Buying a Used Car Out of State?

i am on the verge of purchasing my first car and have found one that like that falls into the ‘gently used’ category. the price is right, it has very low milage, it has all the features i want, and the Carfax report is flawless… BUT i am in NJ and the car is in Mass.

i was wondering if anyone has experience or advice on buying a used car out of state. i only want to make the trip to the dealership once im certain the car is mine. i dont want to travel all the way up there to have something come up that prevents the deal from getting done and me coming home empty handed.

so, what is proper protocol (if any) for negotiating over the internet? i imagine that this is somewhat commonplace in today’s day and age – i did find the car on after all and I’m sure that many others do too. however, is there anything totally obvious i should know before contacting the dealer that i may be overlooking? any tips or advice is greatly appreciated.

thanks for reading.


Since this will be your first used car purchase, please allow me to give you some reality:

Sellers of used cars will very frequently lie about the actual condition of the car.

Many, many people do not maintain their cars properly, and the subsequent owner(s) are the ones saddled with the resulting repair bills.

Carfax is better than nothing, but we have had numerous instances reported in this forum of cars with a “clean” Carfax report that had actually never been maintained, or had been in a wreck and rebuilt, or had been a “flood car” (think “Katrina”), or actually had been driven many more miles than either the odometer or the Carfax report indicated. Do not be lulled into a false sense of security by Carfax’s huge advertising budget.

Any potential used car should be vetted by a mechanic who you trust. Do you know any mechanics in Mass?

If the car has a warranty (30 day warranty, or at least a warranty on the ability to pass state inspection), it will be a major hassle to have to drive from NJ to Mass in order to obtain warranty service. If the car breaks down, it will be impossible to drive to Mass for warranty repairs.

If you have a problem with the car as a result of fraud, false claims, etc, you are going to have a very hard time dealing with the Consumer Affairs agencies as a result of differing residence and state of purchase.

You should really slow this process down considerably.
You want to do this rapidly, and that is one of the best ways to be taken like Grant took Richmond.

Used cars are like commuter buses. If you miss one, another one will be along shortly.
You should really look for a car much closer to home, and I hope that you will take into consideration the bullet points that I listed above.

Good luck!

I will DEFINITELY take into account your thoughtful advice.

FWIW, i forgot to include a link to the car im considering. check it out here:

im about a month into my search and need a car by no later than August 1. in the past month i have narrowed my search considerably and am deciding between a brand-new Honda Fit or a ‘lightly-used’ (no more than 10k miles) Matrix/Vibe or Mazda3. My requirements are long-term reliability, 5-speed trans, hatchback, and less than $20k so it’s tough finding a ‘lightly-used’ candidate that matches my criteria.

thanks for the helpful reply.


First choice is to wait and find a local car.

If not, then negotiate a price with the dealership and have them email/fax you a copy of the sales agreement SIGNED by the sales manager. Considering how new it is, low mileage, clean carfax and manufacturer’s warranty I would not be too concerned about a pre-purchase inspection. But if it would help you sleep at night, do it.

How will you pay for it – cash or finance? Have your financing worked out in advance and include it as part of the deal. Out-of-state will make it a bit more complex but if you do it right it will go OK.

I bought a Mercedes from a private seller in S. Cal and had it shipped to Denver without a problem.


I agree with VDC.

In addition to his excellent list of comments, I’d never buy a used car that I could not test drive on the highway. That is where problems can show themselves that you cannot find over the internet.

Carfax gives the impression that it’s a repository of crash and repair information for vehicles. Nothing could be further from the truth. There IS no such repository. There is no mandatory reporting system. These reports are fraught with errors and omissions. It would be interesting to see some agency get a few hundred Carfax reports and then do actual research on the vehicles to determine the accuracy of the data. Carfax would be out of business.

Do I have evidence? Yes, I do. A friend recently got a Carfax on a used car and they didn’t even have the model correct.

Didn’t one of the regular posters on here run the VIN on his personal car he had, since new, come back as reported stolen?

I don’t know if you’re referring to me or not but I did run a number of my family vehicles through CF once and about half showed errors that were not true.

My first SAAB was not purchased new but had a known, verifiable history back to the original owner and CF showed that car was “currently stolen” after I had owned it for a couple of years. This was also news to the DMV and when I sold the car after 7 years CF still showed it as a theft vehicle.

One of my old Subarus was on a “Salvage Title” after the car was declared a total due to a collision. I kept the car, repaired it, and some years later CF showed this car to have a “clean title” with no mention of it being a salvage vehicle at all. And it was on a salvage title for about 7 or 8 years.

My opinion is that if you can’t put about 95% or more of your trust in something like CF then why trust it at all. CF is a tool that can help in a decision but should always be taken with a large grain of salt.

A 2010 with 2K miles means only one of two things. The car was used by company employees as a “perk” or it was repossessed.

The trick will be getting it back to N.J. Mass DMV does not issue temporary permits. Ask the selling dealer how you should handle this…

Perhaps the N.J. DMV could FAX you a permit after you FAX them a bill of sale from the dealer…Be sure, no matter what, that you have a title for the car in your hand before you leave the selling dealers…If you are financing the car, it will get much more complicated and probably not worth it.

Since it is a new car dealer, some of our regulars might be familiar with them. Are any of you NE guys familiar with Bezema Buick/Pontiac/GMC? Edmunds suggests that this car is worth about $20,500 on a dealer’s lot. It appears to be a screaming deal. If our friends here can substatiate that Bezema is a stand-up dealer, it might be worth the money. Given the asking price, you have $3000 to spend on it until it becomes an average deal. That’s a lot of scratch for a nearly new car where the risk should be low. And you have the balance of the new car warranty. Make sure you check into that in case something highly unulual occurred to void the warranty. I think I’d seriously consider this car. Any GM dealer near you can provide warranty service.

