So you've decided to purchase a vehicle rather than rent for your upcoming visit to the United States. Maybe it's because you will be here for an extended period of time and it works out cheaper than renting. Sometimes the one way drop off fee can be huge. Maybe it is because you are under 25 and with the additional charge you are better off buying your own car/van. Whatever your reasons may be there are a couple of things to consider when purchasing your new or used vehicle as a foreigner.
1. WILL YOU HAVE AN ADDRESS YOU CAN HAVE THE REGISTRATION AND TITLE SENT TO?
After purchasing your new vehicle you will need to visit the DMV to have the car registered and to get the title changed into your name. You will need to have the registration and title sent to a physical address. This may take up to several weeks depending on what state you are in. It is important when planning your trip to consider whether you will have the time to wait for the registration and title to be mailed out to you.
2. WHAT STATE ARE YOU BUYING THE CAR?
It is worth considering which state you will be purchasing your vehicle in as this will determine the price of the car, how much sales tax will be and even possibly the condition of the vehicle. States like California have higher car prices because of strict emission regulations and higher registration costs while states like Oregon do not have a sales tax. If you check out vehicle prices in Nevada or Arizona you will see you get a much better deal for the price you pay. It might also be worth remembering to check you car for rust if purchasing from any of the eastern states that receive snow as a vast amount of corrosive salt is used on the roads. Most flights to America come through LA but if you want less hassle and a cheaper car it might be worth considering another state to purchase your vehicle.
3. WILL YOU NEED A SMOG CERTIFICATE?
As mentioned previously, some states or cities have strict emission regulations. For example in California or the city of Portland in Oregon all cars need to pass a smog test in order to obtain the smog certificate. Make sure when you are shopping around that the car you're intending to buy already has the smog certificate or is likely to pass. Otherwise you will not be able to have the car registered.
4. HAVE YOU TAKEN INTO CONSIDERATION THE PURCHASE OF INSURANCE?
After you have bought your new vehicle you will need to purchase insurance. Again the cost of insurance depends largely on what state you are in. You are able to purchase insurance for 3, 6 or 12 months. It is also worth noting that a lot of insurance companies will not provide insurance to those with foreign licenses or will charge a higher rate for foreigners. It is illegal to not have insurance and your registration will be cancelled when your insurance runs out. Also remember that you need to keep the insurance policy in the car at all times.
5. WILL YOU HAVE A VEHICLE TO GO LOOK FOR A VEHICLE?
It is important to consider that the public transport system is not that great in most parts of the USA so you will more than likely need to consider renting a car to shop around for one. This may take some time. Especially if you are searching in LA because it can take all day just to look at two vehicles when you consider what LA traffic is like. Remember to budget in the cost of a rental car before deciding whether it is worth the hassle of buying or renting a car.
Read our blog post on the search for Buying A Van In The USA - Our experience looking for a vehicle in Los Angeles.
By Arial Evans
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Two Aussies road-tripping across the USA. Our goal is to discover America's wild places and vibrant cities... and make the most of every moment. Read more