I Helped Avoid an out of State Used Car Buying Headache

Buying a used luxury car out of state article highlights:

  • I recently helped a coworker who was thinking about buying a used luxury car out of state
  • The experience highlighted how vital it is to have someone local help you with the buying process
  • Buying a used car out of state can be anxiety-inducing, but there are low-stress ways of doing it as well as several potential benefits

Whether you’re chasing an ideal set of wheels or just a good deal, buying a used car is rarely easy or stress-free. And that’s just if you’re shopping around your neighborhood. With today’s high prices and overall scarcity, buying a used car from out of state is an increasingly popular strategy. But it’s also one that raises the risks and potential headaches even higher. However, as I recently discovered, it’s one where a bit of help goes a long way.

Buying a used luxury car out of state is tricky without help

A man shopping for used cars looking at several Kias
Someone thinking of buying a used car at a dealership | FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images

Microchips might be in short supply, but there’s no shortage of websites you can use for used car shopping these days. However, finding the car you want within budget is just the first step in the long car buying process. And that process gets even longer if you’ve expanded your search across state lines.

Although buying a car out of state is perfectly legal, it’s riskier and more complicated than an in-state purchase. Firstly, your home state and the car’s home state might have different safety and emission rules. I, for example, live in Illinois, which has emissions testing but no safety inspections. However, Illinois’ testing pales in comparison to California’s smog regulations. And just because a car is legally registered in Illinois doesn’t mean it’s automatically legal in California.

Secondly, buying a used car from out of state often means dealing with two sets of registration and fee regulations. Usually, you pay the sales tax in the state where the car will be registered. However, some states require getting a temporary registration before you can drive off the lot. And then there’s the whole rigamarole with the license plates.

Now, you could avoid some of these headaches by shipping or towing your newly-purchased used car home. But the former means talking to a shipping company, which is its own kettle of monkeys. And the latter involves careful planning, not to mention trailer access.

The biggest problem with buying a used car out of state, though, is that you’re not there. As in, you’re not present to discuss the paperwork, the fees, and most importantly, see the car with your own eyes. Even the highest-quality pictures fail to match actually sitting in and poking around the car yourself. And buying a used car sight unseen is a risky decision at the best of times.

I assisted my co-worker’s out-of-state Jaguar XKR search and headed off future repair bills

However, there’s a simple way to mitigate some of the stress that comes with buying a used car out of state. That’s by having someone you trust that lives in that state check the car out. And recently, that someone was me.

My coworker, Erik Sherman, has been searching for a used X150 Jaguar XK/XKR. Several weeks ago, he found a promising 2007 XKR Coupe for roughly $28,000 in the Chicagoland area. Since it was close to me, I offered to look the car over. Furthermore, since the dealership was close to a well-reviewed Jaguar shop, I asked if I could schedule a pre-purchase inspection. And after the dealership gave the thumbs up, I drove over to (hopefully) get the used car buying party started.

It’s worth noting that the dealership’s photos and ad disclosed some flaws. Erik and I knew going into it that the Jag had some scratches and paint marks as well as some interior wear. Still, I took some additional photos of the damage, noted a wobbly center armrest, and drove away.

Those flaws became non-issues about two minutes later. The 2007 XKR doesn’t have the later 5.0-liter V8, but this cat could still sprint. And the engine’s smoothness was matched by the transmission and ride quality. So, when I rolled into the Jaguar shop, I felt that, if this XKR had any hidden issues, they likely weren’t major ones.

For the most part, that’s what the PPI revealed. However, it also revealed some door corrosion, sloppily-repaired wheel damage, and some hoses and belts that needed replacement. None of these flaws were catastrophic, mind you. In addition, the Jaguar mechanic noted that the damaged wheel didn’t impact the ride or handling. But these were still issues that needed to be addressed eventually. And Erik wouldn’t have known about them if he was buying this used car out of state on his own.

Does this mean buying a used car out of state is a bad idea?

RELATED: 8 Car-Buying Roadblocks That Frustrate Shoppers

In the end, Erik passed on the Chicagoland 2007 Jaguar XKR Coupe. However, he let the dealership know about the PPI results, which is likely why the car is now listed at roughly $25,000. And he also hasn’t stopped searching for XKRs in other states.

I’m not burned on buying used cars from out of state either. Yes, it can be a hassle to arrange and it’s risky if you don’t inspect the car beforehand. But if you have a friend in the area that can look the car over, drive it, and arrange a PPI, it is a viable used car buying strategy. Furthermore, it gives you access to a wider selection of cars, including ones that might be cheaper than your local selection.

On that note, though, remember to take travel and/or shipping costs into consideration. And as U.S. News says, before you get seriously invested in a specific car, get a vehicle history report. That way, you eliminate the used car buying stress before it even happens.

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