As a former licensed used car dealer in Florida, I regularly purchased vehicles from other states to resell at my dealership.
Chances are you are reading this article for the same reason I searched for inventory out of state: You found a great deal!
However, buying a car over state lines isn’t always a walk in the park, and it requires navigating different regulations and paperwork that you best know ahead of time to save yourself MAJOR headaches.
In order to help, I created the guide below to walk you through the process and pitfalls of buying a car out of state…
Relevant Articles To Read:
- When I buy a Car From a Private Seller Can I Drive it Home?
- How to buy a Car from a Private Seller
- Popular Car Buying Scams and How To Avoid Them
Table of Contents
Why Buy a Car From Another State?
By widening your car search across state lines, you may find better pricing, a wider selection, or rare models not available locally.
I often traveled to buy collector and specialty cars for my dealership, especially when it came to barn finds you jut don’t find in Florida.
However, regional supply and demand variances can also create deals on common models. For example, convertibles and rear-wheel drive cars tend to be cheaper in cold weather states, especially in winter months.
Out-of-State Car Buying Checklist
Follow this checklist when buying a car from another state:
- Search dealer and private party listings nationwide
- Calculate total drive-away price with all fees and taxes
- Verify emissions and safety regulations are met
- Review vehicle history report from CarFax or NMVTIS
- Arrange for a mechanic inspection if possible
- Confirm insurance coverage for drive home
- Pay sales tax based on registration state
- Obtain bill of sale and signed title transfer
- Apply for temporary license plates if required
- Schedule transport truck or drive home
- Register the car within 30 days
- Get state safety and emissions testing
- Receive new title with registration
Buying From a Private Seller Out of State
Purchasing from a private seller out of state makes buyers responsible for more paperwork but can lead to better deals.
Be prepared to handle tasks that a dealership would typically manage:
- Processing title transfers, bill of sale, registration paperwork
- Paying full sales taxes to your home DMV
- Meeting safety and emissions inspection requirements
- Securing temporary license plates for the drive home
I arranged my own third-party vehicle inspections and transport for private sales. Rates often range $500-$1700+ for enclosed truck transport depending on distance.
Watch For Common Private Sale Scams
As a buyer, be vigilant of these private seller used car scams:
- Odometer rollbacks to show less mileage
- Title washing to hide salvage/flood history
- VIN cloning using a stolen vehicle’s identity
- Requests for risky wire transfers
Always verify the VIN and obtain reports from NMVTIS and CarFax beforehand.
Purchasing From Dealerships Out of State
For buyers looking to simplify the documentation process, buying from an out-of-state dealership can be easier than a private sale.
Dealers will handle tasks like:
- Collecting accurate sales tax for your state
- Filing DMV paperwork for registration and title transfers
- Providing temporary license plates for the drive home
- Assisting with vehicle shipping logistics
Ask dealers to review their latest incentives and confirm the vehicle meets your state’s emissions. For used models, have them share VIN reports too.
Registration, Taxes & Fees For Out-Of-State Purchases
Be prepared for extra registration steps and costs when titling an out-of-state automobile:
Typical Fees & Requirements
- Sales tax: Based on your home state’s rate, not the seller’s location. Averages around 5-7% of purchase price.
- Registration: Typically $200+ for a title transfer, new plates, and processing fees.
- Inspections: ~half of states require VIN verification, safety, and/or emissions testing before registration.
Check your DMV website for specifics on taxes, titles, and required documentation for your situation. You usually have 30 days after entering your state to complete the registration.
Do I Have To Pay Taxes Twice If I Buy a Car Out of State?
No, you only pay sales tax once on an out-of-state car purchase, but it goes to your home state rather than the state you bought the car in.
The tax rate is based on your home state’s regulations. If the purchase state has a lower tax rate, you pay the difference.
When buying from a dealer, they usually handle paying the appropriate sales tax.
But for private purchases, you must pay the sales tax yourself when registering in your home state. Check with your DMV for specific rules. As long as you register properly, you avoid double taxation.
Registration Requirements For Out-Of-State Cars By State
To understand the exact steps and costs when titling an out-of-state car, it helps to learn state-by-state specifics.
Here are the key registration requirements for bringing cars purchased elsewhere into California, Florida, and New York:
California Out-Of-State Car Registration
- Timeline: Register within 20 days of entering CA or buying out of state
- Taxes: Pay CA 7.25% sales tax plus district taxes
- Fees: Title transfer, use tax, smog abatement – higher than most states
- Inspections: Smog check required, plus VIN verification
- Transportation: Drive on temp plates for 20 days or transport
Florida Out-Of-State Car Registration
- Timeline: Register within 30 days of entering FL or purchase date
- Taxes: Pay FL 6% sales tax plus discretionary county taxes
- Fees: Expect over $200 for title, lien, registration
- Inspections: VIN verification mandated
- Transportation: Insurance required before driving home
New York Out-Of-State Car Registration
- Timeline: 30 days from purchase to register with NY DMV
- Taxes: Pay combined 4-4.875% state and local sales tax
- Fees: $200+ for title transfer and processing
- Inspections: Annual safety/emissions testing; VIN verification
- Transportation: Insurance and temp plates to drive home
Check with your state DMV for specifics. Use this list as a guide of what to expect when registering an out-of-state car.
Driving Laws Around Out-Of-State Purchases
Before hitting the road in your new ride, ensure you meet these legal requirements:
- Insurance: Call your insurer before purchase to activate coverage. Proof is required for registration.
- Temporary Plates: Request temporary tags good for 5-30 days if driving an unregistered car across state lines.
- Bill of Sale: Carries this in the vehicle until registered along with your purchase paperwork and ID.
Following these guidelines ensures your out-of-state car buying process goes smoothly from start to finish. Let me know if you have any other questions