How to Buy an Interstate Car

by Jillian O'Keeffe
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The rules for buying and titling a car from out of state are similar to titling an in-state car. However, owners should check their own state's Department of Motor Vehicles regulations prior to buying the car. The car must pass all regulations in the state where it will be titled and registered. Checking the history of the out-of-state car, before buying and shipping it, can also save the buyer from making a costly mistake and buying a lemon.

Step 1

Check that the car passes all of your own special state requirements. Information on titling a car purchased out of state can generally be found on your state's Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) homepage. For example, California DMV may require that an out of state car be certified to pass California-specific emissions standards, and not just certified to pass federal emissions standards. Likewise, cars to be titled in the Atlanta, Georgia area generally must pass strict emissions tests not required elsewhere in the state.

Step 2

Due diligence takes two forms. The first is administrative: run the car through the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS) before handing over any money for it. The NMVTIS service, provided by approved website car history checkers, will tell you whether the car was stolen, its odometer readings, any brand applied to the vehicle and salvage history if applicable. This service costs between $2 and $7 as of July 2014. Other issues in the vehicle' s history may be revealed with a CARFAX review. The other element of due diligence is physical inspection: have a reputable mechanic examine the vehicle for road-worthiness as well as for mechanical and systems issues.

Step 3

Confirm that the previous owner has signed over the car's title to you by completing the appropriate transfer of ownership section on the title and signing the document. Ensure the odometer reading is noted on the title. If the out of state title does not have a space for this, fill in the details on your home state's appropriate DMV form for the odometer reading.

Step 4

Pay the sales tax in the state where you buy the car. Keep the sales receipt. If the tax rate is higher in your home state, you may be required to pay extra to make up the difference.

Step 5

Fill out the application for title and registration of the new car for your home state. For example, in Virginia, this is called "Application for Title and Registration" (VSA 17A).

Step 6

Provide proof of residency to your home state's DMV. The DMV will list acceptable forms of this proof, but they can include a recent utility bill, a recent bank statement, a driver's license, voter registration card or recent tax return. Give the DMV the car's out of state title.

Step 7

Provide proof of purchase price if required. Depending on your home state's DMV rules, this can be in the form of the bill of sale, a buyer's order, or a notation by the seller of the sale price on the title.

Step 8

Pay any fees necessary to your home state's DMV. For example, the state of Virginia fees include a $10 titling fee and a $40.75 registration fee as of January 2011. These fees can be paid by cash, check, credit card; by mail or in person at the DMV. Proof of sales tax already paid in another state can exempt you from paying your home state's sales tax.

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