Where is the best state to buy a used car?

Hot dry state, cold dry state, temperate state, etc. I’m guessing hot is worst, salty east coast also bad. Where are the lowest prices? Any thoughts?

There are all kinds of problems with all kind of cars, sure a Michigan car could be rusty, but it does not mean a CA car with no rust and a bad engine is a better deal. Get an independent review of any car you might buy and know the problems before you buy.

The state where you live.


Unless you’re looking for a classic car, it doesn’t really matter that much any more. Even in salt country, cars don’t get the really nasty structurally-threatening rust they used to (or at least it takes a lot longer). You might be able to get a car that looks nicer in a non-salt area, but it’s really not going to be worth the hassle and shipping costs.

Just for the sake of discussion. If buying used; I’m going to suggest states that get the least sun, are flat with moderate temperature swings. Within that state, the car that’s maintained well, driven the most considerately and always kept under cover (not heated) when not in use. Of course you need a good car to begin with. A well maintained Yugo, may still not be a good buy.

Florida being the flattest may give you the best used mechanics, Washington having the least sunshine and moderate conditions may give you the least chance for “aging”.

I’ve seen some very high mileage cars in Washington (state) and Oregon. In West Texas they rust less but the very hot climate does the car in just the same. Same for Arizona. California cars accumulate too many miles.

Where you buy it doesn’t matter. Where it spent its life matters, and cars are moved around the country all the time.

The used car for sale at your local dealer may have come from thousands of miles away. Ever been to one of the giant dealer-only auto auctions?

Doesn’t matter much, but I put salt-using states at the bottom of my list. Hot and dry is fine.

Hot dry state.

The cold states almost all use salt, even if they’re not very wet. (Though the wetter ones use more.) The exceptions are, AFAIK, Alaska and Colorado. However, you don’t want an Alaska car (seriously, if Carfax says that a car has spent more than 1 or 2 years in AK, cross that car off your list) because you have your choice of cars from coastal areas where salt spray is even worse than road salt, or you have areas where the roads suck (there goes your suspension) and it gets extremely cold in winter, meaning rapid temperature changes when starting are going to destroy your seals (or if you’re not careful, crack your head or block).

I don’t know how good or bad Colorado cars are…probably pretty good, though.

The sun in hot dry states tends to destroy paint, especially clear coat, especially on dark-colored cars. Reds fade really badly even if the clear coat isn’t destroyed. Rubber can dry out really badly, too. Dashboards crack on some models (early 90s Nissans, notably) really badly, too. Other than that, the conditions are ideal. You could strip all the paint off of a car in Arizona…all of it…and it would be years, maybe decades, before the rust became a structural issue. Hot climates are not a serious mechanical issue for most cars…they’re bad for the battery, but that’s about it.

Prices vary by type of car as much as by region. Also by season. A convertible is expensive in summer in a cold state, but expensive in winter in a hot one. A Subaru is cheaper in Arizona (where there’s little use for its abilities) than in upstate New York. Japanese economy cars retain a lot of value everywhere, but in Alaska it’s ridiculous (because they handle winter so well, mechanically…well, since the CV boots stopped sucking anyway).

Condition matters, too. In a salt state, a rusty car will be really cheap. A rust-free car will command a large premium.

The only reason to go outside your own town is if the local car market is really bad, though, and the only reason to go outside your state is if you’re looking for a specific car you can’t easily get there.

You want to buy a used car (or even a new one) in a totally sober state.

Sober enough not to just fall in love, but have it checked out by YOUR mechanic. Generally that means buying it in the state where you live.

1 Like

Maybe not the best state to buy from, but the state to NOT buy from is Louisiana. Too many Katrina and other flood cars have come from there and are even issued a clean title using various states that have no “salvage” title, finally winding up on the dealer’s lot with none suspecting a thing.

Arizona. The land is flat, the climate dry, and everyone there is retired, so the cars get easy use and low mileage.

Seriously, the best state to buy a used car in is your home state, because you know what to expect for aging problems, you can test drive it, and you can have it checked by your trusted mechanic.

Like Utah?

Arizona is actually pretty mountainous. Its two largest cities are in relatively flat valleys, but most of the state is up-down-up-down, and some of it twists around, too.

But AZ does have a pretty good private-party used car market, now that Craigslist has expanded to pretty much the whole state.

Excellent answers! I live in Oregon and it’s no surprise that SUVs command higher prices here. I searched Autotrader for used Pathfinders and found lots in NY, FL and TX - few here and more $$. Someone told me sales tax is paid in the state where a car is registered, not where it’s purchased (no sales tax in OR). Anyone know if that’s true? I like the “no drunks” in Utah idea. Also retiree communities.

Central Coast California from Lompoc to Paso Robles. Central California from Sacramento area to Bakersfield. Southern Ca. from Thousand Oaks to Oxnard and vicinity.

Oregon, Utah, New Mexico, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota and about ten others.

Someone told me sales tax is paid in the state where a car is registered,
not where it’s purchased (no sales tax in OR). Anyone know if that’s true?

Generally, if not universally, yes. You should be able to verify that on any given state’s motor vehicle registry website.

I like the “no drunks” in Utah idea. Also retiree communities.

Reread the replies indicating how important maintenance and a good mechanic inspection is.

If you drive to Utah from Oregon to get a car or buy one in a retirement community with the belief those factors will make the car a better choice, you’ll only be fooling yourself.

Agree; the states around the Great Lakes and New England have rust rates 26 times those in the South West. The length of car lives reflect that.

I once did a study of engine rebuilding firms, and in the East there were very few compared to the car population, since the engines nearly always outlasted the bodies.

In the West there were quite a few, since the lack of rust made the engine the item needing rebuilding, along with the transmission.

Since engines last a lot longer anywhere now, you will find far fewer rebuilding shops. The old Sears catalogue has a huge automotive section with a long list of rebuilt engines available by mail order.

Also, the Utah bit was a joke. Joseph was just saying you should be in a sober state (of mind).

I suggest that you plan to get a Carfax report. That will tell you what state the car has lived in, which is more important than what state you are buying in. I’m in the East, and I am surprised how far cars have travelled after auction.