How to Buy a Car From Another State


The bad news? When the car was delivered to McDarby in Virginia, it had sustained damages while in transit, including paint scratches and damage to the trim. McDarby hadn’t purchased cargo insurance. With some negotiation, the dealer set her up with a qualified repair shop in her area and agreed to pay for the repairs except for a crack in the windshield.

“The damage to the windshield did not happen while the car was in our possession,” says George Meza, a sales manager at Audi Des Moines. 

McDarby’s experience is a cautionary tale that’s relevant to many car buyers today. Over the past year, some car shoppers have been forced to look at dealers in other states—in some cases, dealers across the country—to find the specific car they want.

“We’ve seen severe supply shortages for some vehicles,” says Mark Simpson, an automotive analyst at Black Book, an automotive pricing data company and Consumer Reports partner. 

Indeed, the auto industry is facing an unprecedented shortage of new and used vehicles due to a sustained global microchip shortage and supply chain issues.

Only about 1.1 million new vehicles were sold in the U.S. in December 2021, a 32 percent drop from a year earlier, according to a report by Cox Automotive. Moreover, the lack of new cars hitting the market has spurred remarkably high demand for used vehicles. The average used car sold for a record high of $28,000 in January, according to Carfax data.

The bottom line: You may have trouble finding a car that you want to purchase at a local dealer. Expanding your search to dealerships in other states could be a solution, but it’s not a seamless process.

Here are five steps to take when shopping for a vehicle in another state.


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