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  1. #1

    Default Purchasing a vehicle - non-US resident

    I'm planning a 4 month trip during summer/fall next year after doing a few weeks in Peru.
    My wife and I will fly from Peru to Seattle, then on to Vancouver where we will meet up with relatives and travel around British Colombia and then a roadtrip from BC along the West Coast to Los Angeles.
    We would like to purchase a car in Seattle, drive it to and around Canada and then use it for the roadtrip.
    We are both South African citizens living in London, but I will probably be travelling on a British passport (as I would have qualified for nationalisation by then). I have a UK driving licence which I've held for 5 years and I held a South African driving licence for 5 years prior to that.
    Does someone know if it's possible to buy a car in the States without being a resident, and if so what insurance, tax etc I'll need to purchase and what documentation I'll need?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,064

    Default Challenging, but not impossible

    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    It is possible to purchase a car without being a US resident, although you will need to establish some sort of address where the car will be registered and insured.

    We recently talked about this just a couple weeks ago in This Thread. I'd start by reading that, which should get you started. If you still have questions after that, we'll be glad to help.

  3. #3

    Default Amazing response

    Thanks for your response Michael. The thread which you sent through was very informative.
    I emailed the Washington State DOL (as we're hoping to buy in Seattle and sell in LA). Their response was just as quick but even more impressive since they're a State organisation. We're just not used to that type of prompt response from governmental organisations here in the UK (or in SA for that matter).
    The response I received (from dol.wa.gov) was:
    "You will need picture ID and an unexpired drivers license to purchase the vehicle. I can't quote any fees until we know the price of the vehicle and where you will be registering it. As far as insurance, you would need to contact an insurance company for that.."
    I guess it may be tricky to get insurance in Seattle without a fixed address. We do have friends in living in Boston who I will ask to enquire of their insurance company as to whether they can insure the vehicle but with my wife and I as the insured drivers (one of the suggestions in the thread to which you referred).

    BTW, the information on your website is really valuable.
    Last edited by RoadTripper Brad; 07-25-2006 at 01:40 AM. Reason: Removed Email Link to WSDOL and replaced with website link - SPAM prevention

  4. #4
    RoadTripper Brad Guest

    Default Wsdol...

    Glad to hear that the Washington State DOL replied in such short time!

    As far as insurance, like the DOL said, an agent based in Washington State (preferably the King County area), would be able to give you the best advice. There may be some sort of special provision that we average joes don't know about.

    Your friends in Boston might not be able to add you to their insurance, but I'm not sure about that either. Insurance is really a tricky business, best left to the professionals.

    -Brad

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,064

    Default Establishing "Home"

    One way you could establish an address would be to simply rent a mailbox from either the post office or from one of the many private companies that offer that service. Even after purchasing the car, it typically takes a little bit of time for some things, like the car's title, to be processed, and those things are typically mailed out.

    As far as insurance goes, I think you'll find that its easier to shop for insurance in the Seattle area. There are some state to state differences in insurance rules that might make it difficult to insure a car in Mass, while licensing it in Washington. There are two places you could start for this: either start by looking at some of the major online insurance companies. Esurance and Progressive are two which will allow you to both quote and purchase your insurance on the internet. However, If you want more personal contact - particualrly to explain what sort of coverage you will want - you could simply search for Seattle insurance agents in any online directory.

  6. #6

    Default Good advice

    Thanks Brad & Michael for the advice.
    Renting a mailbox sounds a good idea. Will an insurance company accept a mailbox as a valid address?
    I found a link for insurance companies on the web (www.automallusa.net) and I'll check out Esurance and Progressive, but I do want the personal contact so will search for companies in Seattle with email addresses and query them.
    In the other thread you spoke about tighter emission controls in CA, and as I'm looking to sell the car in Los Angeles, are there any other considerations I should take into account?
    Thanks.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Posts
    10,060

    Default A subject of contention

    Quote Originally Posted by wdouglas
    Renting a mailbox sounds a good idea. Will an insurance company accept a mailbox as a valid address?
    Unfortunately, in these days of post-911, most companies are reluctant to accept anything that looks like a post office box as a legal address. For those of us, who have lived on the road with no fixed address this has proved to be an interesting issue. If you rent a PMB (personal mail box -- hosted by a private firm) and don't use the letters "PMB" in your address, you should be fine. The problem is that all PMB providers are legally required by the USPS to obtain a real fixed address. There are ways around this...
    In the other thread you spoke about tighter emission controls in CA, and as I'm looking to sell the car in Los Angeles, are there any other considerations I should take into account?
    If you purchase a car in the east and sell in the west, the salt-damage to the chassis will bring a lower re-sale value in the west.