Unfortunately, with that much inaccurate information, it’s a tool that can help you make the WRONG decision. It can help you decide to “pass” on a good buy thinking it’s stolen or buy a salvaged vehicle thinking it has a “clean” title.

I really wish someone would investigate the accuracy of CARFAX. IMHO they’re badly misleading the public.

I have a colleague that is always trying to get something for nothing. He found what he thought was the perfect used minivan on the internet. He drove 250 miles to see this minivan only to find out that it wasn’t such a good buy after all. It was at a franchised dealer.
There are plenty of good cars on the market. I’ll bet you would pass up a lot of good buys even in the first 100 miles of the trip to Mass. The only way I would make a trip like this is if I had some extra money burning a hole in my pocket and the car happened to be a 1963 Studebaker Avanti.

I couldn’t quite remember it all OK4450, but I did get it about 1/3 correct :stuck_out_tongue:
I was just pointing out to the OP that carfax isn’t the end-all-be-all thing they make it out to be.
I remember catching an episode of “King of Cars” awhile back where someone had just traded in a Dodge Ram, the dealership hadn’t even had a chance to wash it. Guy sees it and notices it has some rear bumper damage. The dealership runs a carfax and it comes back clean, the guy buys it on the spot without asking if he can have someone inspect it.

“The only way I would make a trip like this is if I had some extra money burning a hole in my pocket and the car happened to be a 1963 Studebaker Avanti.”

I’ll race you to where that Avanti is located!

My question is WHY is a car with 2,500 miles for sale? Was it a rental? A demo? Used by the owner’s teenager for a few months? For an individual to buy this car new, then trade it in so soon means a huge financial hit. Why so desparate to unload it? A lemon perhaps? Something fishy to me on this one.

Your criteria of less than 10K miles is part of the problem. Why do people trade in cars with less than 10K miles? Accidents, defects, or just can’t stand the car. Trades of leased cars are more like 24K to 30K miles and some of these cars with new tires and new brakes can be good deals. $17,500 for a used Vibe, not such a good deal in my mind. Go for the new Fit.

I’m going to add to what the others have said by pointing out the worst line of thinking in your post:

" i dont want to travel all the way up there to have something come up that prevents the deal from getting done and me coming home empty handed. "

What this translates to is “I’m going to drive out there and unless the car has actually burned to the ground, I’m buying the damn thing come hell or high water 'cause I don’t want to have wasted the trip.”

That’s the 100% wrong attitude to have on buying a car. I once traveled from Minneapolis to Cleveland to buy a car. It wasn’t rust free like it was supposed to be when I got there, and I turned around and drove right back home. ALWAYS go into a car purchase, no matter how far away it is, with the intention to walk if anything’s wrong. If you can’t sit down and tell yourself honestly that you will drive all the way out to Mass, and then drive right back home empty handed if the car isn’t exactly as-advertised, with no problems, then you should cancel the trip right now.

I once purchased a motorcycle from out of state. It was from a dealership, so they gave me a temporary tag and told me it would be my responsibility to register it in my home state. I actually prefer that to having the dealership register the vehicle since this means I don’t have to pay one of the the dealership’s processing fees. Also, buying it in Georgia instead of Florida meant I paid lower sales taxes. It was a win/win situation.

As with any used vehicle, make sure you have it checked by your mechanic before you sign on the dotted line. That can be hard to do when you are out of state, but maybe you can find a mechanic near the seller who you can pay to inspect the vehicle for you. I don’t care how “certified” the car is. Whoever inspected and “certified” that car had a conflict of interest.

I agree with shadowfax on the point that you need to be willing to walk away empty-handed. Your attitude that you would consider it a wasted trip if you don’t buy the car could be a problem. Make it a leisurely trip and enjoy yourself.

I once went 120 miles out of my way to test ride a bike that was for sale on eBay. When I got there, I didn’t like what I saw. I don’t consider it time wasted at all.

Interesting, the times I’ve purchased a vehicle from out of state I’ve never paid sales tax at the time of purchase because I’m not a resident of that state; I’ve always had to pay at the time of registration when I got back home.

There was a motorcycle dealer on the IL/IN border who did big business in dirt bikes because Indiana residents didn’t have to pay IL sales tax and were supposed to pay the IN sales tax when they registered the bike; since dirt bikes didn’t have to be registered many didn’t ever pay the sales tax.

To the OP, if you’re buying at a dealer they should have temporary plates to give you for your purchase. If it’s a private seller you may either have to take a trailor or take your chances driving with either no or false plates on the car to get back home.

Although it doesn’t sound like it on here you can get grand deals on lightly used cars.

“False Plates” or misuse of plates can get you in big trouble…You are MUCH better driving with NO plates and a bill of sale dated THAT DAY…

CF has done their job well. They’ve succeeded in convincing the majority of car buyers that a CF report is the end all as to car condition.

Just my opinion, but I think that someone who is not mechanically minded at all should buy a car close to home. Get it inspected in advance, have a mechanically minded friend (even if they’re not a pro technician) look it over, and take it for a lengthy test drive while paying very close attention to everything on the car before buying it.

A normal 2 mile test drive just flat doesn’t tell you very much, even on a new car. Many people buy new cars based on this and decide after several weeks or several thousand miles that things just aren’t to their liking.

Agreed with the comment about the thinking of going all the way up there and not coming home empty handed. This is disaster looming.

thanks for all of the reasoned and thoughtful responses! i have ultimately decided not to pursue this opportunity after giving myself a few days to reflect. thanks again for the helpful insights.