Second to the cost of your home, a new vehicle is the largest purchase most people make. As with all decisions of this magnitude, it pays to do your homework and shop around. Responsible buyers look for the best deals and realize the value of creative car-buying solutions that can save thousands of dollars.

Traditionally, buyers looking to save money on a car would seek out used vehicles as a simple way to shave money off the bottom line. But with used cars today sometimes costing nearly as much as new cars, it is time to get even more creative and look for alternative ways to drive down the cost of a new vehicle.

Car manufacturers have faced post-pandemic supply chain issues and shortages. The result is heavy demand in the used car market, sending prices through the roof. But, the US economy is vast and can vary significantly by region. Certain markets are suffering more than others, meaning it might make sense to travel to a different part of the country in search of a new car. For example, if you live in California, where the cost of living is very high, you may find a used car dealer in Salt Lake City offering the car you want for thousands less than California rates. The savings could be well worth the travel cost.

So here we are, in a day and age where you might find yourself crossing state lines in search of a new car, which raises plenty of questions about taxes, registration, and insurance. Let’s take a look at what exactly it takes to cross state lines and drive away with the car you want (with a little extra money in your pockets). While it may require some extra work, you might find it’s not the headache you thought it might be.

This is your Out-of-State Car Buying Checklist to help you confidently embark on your search for a new car.

Your Out-Of-State Car Buying Checklist


Research the Car’s History

Once you have zeroed in on a car, it only takes a few minutes to do an internet search on the car’s history. VINcheck offers free history reports. All you have to do is enter the car’s VIN number, and you can find information about that individual car’s history. You can also learn your car’s complete history by getting a CARFAX report.

Many dealers, especially those well-versed in remote sales, will offer a complete third-party inspection. If your dealer doesn’t offer inspections as standard procedure, be sure to check out the car yourself or find a trusted mechanic to inspect the vehicle for you.

Read up on Your Local Tax Laws

Nobody likes to think about paying taxes, but they can add up to a hefty bill, so it’s important to know how things shake out ahead of time. Remember that tax laws vary by state, so researching your state’s specific tax laws is essential. Generally speaking, you will pay the taxes for the area where you live, not where you buy the car.

If you are working with a dealer, they should be able to bill you for taxes in your home state. If you do a private sale, you will likely pay taxes when registering your car with your state.

Call your Insurance Agent

If you are thinking about a new car, especially one that involves multiple states, take a few minutes to call your insurance company to make sure your vehicle is covered the minute you take possession of it.

While most insurance companies offer a grace period under your current policy covering you from the time of the sale to when you get your insurance policy set up, it may also be an option to pre-purchase insurance.

Insurance needs can vary significantly from person to person, so it’s highly recommended that you make a call to your insurance company to ensure your policy carries enough coverage for the value of your new car. You should also make sure you have coverage while transporting your new vehicle to your home state.

Arrange Transportation

Depending on how far away you are from your new vehicle, you may need to work on arranging transportation for either you or your car. If you fancy a road trip in your new car, booking a flight to your new vehicle is easy, and you’ll get to enjoy your new car on the drive home. If you prefer to have the car delivered to you, it’s an option that some dealerships are well-versed in and can arrange for you.

Understand your State’s Emissions Standards

Many states require an emissions inspection before registering a car. This inspection ensures your car only emits a safe level of pollutants into the air.

States have varying levels of emission thresholds. Before buying an out-of-state car, it is important to determine your state emissions laws and ensure the vehicle you are looking at meets these standards.

As more states move toward stricter emissions standards, look for a car that complies with federal EPA Emissions standards. If a car does not meet these government thresholds, it may be expensive and inconvenient to try and bring it into compliance with your state’s emissions laws.

Take Your Car in to be Registered

You will need to register the car in the state where you live.
If you bought a car through a private sale, you must register it promptly once you are back in the state. You might need to obtain a temporary registration to drive the car home (varies by state) and generally have 30 days to register your car after the purchase.

Once you make it to your local DMV, you can pay your taxes and receive your new license plates.

As remote car buying becomes more commonplace, dealers are also becoming well-versed in out-of-state sales. You may well find a dealership with a streamlined process that makes it easier than buying a car in person without needing to leave your home. Contact us at TJ Chapman for more information. We’re among the top dealerships in the country for shipping rebuilt title cars to out-of-state buyers. We take the worry and hassle out of the process for our clients.