Guide to Buying a Car Out of State

The unprecedented chip shortage and supply chain issues have made finding your next car more and more difficult. Less new car inventory and empty car lots have increased the demand for used cars, causing a sharp increase in used car prices.  

With fewer local options, extending your car search to dealerships outside your state may be the solution.  Using an online search platform like OneRequest can help you find the exact new car you’re looking for or the perfect used car anywhere in the country. (By the way – OneRequest has millions of listings from virtually all the dealers nationwide, so we can be a one-stop-shop for you. No need to search websites elsewhere. We are not an ad platform, so unlike other car shopping sites, we don’t just show listings from dealers who have paid to list their inventory!)

Whether the car you find is across the state line, or across the country, buying out of state doesn’t need to be a daunting experience. In this guide we look at the reasons why shopping out of state might be beneficial. We also walk you through the process of bringing home a vehicle from another state.

Why buy a car out of state? 

For one, it will give you a much wider choice of cars, especially if you are looking for a particularly rare make and model; the only limitation is how far you are willing to travel to pick up the car, or the cost of shipping the car to your home.   

Another advantage is that local supply and demand, manufacturer rebates, financing offers, and leasing incentives vary by region which may mean the same car costs less out of state.   Plus, you can get better deals on certain vehicles in varying regions. For example, if you want a convertible, you may be able to get a better deal for it if you buy it in Seattle instead of Los Angeles.  Likewise, a 4WD pick-up might be easier to find in Phoenix than in Montana or Colorado.     

These are all reasons why you might want to consider buying a car out of state, but before you pull the trigger on the sale, here are some things you need to consider:  

Considerations When Buying an Out-of-State Vehicle
  1. Make sure you can drive the car in your state 
  1. Examine the Vehicle History Report 
  1. Get an Inspection 
  1. Pay for Car/Sales Tax 
  1. Arrange delivery 
  1. Request the Title 
  1. Register the Vehicle 

Make sure you can drive the car in your state 

Make sure that the car meets the standards of the state in which it will be registered and titled.  Many states require an inspection and cars to meet certain emission standards. Your state’s DMV can provide information on the required inspection tests for your new car.  California has the most stringent rules, set by the California Air Resources Board, and these have been adopted by 14 other states, plus the District of Columbia. 

Examine the vehicle history report 

If it’s a used car, you will want to know what this car has been through before you buy it. With a vehicle history report, from trusted sources like Carfax or Autocheck, you can tell if the car has been in any collisions, what type of service it has received, and how many owners it has had.   

A Certified Pre-Owned car will have been inspected and repaired, if necessary, to ensure it is up to the strict quality requirements established by the automaker.  Ask the dealership to provide the paperwork of their inspection and breakdown of any reconditioning they performed. It should also come with extended warranty coverage from the manufacturer. If it is a new car, ask to see the window sticker for the vehicle identification number (VIN) as well as the list of standard and optional equipment.  

You can also ask the salesperson to provide additional close-up pictures or even videos to show the cosmetic condition of the car.  

Get an inspection 

If it is a used car, get a mechanic to look at the vehicle for you.  It’s a small price to pay to make sure you avoid a costly mistake.  An inspection can confirm how accurate the listing is, and report any damage to the vehicle. There are multiple third-party inspection companies nationwide that stand by their inspections, such as Lemon Squad and Carchex. 

Pay sales tax 

You will need to pay state sales tax for the state that the car is going to be registered in, not the one you bought it in. You will also need to pay County taxes where you live. 

If you buy a car from a dealership, they will likely collect the required sales tax, but check this is rolled into the final price.  If you’re buying a used car from a private party, it is more likely that you will pay the taxes when you register your car at the DMV.  

Arrange transportation 

You should be sure to budget for the cost of transporting the new car back to your state of residence.  

Some dealerships have their own transportation service, but many require out-of-state customers to arrange their own delivery provider. Ask the dealership for their recommendation, and a point of contact.   

Request the title 

If you plan to drive the car home yourself, you should check with your auto insurer that the car is insured.   

The dealership should give you a temporary title and registration that will allow you to legally drive your new vehicle home.  If you buy from a private seller, make sure they give you the signed title and a bill of sale that names you as the current owner. Some states require you to have a temporary trip permit or temporary registration.  Driving without a license plate will get you stopped by law enforcement in most cases, so make sure you have all the necessary paperwork.  

Register the vehicle 

Depending on your state, you will have a set amount of time to get the car registered at your local DMV.  A dealership will likely handle all the sales tax and fees but check beforehand so there are no surprises when you visit the DMV. 

If it is a used vehicle, generally you’ll have to pay the sales tax, title fees, and registration costs when you visit the DMV, which will then provide you with the license plates.  You will need to provide proof of residence to register the car, so bring along your driver’s license and a utility bill. 


While buying a car out of state may require some additional effort, it can be a great way to find the car you want, and even get a better deal.  Taking the time to understand the extra steps will help you be prepared and make it a smoother car buying process.  


With OneRequest, you can access the inventory of 45,000+ dealerships nationwide to find the new or used car you are dreaming about. 

Prefer someone else to do the car shopping for you? OneRequest Concierge has an expert team ready to help you find your perfect car.  We can also help with the trade-in process.   

Find your car at OneRequest today.  

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