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  1. Default Non-Us buying a car

    Hey all,

    I've been reading through the forums and found a good bit of information but nothing really that's exactly the same as what i'm planning.

    Myself and four friends are students from Ireland and are traveling over for the summer, we're working/living for two months and then traveling for the remaining 3/4 weeks. The plan is to travel from San Francisco down the coast, across route 66 and finishing in new york, where we travel home from.

    Obviously we've two options: renting or buying.

    For the renting option i've found prices around the $900 dollar mark, which includes everything.

    For the buying option i'm not too sure on some after reading the forum. Obviously the good thing about buying the car is its a little more carefree, and hopefully when we get to NY we can sell it and hopefully recover some of what we paid for it.

    So my questions are this:
    Is it as simple as just buying it and then selling it?
    Do i need an address to register it to?
    I've seen cars for pretty good prices (around $1000), but will there be extras that i have to pay when i buy it?
    Am i legally required to have insurance? If so do i need to get insurance over there or will my current insurance that i have back home be sufficient?

    That's pretty much it! Any information anyone could give me would be great.

    Thanks in advance,


  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Very Unlikely

    Céad Míle Fáilte! Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    There are a couple of things wrong with your hopes to buy a car for roughly the same cost as the price of a rental. First off, there is a lot more involved in the purchase of a car here than just laying down some money and driving off. The big hurdles are not in the purchase but in the licensing and registration. Yes, you will need a permanent, physical address in the United States. Yes, there will be considerable cost involved in taxes and other fees to make the cat legal. And No, there is absolutely no guarantee that you can sell the car at all at the end of your journey, let alone for anything near what you paid for it, in the few days you'll have available. We have had many, many requests for information on purchasing a car as a foreign national, but no reports of a successful purchase. Secondly, I would have serious doubts that any car you could purchase for a thousand dollars or less would be up to a cross-continent drive of several weeks. And if it did break down, you'd have no recourse but to spend even more money to fix it or revert to a rental. Insurance coverage, either on your own purchase or on a rental is something you should contact your current carrier about to see if it extends to out-of-country rentals. And yes, you are legally required to carry insurance. The actual amount of liability and/or personal injury limits vary from state to state. Again, you will need to check with your carrier AND either the state motor vehicle department if you purchase a car OR the car hire company if you rent. In the end, though, if you're getting a quote of $900 for two months rental plus any one-way drop-off fee, plus underage surcharges for 5 drivers (that would be 'everything'), that is a very good deal indeed.


  3. Default

    Hi Neil, my wife and I have a fifth wheel RV and truck which we keep in the U.S. Although we don't have a physical address, we do have a mailbox address in Sioux Falls, South Dakota where the vehicles are registered. Things have got a bit tougher over there in the last couple of years. For instance, I used to have a US drivers licence but haven't been able to get one of those since Jan 1st 2009, at least not in Florida or Georgia. Also, obtaining insurance is getting more difficult. I'm with GMAC but they won't take on new non-US residents.
    What I'm trying to say is, if you can get a rental car for 900 all in, it's a no brainer!! The rental car will be newer than anything you can buy for 1,000 bucks, no problem with breakdowns, no hassle with registering/insuring it and for a one-way rental that's an extremely good rate.
    We've done coast to coast four times now albeit on the southern routes, i.e. I40 and I10.
    Last edited by Midwest Michael; 02-21-2010 at 08:13 AM. Reason: good neighbor rules

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin

    Default technicality

    Thanks for the tips on how you've managed to make things work.

    Just so you know, however, what you are doing in South Dakota isn't technically legal. In South Dakota, you are supposed to give the address of where you actually live, and mailboxes are not supposed to be allowed. I know this because I am a former SD resident and I know someone who tried to to the same thing and they had to provide a physical address before they could continue the license/registration process.

    Now, I'm not sure why you didn't have the same issue, and I really doubt that you will be "caught" but others may not have the same luck as you did.

    The drivers license and insurance are often the bigger issues. Changes to federal law in the past year or two make it almost impossible for a non-resident tourist to get a drivers license in any state, and without a drivers most states will not issue a registration, nor will almost any company issue insurance.

  5. Default Non-US buying a car

    Thanks Michael, apparently another way of doing it when we did our initial research was to set up an LLC in Montana!! Have met one or two other Brits over the years who have done that. Sounds a bit complicated and might lead to dealings with the IRS!! Have enough trouble with the taxman over here!!
    We are actually contemplating buying an inexpensive condo in Orlando, plenty on the market at the moment, just to get a physical address in the US. We could rent it out and hopefully make it pay for itself. There may come a time when the regulations make it too difficult/expensive for us, but hopefully not just yet.

  6. Default

    Thanks for all the replies everyone, very much appreciated.

