In the $3K and under range, I would stick to a Toyota or Honda. Plenty out there and both are well built cars. Built to last, decent fuel economy, enough room for 3. Forget stick shifts. Most Americans will not buy a stick anymore.
As stated, Chicago has cold winters and you are looking at rust damage on older cars due to salt on the roads. If possible, I would buy in a state with mild winters: Calif. Nev. AZ, NM, TX. If you must buy in Chicago, have your mechanic check for rust damage when inspecting the vehicle. Look for an automatic Camry or Accord is my best advice.
Good luck with your planning.
INITIAL REGISTRATION (Illinois)
If you are registering a motor vehicle in Illinois for the first time, you must complete the following steps:
1. Get your vehicle inspected for emissions. Vehicle inspections must be performed at an inspection station or by an inspector that has been licensed by the Illinois Air Team (under the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency). Find out more about vehicle inspections in Illinois, or locate an inspection station near you. Once the vehicle passes inspection, you will be issued an inspection certification.
2. Complete a vehicle title/registration form - form VSD -190. You can get the form by calling (217) 782-7132 or visiting your nearest Secretary of State VSD facility or by writing to:
3701 Winchester Road
Springfield, Illinois 62707
ATTN: Forms Distribution
3. Visit your Secretary of State VSD facility and bring the completed title/registration form with you, along with the inspection certification. In addition, you will need to provide proof of insurance, and the odometer reading, if the vehicle is less than 10 years old.
4. For vehicles that have been registered in another state, you must also bring the original, out-of-state title. If the title is unavailable, bring the registration document, along with proof of sales tax payment.
5. A completed Form RUT-50 if you already reside in Illinois
6. A completed Form RUT-25 (if you have purchased from an out of state dealer) or completed Form RUT-50 (purchase from another person) if you are a new resident.
7. If a Temporary Registration Permit (TRP) has been issued that should be mentioned as well.
8. For registering an out of state vehicle that has a lien, you will have to submit additional documents.
Illinois Emission Testing:
[ Edit: Edited on 19-Oct-2010, at 18:12 by Daawgon ]
i dont know if you have already covered this yourself, but i was thinking of buying a car and going travelling myself but i am from the uk and would have no permenant address in the usa which i didnt think was a problem till i saw this article ......
Buying a car in the USA is not a problem. If you have the money, you can easily find someone to sell you a car. You can ship the car overseas or you can sell the car with little difficulty. Driving the car in the USA is, however, very difficult.
In order to legally drive a car in the USA, you must have license plates from some state affixed to the car. Those license plates are issued by the state bureau of motor vehicles, and prove that the car is registered in the state. In order to register the car in any state, you must have a permanent address in that state. If you are living and working in the USA, you will probably have a house or apartment where you live. That can serve as your permanent address in whichever state it is located. If you are a tourist traveling around the USA, you are not likely to have a permanent address in any state. Without a permanent address, you cannot register a car in any state. Therefore, you cannot obtain license plates to drive a car.
Can you use someone else's address to register the car? Legally, you cannot do this. If someone allows you to use their address, and they get caught, it might cause them quite a bit of trouble with the police.
Can I use the previous owner's license plates to drive the car? Not unless the seller is willing to break the laws and risk possible trouble with the police. A seller will always remove his license plates from the car. Otherwise, the buyer might go off and commit some crime or some act of terrorism anywhere in the USA, and the law enforcement authorities would immediately use those license plates to track the car back to the seller.
Can someone living in the USA purchase the car for me? Yes, but the car will be registered in their name and will be insured in their name, so they will be the official owner of the car. They might lend that car to you, but they and their insurance will be assuming full responsibility for the use of the car.
Can I use a temporary address or a post office box to register a car? Most states will not allow you to use a temporary address as your permanent place of residence in the state. In parts of Wyoming, they do allow you to use temporary addresses to register a car.
Are these rules strictly enforced by the police? Yes, since the terrorist attacks in 2001, the police, the FBI and all law enforcement agencies are very sensitive about people who use false information to obtain driver's licenses and car registrations.
If I purchase a car for export how do I deliver it to the shipping port? If you purchase a car near a port city, you might have the seller deliver the car to the point of embarkation. You can also hire a car shipping firm to transport the car via truck to the port.
I am sorry to be the bearer of such negative news, but there is no easy way to purchase a car to drive while touring the USA. I usually suggest that you compare the prices on long term auto rentals or on short term auto leases. They might be expensive, but they are a lot easier than attempting to buy a car, and may even be cheaper if you consider all of the ramifications.
[ Edit: Sorry, no promos please. ]
I know this is an old thread, but wanted to come back and say that the trip was a massive success. We bought a car in Chicago for $2000, registered it in a temporary address, drove it around the east coast and deep south on temporary plates then sold it for $1800, including repairs and taking into account the loss on the car we spent around $800 total for 3 months between 3 people. Was it easy? No, we ran into problems but got over them, iv'e documented the trip on the link below.
The reason I am posting this is because it took us months of working out whether such a trip is doable, so anybody thinking of doing the same now, the answer is yes, and I couldn't imagine doing America other way but by car.
PS thank you to everyone for their advice
nice to see some feedback for a change! gracias