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  1. #1

    Default non us resident wanting to buy and insure a car

    Hello,

    My family and I will be traveling to Vancouver in July. We are wanting to go down to America and buy a used van around Seattle area. We are then wanting to take the van to Canada (Calgary area) then down the interior to LA where we would like to sell the van. We have a address in Orange County that we can use for title and insurance purpose. I can not seem to find a company to get insurance from for 6 weeks? We have been told by some used car dealers that when we buy a van from them that they can license the van and do the sales tax with them as well. Can anyone tell me what the "tabs" are. Is this the vehicle registration. If so if a car has tabs until say October 2009 does this mean that we do not have to register the vehicle? Any help on how to buy a used van and what we need to do would be great. We are from New Zealand, are in our late 30 and have great driving records and will have a NZ drivers license and a international driving permit. Any help would be great. We are also open to see if we could do a exchange for either a van to use or a old van to have in exchange for a car to use in New Zealand and some accommodation as well. Thanks Nic

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2000
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Posts
    9,477

    Default This could be very, very tricky

    Quote Originally Posted by Nedkelly View Post
    We are then wanting to take the van to Canada (Calgary area) then down the interior to LA where we would like to sell the van.
    US & Canadian citizens can cross the border with little difficulties in a motor vehicle, but I am not sure that you'll be able to that with your New Zealand passport -- unless it is a rental -- and even then it could be tricky. Welcome to the Great American RoadTrip Forum!
    We have a address in Orange County that we can use for title and insurance purpose. I can not seem to find a company to get insurance from for 6 weeks? We have been told by some used car dealers that when we buy a van from them that they can license the van and do the sales tax with them as well. Can anyone tell me what the "tabs" are. Is this the vehicle registration.
    "Tabs" is not an expression I am familiar with -- but it could have been "tags" -- tags are yearly stickers that are placed on the license plates which are placed on the vehicle as proof of registration, but you still have to have valid paper registration and proof of insurance in the vehicle.
    If so if a car has tabs until say October 2009 does this mean that we do not have to register the vehicle?
    The tags are registered to humans and so even if the tags appear to be current through October, they would not be valid for your use.

    Of far more importance -- if this trip is only six weeks -- you would probably save money to rent! It's possible you could purchase a van and sell it before you return home, but it's likely to cost you more money than to rent.

    There are several threads about purchasing cars and getting insurance in this section of the forum. Start here and then read this comprehensive report from someone whose done it recently.

    Mark

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    10,856

    Default roadblocks

    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    The process for buying a car in the US as a non-resident is very difficult and time consuming. Quite frankly, if your trip is only for 6 weeks, I can say with a pretty good amount of certainty that you will be better off renting a car, because it will be much easier and likely cheaper than trying to buy.

    An address in Orange County will be of very little use to you if you buy the car in Washington State. At that point, you'd have to drive down to California to license and register the car (If you are buying a car out of state, a dealership can't help you with the registration even if you are a US citizen).

    Tabs are a slang term for registration and the stickers that go on a license plate to show that registration is current. In some states the license plates do stay with the car, however again, if you buy a car in Washington, you're going to have to get new plates in California. In either case, you're still going to have to pay sales taxes and title fees, plus in California you will have to pay for smog testing.

    For insurance, I don't know of any company that will issue a policy for less than 6 months - its another reason why a short term purchase doesn't work well. We've also had others report that they simply can't find anyone to sell insurance to someone visiting as a tourist (without citizenship or a green card). Even if you do find someone to sell insurance, you will likely be paying very high rates because you won't have an american driving record or any american credit history, which are the primary factors of car insurance rates.

    Even said all of that, when you buy a car, you have to expect to lose at least half of your cost when you try to resell it - and you might not even make that much back. You're going to be desperate to sell by the time your flight leaves, which won't give you any negotiating power. Not to mention, you'll also need to have an extra fund for repairs and maintenance expenses.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2000
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Posts
    9,477

    Default Much more cohesive a response!

    Yes, well-stated. Great advice and much more comprehensive than my response.

    Mark

  5. #5

    Default

    Thank you for the information. I wish it was a eaisy as buying a car in New Zealand! Some more question for you. If we can find a insurance company and can buy a car in Washington with it being registered and titled there when we want to sell it in LA would we just need to change the title to the new owners and lodge that with the DMV? We have been told by family friends that we could have a old car to use and then dispose of however we like when we are finished with it. They live in Canada. I have checked and have found out the if we want to import the car to America that we need to fill out 2 different forms from DOT and EPA ,present all these documents to customs for a customs release form which will allow us to title and register your vehicle in the U.S. What I can't work out is when we would need to title and register it. Could we wait until we get to LA 3 weeks later and do this? You guys must get very frustrated with people trying to get their head around trying to buy a vehicle in America!!!!!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2000
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Posts
    9,477

    Default Residency in Washington?

    Quote Originally Posted by Nedkelly View Post
    We have been told by family friends that we could have a old car to use and then dispose of however we like when we are finished with it. They live in Canada.
    Well, if you are able to enter the USA with car that is not registered to you -- (and I'm not sure that would be possible) but if it were and you filled out the customs release, you could drive it to LA to register it. But I am not a legal representative of the US government and you shouldn't rely on what you learn here.

    And there is another more significant problem -- a car driven and registered in Canada might not pass the smog emissions standards in California and it might be a very expensive repair.

    My "unofficial-and-please-don't-count-this-as-legal-advice" would be.... If you are able to somehow enter the USA with this car, drive it to California and sell it and the title to the next owner and not register it at all. The problem with this is that you probably can't get insurance for a vehicle that you don't own (hint: registration) and it's illegal to drive in most states in the USA without proof of insurance.

    I can just about guarantee you that you are going to spend more money on this "free car" than if you rented a vehicle with the insurance all paid for. Here by the way, is an overview about the kinds of car insurance we use here. And some options for getting that illusive insurance as an international visitor....

    Mark

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    10,856

    Default other hassles

    In addition to the insurance issue that Mark brings up, I think you'd have a very difficult time trying to directly transfer a Canadian title to a US buyer. Essentially, the buyer would have to take your word that you did all of the importation paperwork properly and that it would pass emmissions, etc. Basically, all of the headaches you'd be trying to avoid would simply be passed onto a buyer, and I think you're going to have a hard time finding someone who would willingly take on those risks.

    There is actually another less noticable problem with this plan. Canadian cars run on Kilometers, meaning their speedometers and odometers will reflect KMs driven instead of miles. While that certainly doesn't impact the ability of the car to be driven, it is yet another thing that a US buyer isnt going to want to deal with.

  8. #8

    Default

    thank you for all of your help

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    7,306

    Default

    It's no harder buying a car here than in NZ - as long as you are a legal resident of the state you are buying it in!

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    4,325

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by glc View Post
    It's no harder buying a car here than in NZ - as long as you are a legal resident of the state you are buying it in!
    Not sure that NZ is large enough to have States (lol), but I know for a fact that here in Oz you do not have to be a resident of the State to purchase a vehicle. Anyone can travel interstate, purchase a vehicle, and on arrival home, or when the registration comes due, change that registration to the resident State.

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