    If i were to buy a car for around $1000, what sort of extra costs am i looking to have to pay?

    I know it seems more logical to get a rental car, but getting something like an old ford explorer just seems pretty cool :) we dont really have those sort of cars over here, it'd be big so would be perfect to fit us all in comfortably with luggage, it 'd just be a bit more care free, i'm sure finding one mechanically in good cood condition would make it the 3000 miles.

    But i understand the above is a bit ideological!! thats just the dream, i'll probably end up having to go with the rental but would prefer getting our own, beat up old banger which just keeps on going even though most of the panels are missing!!

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin

    Default wishful thinking

    I'm sorry, I just think you are grossly underestimating the complexities of what you are looking at.

    First of all,The assumption that a model for $1000 would be in good mechanical condition for such a trip is a fairly big stretch. A $1000 ford explorer is likely going to be nearly 20 years old and well over 200,000 miles. If you are finding one that sounds better than that, there is almost certainly going to be a reason for its seemingly low price. Just for comparison, my roadtrip SUV is 9 years old, has 215,000 miles on it, is a smaller model than the Explorer, and its valued at about $4,000.

    The extra costs would also be rather significant. Specific costs vary by state, but $200 in fees for taxes, license, and registration would be rather conservative estimate, and $600 for a minimum liability insurance policy (6 months is likely the shortest term you'll find), again could be on the low side because of your ages and lack of US driving record. And of course, that assumes that as foreign nationals you could even find a way to get those things done at all - which is a virtually impossible task.

    On top of that, you'd need at least $1000 in an emergency fund to cover the costs of likely inevitable repairs while you are on the road.

    Speaking of legal issue which could affect that, what sort of visa have you applied for for this trip? You mentioned living and working in the US for 2 months, and its my understanding that it is quite difficult to get a work visa without something specific lined up. Working while visiting on the Visa Waiver Program or even with a standard tourist visa is a very big no-no, and its the sort of thing that can get you arrested, fined, and deported (with a lengthy/lifetime ban on ever returning to the United States.)

    If you've actually found a month long rental for $900 - that includes one way drop off fees, multiple (underage) driver fees, and all your taxes, that is an incredibly good deal, and as others have indicated, it would really be a no-brainer when compared to purchasing a car.
    Last edited by Midwest Michael; 02-22-2010 at 01:13 PM.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    Depending on state and locality, there may also be a considerable expense in getting a $1000 vehicle through safety and emissions inspections.

    Bottom line, even with a legal way of getting something registered here, you would probably need to spend at least $5000 between the vehicle cost, fees, insurance, and repairs to have something legal and roadworthy. In regards to title and registration - some states will issue a registration and tags (number plates) on the spot, but every state I've dealt with mails the title to your address, and this can take up to 6 weeks. You cannot sell or dispose of the vehicle without a title in hand. The states that do not issue registration and tags on the spot give you temporary paperwork and tags, and they mail the permanents or make you come back to the DMV office to pick them up.

    EDIT: I have personal experience with 2 states - Illinois and Missouri. Here is how they work:

    Illinois, purchasing from a dealer:

    The dealer handles all paperwork. You buy the vehicle, there is sales tax added to the purchase price, anywhere from 6 to 10 percent depending on locality. The dealer fills out the paperwork, you need an Illinois driver's license and proof of insurance. They give you permanent tags and registration on the spot if they have a terminal. If they don't, they give you a cardboard temporary tag and you must return to pick up the permanent tags and registration in about 10 days. The fee is $65 for the state plus $78 for 1 year tags, plus whatever service fee the dealer chooses to charge, this averages about $50. The title is mailed to you 2 to 6 weeks later.

    Private party is similar - but you must go to a DMV office with the endorsed and notarized title yourself, and registration and tags will be issued on the spot and you will pay them the sales tax.

    You will receive a notice in the mail requiring an emissions inspection if you are in the Chicago or St. Louis metro area, failure to comply will result in your driver's license being revoked.

    Missouri: Buy the car and pay sales tax. Get the vehicle inspected, MO has a safety inspection ($12 plus repairs at an independent garage) and emissions inspection in the St. Louis and Kansas City metro areas. If buying from a dealer, they can have this done for you. If you do not have personal property tax receipts for the past 2 years, you must go to the county courthouse to get a certificate of exemption. Bring the inspection certificate, MO drivers license, proof of insurance, personal property tax receipts or exemption letter, and the endorsed and notarized title to the DMV, you will get permanent registration and tags on the spot, and the title will be mailed to you in about 3 weeks. Fees are reasonable, I think it's $36 plus $25 to $60 for tags, plus sales tax if buying from a private party.
    Last edited by glc; 02-22-2010 at 12:45 PM.

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