely.

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