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How to Buy and Sell a Car as a Non-US Resident?

The USA is an ideal country for cars. Highway junctions, lack of sidewalks, affordable gas prices, and sometimes a terrible public transportation system push us to have two or three cars. 

You can get into the romance of American travel only by car - when a cozy car with an automatic transmission rolls along a flat road, the driver relaxedly holds the steering wheel with one hand, and the other adjusts the volume of the radio station. Stunning scenery flashes outside the window. Exactly stunning - it feels like North America has collected some of the most beautiful places on the planet in a wild concentration.

If your trip to the United States takes two to three weeks, then the best way is to rent a car, but if you plan to spend a couple of months or longer in the United States, then it is cheaper and easier to buy a car. In the end, their own car is often given names, rather quickly it turns from a means of transportation into a house on wheels, in which you can sleep, dine, drive fellow travelers, smoke, and not worry about every scratch.

The laws in each state of the United States may differ. You won’t be able to register a purchased car in any state. As a rule, the catch lies either in the SSN - the social security number through which Americans pay taxes (you cannot get it on a tourist visa), or in the fact that in order to register you need to provide proof of residence at an address in the United States, or, in our understanding, residence permit, according to which, if anything, a person can be found. Only if our residence permit is stamped into a passport, in the United States, the proof can be an electricity or telephone bill, a letter from a government agency in your name, or an American bank card statement indicating your data.

California is the easiest and most convenient state for a car purchase. To register the car you only need a Title, or Pink Slip, - a document for a car and a smog-check - like our technical inspection. You can try your luck in other states by first checking the information on the Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) website in each state.

How to purchase a car as a foreigner? 

You can buy a new car at any car dealership - camper, minivan, or family - sometimes there are more car dealerships than supermarket parking. It is safe but quite expensive.

You can buy a used car from a dealer, which sometimes includes registration, but cars from dealers are, of course, more expensive, and then you can hardly sell it for the same price. Although the process itself is simpler - you come to one place, look at the place of the car and, if anything, you know where to look for a dealer.

It is cheaper to buy a car from the owner's hands, but you will not have any guarantees that it will not fall apart in a week. Moreover, the process of buying and selling a car in California is designed in such a way that you give the owner the money and register the car yourself, and if there is something unclean with the documents, all the problems fall on your shoulders.

Vehicle registration

The process of registering a car itself takes 10 minutes if you arrive in the morning and do not get into a long queue. This must be done within 10 days from the date of the transaction. The price for the car can be indicated below, as tax will be deducted from this amount.

You will be given a registration letter with an end date, and the new Title will arrive in a couple of weeks at the California address you provided. It will only come in handy when you are looking to sell a car.

It’s a good idea to change the oil first. In Walmart department stores you can buy oil and an oil filter (they have access to a system where the name and series of the filter are issued by the car brand), in a car service they will take 15-20 dollars for work, or you can change everything for $ 20 straight to Walmart, and the price will include both oil and a filter, but the queues are sometimes too big.

How to sell a car in the U.S.?

Monitor the market in advance and compare prices. 

  • Evaluate the situation with maximum realism: how attractive your car is to buyers, how much time you have to sell it, how much you are willing to give up to the buyer in the event of a transaction, what defects can be played in a favorable light.
  • Put your car in order - go to a self-service car wash, where you can wash and vacuum the car yourself. Eliminate unpleasant odors in the cabin, check the glove compartment and door pockets. Our car had stickers from Boomstarter sponsors, and we barely had time to remove them from the doors before the buyer arrived.
  • In a couple of weeks, place a test ad with the desired price and see how many calls there will be - this will help to adjust the ad and raise or lower the price level.
  • Set up a meeting place and time for the buyer, take the original Title (Pink Slip), registration application with you. 
  • Fill in Pink Slip for the new owner, and enter your details in the "seller" field. You keep the Pink Slip spine as proof of the deal. Within two weeks, the buyer must register the car in the DMV, and you, in turn, can enter the sales data directly on the website to relieve yourself of tax liabilities.
  • Do not accept payment by check - at least you will be charged a commission for cashing at the bank, since you are not a resident, at most a buyer can issue a stop check, and you will be left with nothing. It is better to immediately indicate in the ad that you accept payment in cash. You can also sell your car for cash online without hidden fees, extra costs, or unexpected surprises. 
  • Take a farewell look at your car. You’ve probably been tied by tens of thousands of miles and hundreds of stories about your unique journey along the roads of North America.

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