Buying a Car Out of State

Can you buy a car from another state?

If you’ve found your next perfect car, but it’s located in a different state, don’t worry!

You can purchase a vehicle from a different state with the intention of titling and registering it where you live.

The main considerations for buying a car out of state include:

  • Sale tax.
  • Emissions and inspection requirements.
  • Transporting or driving the vehicle.

Buying an out-of-state vehicle – new or used – can add a few extra steps and considerations to the transaction. 

However, there may be some reasons why getting a vehicle from another state is the right choice for you. 

If you’re in the shopping phase or have found a car you like that’s located in another state, this page will provide you with an overview of the process and some things to think about before you complete the purchase. 

If you’re still in the research phase of your search, be sure to check out our free VIN decoder to get some more details on the cars you’re interested in. 

Steps to Buy a Car from Out of State

For the most part, buying a car out-of-state comes along with all of the same steps and considerations as buying a used car anywhere. 

You’ll still need:

The basic steps for buying a vehicle out-of-state include:

  • Getting a vehicle history report
  • Making sure the vehicle meets your state’s emissions standards. 
  • Obtaining all the necessary ownership documents from the seller. 
  • Getting a new insurance policy on the vehicle. 
  • Transporting the vehicle back to your home state. 
  • Completing any inspection requirements for out-of-state vehicles. 
  • Submitting your title and registration paperwork to your state DMV. 
  • Paying the necessary sales tax, title fees, and registration fees. 

Just like any vehicle purchase, you’ll need to make sure to register and title it in your name in your state within the specified time frame. This typically ranges anywhere from 10 to 30 days. 

The two biggest additional considerations you’ll need to make when buying a car out of state will be the inspection requirements and how you’ll get the car back home. More on those topics below. 

Getting a Vehicle Purchased Out of State Back Home

If you buy a car from a different state, you’ll obviously need to figure out how you’re going to get it back home. 

Your options include driving it back or having it shipped. 

Either option comes with some cost and logistics considerations. 

Shipping a vehicle can be expensive. If that’s what you’re thinking about, you should factor in the cost of shipping to the overall purchase to see if it is really worth it to buy the vehicle out of state. 

Alternatively, you can choose to drive the car back home. 

However, this may come with additional steps, such as:

  • Obtaining temporary plates or a trip permit to drive the car back. 
  • Immediately getting a car insurance policy. 

If you’ve bought a car from an out-of-state dealership, they should be able to help you with any temporary registration requirements and transfers to your state DMV. 

If you’ve bought the car from a private seller, you will need to make sure you comply with any registration requirements yourself. 

Inspections and Emissions Requirements for Vehicles Purchased Out of State

The next consideration when buying a vehicle out of state is emissions and inspection requirements. 

First, you’ll need to make sure that the car you’re buying complies with the emission standards in your state. 

This typically applies to anything the state considers a “new” vehicle. 

If you live in California, this is something you’ll definitely want to pay attention to. 

In California, a new vehicle is considered any vehicle with less than 7,500 on the odometer at the time of sale. 

California has the highest emissions standards compared to any other state. 

If the vehicle is California-certified and made for sale in California, it can be registered in any other state as well. 

However, if the vehicle only meets the federal emissions requirements, you may not be able to get it registered in a state like California. 

The states that have adopted the California Air Resources Board (CARB) standards include:

  • Arizona.
  • California.
  • Connecticut. 
  • Maine. 
  • Maryland. 
  • Massachusetts.
  • New Jersey. 
  • New Mexico. 
  • New York. 
  • Oregon.
  • Pennsylvania.
  • Rhode Island.
  • Vermont.
  • Washington.
  • Washington DC.

You can check the emissions label to make sure it is a CARB-certified car. 

Remember, if the vehicle is no longer considered “new,” this rule does not apply as long as it is able to pass your local smog check requirements. 

Another inspection requirement for out of state vehicles will typically involve a VIN Verification as part of the registration process. 

This will require you to take the vehicle to an authorized inspection location to have its VIN physically inspected and verified. 

Sales Tax When Buying a Car Out of State

It is a misconception that you’ll be able to avoid sales tax when buying a vehicle out of state. 

No matter where you buy the vehicle – even from a state with no sales tax – you’ll be required to pay the sales tax in your home state when you go through the title and registration process. 

Out-of-state dealerships will typically take care of remitting your state’s sales tax during the purchase process. 

For private sales, you’ll need to pay this when you submit your application and paperwork. 

Benefits for Buying an Out-of-State Vehicle

So, now that you’re clear on some of the obstacles and extra considerations of buying a vehicle out of state, let’s check out some of the advantages of doing it. 

  1. You’ll have a wider range of cars to choose from. 
  2. You may be able to find a better deal than vehicles for sale in your area. 
  3. You may be able to find a rare or classic car you’ve had your eye on. 
  4. You can get vehicles that are popular or marketed in your area. 

However, you should still do your due diligence when buying a car out of state. 

If something sounds too good to be true or the seller starts asking for strange wire transfers or out-of-the-ordinary transaction requests – it’s likely a scam. 

Other scams to be aware of for out-of-state vehicles include VIN cloning and title washing.