    Mark

  8. #8

    Default Border, insurance considerations

    Quote Originally Posted by wdouglas
    Peru to Seattle, ..to Vancouver ...from BC along the West Coast to Los Angeles.
    We would like to purchase a car in Seattle, drive it to and around Canada and then use it for the roadtrip.
    We are both South African citizens living in London, but I will probably be travelling on a British passport ....have a UK driving licence... ...and what documentation
    Contacting Washington State was a very good start. Suggest you let your plans be known to Canadian and U.S. Customs, to know how to document your intent to return the car to the U.S. Part of this is the 9/11 antiterrorist screening, part of this is intercepting cars headed into Canada for a quick sale. As long as they are sure of your intent, there should be no problem. But I say this because ...

    (A) When the car is first purchased you might get a temporary paper license. Washington or some forum member can clear this up. If it's a brand new car I'd expect you'll get a paper license plate good for up to whatevert max the State of Washington has set. You'll just stand out more with it. (When asking about this facet, also ask about the best way of getting the permenant plate into your hands before you sell the car.)

    (B) Then you'll be driving across the border as a non-US citizen.

    (C) With <what> assurances they'll see you again?

    1) In summary, if you don't fit what they are expecting, you'll want the right documentation if you're scrutinized.

    2) Another reason for bringing solid evidence of your intent to return the car to the U.S., is Canada will otherwise want to collect taxes and levies that'd apply if the car were to stay there.

    Quote Originally Posted by wdouglas
    ...insurance, tax I'll need?
    Each state, and Canada have their own minimum coverage amounts. Consider higher amounts if you are not comfortable with with coverage for the worst case. Also ask a Washington State insurance agent about a proof of insurance card for Canada -- It is a Canadian form, filled out by an insurance company in the U.S. as to the amounts they will cover, asserting they have acceptable representatives in Canada. I last drove in Canada in the early '90s -- possibly the card's not needed now, but I'd ask.

    You might consider an "umbrella" insurance policy before leaving home. i.e., one that covers limits higher than standard policies you already have with the same company.

    The insurance policies in the U.S. categorize coverages differently than in GB ... Bare Bones policies are expressed in three figures, such as 50/100/25. The first number states up to $50,000 will be paid for medical coverage per person, the second up to twice that amount of medical coverage for all persons for the same accident. The last figure indicates the max amount of "property damage" (i.e., the car(s)) for any one accident.

    This five year old web-page says the Canadian miniumum is $200,000 (CAD).

    Additional insurances options: car rental coverage in case of accident, towing for the same reason, "Comprehensive" -- things not covered by vehicle accidents -- eg - a rock strikes your windshield/windscreen and cracks it. Some states offer or require a "no-fault" coverage -- a modest amount that is paid before fault is determined, - ask about what it would cover - depends upon the state of issue.

    Quote Originally Posted by wdouglas
    ...In the other thread you spoke about tighter emission controls in CA
    Upon initial registration, nonresident and specially constructed vehicles 1976 and newer require smog certification.

    Italics mine.
    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 08-07-2006 at 08:53 AM. Reason: clean-up of format

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Posts
    10,060

    Default Good Stuff here

    Quote Originally Posted by The Taco Monster
    Each state, and Canada have their own minimum coverage [amounts.
    I had forgotten to consider that myself. For a general explanation of the types of insurance, read this entire thread....

    Mark

  10. #10

    Default Insurance and all that

    TM, thanks for all that info and advice.

    1. With regards to proving to customs that we don't intend to sell the car in Canada, we would only have our flight tickets showing us flying from LA to New York and then back to London from Boston.
    What would you suggest as further proof? Would I need to go to the lengths of a sworn affidavit?

    2.
    you'll get a paper license plate good for up to whatevert max the State of Washington has set
    What do you mean by max? Is this the maximum amount of time that a person is allowed to drive with paper plates? If so, any idea of how long this is, or should I contact Washington State?

    2. With regards to the permanent plat, we are driving from Seattle to Vancouver and through BC before retuning about 5 weeks later to the US and we could go via Seattle to pick up the permanent plates. Would you have any idea how long the wait is for permanent plates?

    4. Thanks for all the info on the insurance policies. We're certainly going to take out a new insurance policy as our current policy has single trip limits of 60 days. My main concern at the moment is how to take out an insurance policy without a residential address. Mark (Editor) previously pointed out the following for a personal mail box (PMB):
    The problem is that all PMB providers are legally required by the USPS to obtain a real fixed address.
    5. Any thoughts on long-term lease (3+ months) or buy-back as an alternative? Can't seem to find any buy-back companies operating out of Seattle on the web.

    Thanks.

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