Buying a Used Car? Expanding Your Search Could Get You a Better Deal

If you’re currently shopping for a used car, then expanding your search radius can equate to more money saved. Most buyers don’t want to think about having to cover the cost of shipping a car, thinking that it will cost them more or be too risky. However, it’s usually easier than you think, and shopping for a car that is hundreds, or maybe thousands, of miles away can even net you a much better deal than a local one.

The benefits of expanding your car search horizons

Brand new Volkswagen cars stand stored in a tower at the Volkswagen Autostadt complex near the Volkswagen factory. | Getty Images

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The main draw when it comes to expanding your car search is that you’ll be able to take advantage of the leverage that you’ll get from shopping in certain areas. For example, a full-size truck might not be as popular in San Francisco as it is in Cheyenne, Wyoming. And a convertible might not be as popular in Michigan as it is in Florida.

The chances are that if you shop for a certain type of vehicle in an area where the population at large might not care for it, then you could get a lower price. Also, if you’re looking for a one-off exotic car, or perhaps a car with a rare color or accessory, then expanding your search could make the right car easier to find.

Shipping a vehicle doesn’t cost as much as you think

An employee drives a second-hand Ford Motor Co. Fiesta automobile onto a car transporter.
An employee drives a second-hand Ford Motor Co. Fiesta automobile onto a car transporter. | Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

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The main elephant in the room when it comes to shopping for a car long-distance is that shipping is expensive. According to Pomcar, the average cost to ship a car from coast to coast is around $1,105 on average. But if you’re planning to buy a larger SUV or truck, then you can look forward to a higher rate.

Regardless, if you’re able to strike a good enough deal with the seller or dealer that your buying from, the lower cost of the car could offset the price of shipping. Especially if the car that you’re buying is a rare example.

Buying a car sight unseen can be intimidating

An employee passes second-hand automobiles ready for delivery.
An employee passes second-hand automobiles ready for delivery. | Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

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The other elephant in the room is that most buyers probably don’t want to buy a car that they haven’t even seen in person or driven yet. However, you can always ask the seller or dealer to send you as many pictures and videos as you want in order to make you feel comfortable with the purchase.

As always, it is recommended that you get a pre-purchase inspection done when buying a used car. So if you’re buying one long distance, then you can always have a mobile mechanic check the car out for you and give you a report with pictures. The added cost of hiring one of those services could be well worth the peace of mind.

If you don’t want to ship it, then pick it up

If you do end up finding a car that is far away, but you don’t want to ship it, then you can always opt to fly to its location and drive it back. The one-way flight to get there, along with the gas and hotel cost to get back, is most likely cheaper than shipping the car. Plus, you can make a fun road trip out of the experience.

However, you would still run the risk of something happening to the car on the way back. But then again, the added safety is what you pay for when you ship the car instead of driving it. Either way, if you’re shopping for a used car, then try expanding your search parameters. You could end up saving thousands.