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Can a foreigner buy a car in USA

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31. Posted by Atai (First Time Poster 1 posts) 1y

Hi,
I am from Canada and have a valid Ontario driver's licence.
Will be on contract in San Jose, California, for a year.
What do I need to buy and drive a used car there? US licence? Minimum age? US address?
Thanks,
atai

32. Posted by usroadtrip244 (First Time Poster 1 posts) 1y

Hi there. been reading this thread and it almost answers all my questions ;)

But Im planning a coast to -coast road trip starting in LA going to Boston MA and Im not a US citizen.
I want to buy a car for this but it looks like the us address is a problem for me, but I have an address in Boston ( my uncles house) where my trip ends, could I use that, for registration and insurance?
Or should I try to find someone to help me with this on the west coast like has been mentioned here earlier from vegasmike6
Regards
Diddi

33. Posted by vegasmike6 (Travel Guru 3562 posts) 1y

Diddi,
I am not as active on TP as past years. Many TP members have sent me a PM for answers on buying/insuring/registering/selling a vehicle while in the US. Send me a a PM if you have any questions. Mike

34. Posted by Chaostar (First Time Poster 1 posts) 1y

Hi, I'm in a bit of an urgent situation. I'm a foreigner, I'm in NYC (legally staying within my authorized visit period, with a US visa) and have been offered a car for a very good price, I need to drive cross country to SFO, CA next month. It is currently registered in South Dakota, but phyiscally in New Haven, CT. The only issue is to register it, I have a valid US visa and I'm within my authorized time frame in the US, I have a foreign valid driver's license (Argentina) AND an international driver's license. Also I have friends in the US and can use an address, mainly from Massachusetts and Connecticut. No problem wiith that. But I just called the South Dakota treasurer's office and they said that I need a US security number to register a car to my name. That would block everything. Any ideas on how to succeed? It's a bit urgent in time.
Thanks!!!!
Martin
PS: If anyone has a great idea and wants to send a SMS, my number in the US is (973) 767-8190.

35. Posted by vegasmike6 (Travel Guru 3562 posts) 1y

Martin,
Each state has its own rules on vehicle registration. Since the car is in CT, I would try to register it there. Use your friends address for insurance & registration. What I want you do do first is to contact them and find out if CT will let you register using your DL. Some states will, others won't. Find out. Same with Mass. I have been told by other TP members that the Eastern states are pretty strict about foreigners registering vehicles. Have them contact the local DMV and ask about registering a vehicle using a foreign DL.

Here in NV, we will let you use your DL and they do not ask for a SS number. Same with Calif & AZ. I had 2 UK members here last month. Both got their vehicle registered, I provided the address, their UK license was acceptable, no SS number needed. Good luck.

36. Posted by J3S (Budding Member 6 posts) 51w

We bought a car in the US for a 3-month road-trip this summer, with very useful advice through this forum at Travellers Point, so I thought I'd return the favour with some feedback from our experience.

First off, huge thanks to 'vegasmike6', who has helped many travellers buy a car in Las Vegas - his practical help was invaluable. I'm aware that he's been messed around by some people in the past, though, and his help shouldn't be taken for granted. That said, his advice by PM prior to our trip led us to plan our tour of the western National Parks starting from Vegas - it's worth a visit in it’s own right, and also an easy place to fly into, direct from the UK.

We ploughed through various online car & van ads in advance, and decided on a recent model Dodge Grand Caravan with ‘Stow N Go’ seating would give us easy/fast driving (as opposed to a lumbering RV) whilst still allowing us to sleep inside if we wanted. The 3 rows of pax seats all fold neatly into the floor, turning the car into a cargo van large enough for a full-sized air-bed (as used in our tent) – this came in handy the night a large bear got into our food locker at Twin Lakes and we didn’t feel safe sleeping outside! The DGC is also a very popular ‘people-mover’, so easy to come by. We didn’t need to look any further than Craigslist Cars & Trucks to find dozens of ads in the greater Vegas area.

We booked accommodation for a week (a cheapie timeshare swap) to allow time for the car-hunt and purchase, which should have been enough, but the post-purchase paperwork did drag on a bit. We also hired a small car for a week (about $26 pd) to make it easy to follow upon ads. As it turned out, we decided on a car at the second dealership we visited, before we even got round to visiting any of the private sellers. We went with a 2013 model with only 61,000 miles on the clock from Hertz Used Cars. It was more than our $10k budget, but in as-new condition, brand new Firestones and with a 1-year engine & drive warranty, so we felt the extra would be money well spent. Also hopefully recovered when we re-sell at the end of October – will let you know. [Anyone interested in buying suitable wheels in Vegas, by the way, please drop us a PM. Comes with a Thule top-box and fully equipped for camping, even an authentic, bear-clawed cooler box!]

