5 Things to Know About Buying a Car Long Distance From a Dealer

In an increasingly connected world, purchasing a car from a distant dealer is no longer an exception but a viable option for many buyers. Whether you’re seeking a specific model that’s not available locally or hunting for a better deal in a different state, buying a car long distance can be both exciting and daunting. This approach, however, comes with its own set of challenges and considerations. From understanding state regulations to arranging vehicle transport, there are several key factors to consider to ensure a smooth and successful purchase.

1. Researching and Verifying the Dealer

Before committing to a long-distance car purchase, it is crucial to thoroughly research the dealer. Start by checking their reputation online through reviews and ratings on trusted automotive websites and forums. Contact the dealer directly and ask detailed questions about the car and their business practices. It is advisable to request a full vehicle history report to confirm the car’s condition and ensure it has no hidden issues or a troubled past. Establishing this trust is essential, as it minimizes the risks associated with buying a car without seeing it in person first.

2. Understanding Vehicle Transportation Options

One of the most critical aspects of buying a car from a distance is figuring out how to get it to your location. There are generally two options: picking up the car yourself or shipping it. If you choose to pick it up, this could be an opportunity to inspect the car in person before finalizing the purchase. However, if personal pickup isn’t feasible, you’ll need to consider shipping a car across the country. This requires selecting a reliable transport service that specializes in long-distance vehicle shipping, ensuring the car arrives safely and within a reasonable timeframe.

3. Navigating Payment Security

Ensuring that your payment is secure is paramount when dealing with out-of-state or out-of-country dealers. Opt for secure payment methods that provide documentation and protection in the event of fraud. Direct wire transfers or cashier’s checks are commonly used for long-distance car purchases. It is also wise to arrange for payment to be finalized only after the vehicle has been shipped or picked up, providing an additional layer of security against potential scams. Additionally, utilizing an escrow service can further safeguard your funds by releasing them to the seller only after you’ve received and approved the vehicle.

4. Complying With State Regulations

Purchasing a vehicle from another state can sometimes mean navigating a maze of tax rates, registration fees, and emissions standards. Different states have various requirements that can affect both the legality and the cost of your new car. It’s important to research these regulations in advance to avoid any surprises. Contact your local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to understand the specific requirements for registering an out-of-state vehicle, including necessary inspections and possible emissions testing. Be sure to also check for any reciprocal tax agreements between states that might allow for tax credits or reductions on vehicles purchased out of state.

5. Obtaining an Independent Inspection

Since you cannot inspect the car personally, hiring an independent inspector to examine the vehicle before purchase is advisable. This professional can provide a detailed report on the car’s condition, including mechanical functionality, exterior and interior conditions, and any potential issues that may not be visible in photos or descriptions. This step is crucial for mitigating the risks associated with buying unseen vehicles and can prevent costly repairs down the line. An inspection can also give you leverage in negotiating the price if any undisclosed issues are discovered. Ensure that the inspector you choose is certified and has experience with the specific type of vehicle you are purchasing to get the most accurate assessment possible.


Buying a car long distance from a dealer requires careful planning, due diligence, and an understanding of the logistics involved. By conducting thorough research and following the rest of the tips above, you can make your distant purchase as safe and seamless as possible. These steps not only protect your investment but also ensure that your long-distance car buying experience is a positive one. With the right approach, you can confidently expand your options and perhaps find the car of your dreams far beyond your local market.