Seven Tips for Buying a Certified Pre-Owned Vehicle Out-of-State

Finding a certified pre-owned vehicle can be an excellent idea, especially if you take the proper steps and do your research. Broadening your search to out of your home state and even region can open up the opportunity to find more varieties of vehicles, sometimes at better prices.

The selection of automobiles out-of-state can be especially appealing for those who are fans of classic or vintage cars. However, purchasing out-of-state adds trickiness to the situation and can make buying a car more challenging.

Having said that, if you follow some pointers & tips below, and do your research, you can make the process of buying a certified pre-owned car out-of-state much smoother and more enjoyable.

1. Look for a Manufacturer Certified Pre-Owned Vehicle

The inspection process on an automobile “certified” by a dealership is much different than that of a manufacturer. Not all, but many dealerships will only do a quick inspection or even glance around the vehicle before marking it as certified. Manufacturer inspections are more rigorous and will typically make sure all significant areas get looked over before the vehicle is approved.

2. Have the Proper Papers to Get the Car Home

If you purchased it from an individual owner, you should get a signed title for the car. However, from a dealership, make sure you have a temporary registration sticker for the drive home. You don’t want to get pulled over for lack of a license plate.

Once you are back home, you will need to register the vehicle in the state in which you reside.

Call your insurance company before picking up the car, too. You don’t want to drive without auto insurance, and you especially don’t want to do so across several states with a vehicle with which you have yet to become extremely familiar. Make sure you have coverage for the drive home.

3. Do Your Research on Emissions Tests

In many states, you will have to have the vehicle tested for emissions or smog before registering the automobile. Some low mileage cars are exempt but investigate the regulations in the state in which you purchase the vehicle, as well as your own.

4. Don’t Forget About the Sales Tax

When you are buying a certified pre-owned car from a dealership in a different state, they might collect taxes at the sale and then send it to an agency in your home state. If you purchase a used car from a private seller, be prepared to pay the taxes when you register the car at home.

5. Test Drive the Vehicle Before Finalizing the Purchase

As lovely as an automobile might look online, you don’t want to purchase one without seeing it in person and giving it a test drive. This will require travel and looking over the vehicle just as you would locally with any used car.

6. Avoid Classified Vehicle Listings Using Third-Party Funds Transfer Services

Many of these are scams, and some thieves engage in what’s known as “vehicle cloning,” where they steal a vehicle identification number from a matching make/model car and duplicate the digits on the model they’re attempting to sell to you.

Often, this involves title washing, where these people remove designations such as “flood” or “salvage” from the documents illegally. If an auto listing looks sketchy at all, run the other way.

While you’re at it, we recommend avoiding manufacturer buyback vehicles, as the manufacturer only repurchased them because repairs were unable to get fixed after multiple tries. It’s unlikely a dealership will be able to remedy the issue that couldn’t be corrected before, and when it’s out-of-state, you’re risking a much bigger headache.

7. Be Smart About Regions and Higher Vehicle Prices

Cars like convertibles will be more in demand in hotter, sunnier areas such as Florida, throughout the south, and southern California. You will probably find a better deal on something like a convertible in regions where they are less appealing, like the north.

All-wheel-drive is generally more valuable in the north where conditions are snowy and icy, so the prices on these types of vehicles can go up in that region. If you have a specific kind of certified pre-owned car you want, search through a variety of areas to see where the prices are lower on average to get the best deal.


If you do your research, you can find fantastic deals on certified pre-owned vehicles out-of-state. Just remember to cover all your bases, such as considering sales tax, insurance, and a temporary registration for the drive home, seeing the vehicle before finalizing the deal, and avoiding scam artists. There’s a country full of excellent deals to be had if you are smart about it.