The sales paperwork took a while to complete, basically Hertz dragging their feet. Meanwhile, we arranged insurance with AIG through Michael Weeks of The Sunrise Group at sunriseworldwide.com - they deal with a lot of foreign-licensed clients with no US driving record, so we avoided a lot of time-wasting from companies that end up refusing insurance for that reason. Armed with the insurance card, sales paperwork and a local address (supplied by Mike, to receive Registration and Title later), we joined the 3 hour line in DMV and completed the procedure without any problems. Our UK drivers licences were accepted without comment. An additional twist: we had to pay for the car by cheque (check) so opened a bank account with Wells Fargo, which (especially the VISA debit card) actually turned out very useful during our travels.

Time will tell about re-selling, but we’re planning on another week in Vegas (dammit) at the end of our tour to take care of that. Will update later!

Happy to answer any questions by PM, if we can.

Jim & Sue
[written from Salt Lake City, en-route to Arches NP]

37. Posted by ROAD_TRIP_USA (First Time Poster 1 posts) 40w

I would definitely recommend buying a car in Vegas if you are going to be there as they have super cheap cars and really low car insurance. I would check out craigslist and see what's available and for vehicle prices. Also, if you're a foreigner Geico will probably be the only car insurance company willing to insure you without a US license. Remember you are going to need an address for the plates and title to be sent out to and you will need one for insurance. Here is a link to some tips I wrote: -snip-

We did it quite easily but have some money in back up incase something goes wrong with the car. We had our first van break down after 6 months of travel.

[ Edit: Sorry, no promos please. ]

38. Posted by J3S (Budding Member 6 posts) 40w

I promised above to give some feedback on the selling process, back in Las Vegas. Here goes...

We advertised the sale through craigslist but received a load of junk and scam-like responses. Then we tried posting in cargurus.com and immediately had a reply. This guy, our first proper response, came and checked out the car and bought it on the spot. I had the cash in my pocket an hour later, in exchange for the car (obviously) and the completed change-of-ownership portion of the registration document.

The buyer had started driving for Uber and wanted a Dodge Grand Caravan like all the other Vegas taxis - ours was perfect for the job and in VGC so there was little haggling. We agreed to drop the price a nominal $300 to sweeten the deal, that was all. Of course, we had priced the car for a quick sale as we didn't want to have to spend another fortnight in Las Vegas getting rid of our wheels.

We remembered (just!) to remove the plates, which we returned to the DMV later. No refund of the vehicle tax unfortunately, for foreigners, unless you are transferring to another vehicle, in which case you receive a credit. So we lost a couple of hundred bucks there.

Now the 'math' (as they say in the States): we sold for about $1,000 less than purchase, that difference being essentially the additional costs of buying through a dealer, who charge an 8% tax in NV. On top of that, we paid $500 for insurance, plus about $500 for other costs such as registration & tax. Total cost: a touch over $2k, v's a possible $3 - 3.5k had we hired a similar car for 3 months. Obviously the difference would have been greater had we been staying >3 months, but I'd say 3 months is probably the minimum you'd stay you'd need to make purchase worthwhile.

This was for a 2-yr old $12,500 car bought with a partial warranty from a dealer - we wanted something reliable (with only 3 months and a 6,000 mile route plan, we didn't want to waste time on breakdowns) and comfortable, and quick & easy to re-sell. We appreciate that most travellers will have a lower budget, but the same principles apply.

Last couple of notes:

- we later received advice confirming that cargurus.com is the best way to advertise your sale. Craigslist is now full of scammers.

- we recommend you take half a day to give the car a really good clean & wax, inside and out. Even (especially) in the engine compartment. Also consider a touch-up pencil out of Walmart to repair the worst of the paint chips. It will pay dividends.

- factor in a few $$$ for haggle room. The buyer will expect it.

- don't forget to remove the plates!

Good luck!

Jim & Sue

39. Posted by vegasmike6 (Travel Guru 3562 posts) 40w

Jim & Sue,
Thanks for all the helpful info you provided on buying and selling a vehicle in Vegas. It was great to meet you both and help when I could. Thanks again for hosting Jean & I for pasta night at your timeshare. My efforts at pasta night at my house was not in the same league as Sue's dinner. Jean still talks about that night and meeting fellow Brits. You have friends when you return to Vegas.

Glad you are home safe and sound. Wishing you both a Merry Christmas and a great 2016. Mike

40. Posted by CheersT (Travel Guru 2422 posts) 40w

Great to hear from you, Mike.

All the best to you.

Cheers,
Terry