It used to be that when you started looking for a new or used car to buy, you began browsing local dealerships to get a feel for what you want. These days, however, the car buying options span the entire country. With so many cars advertised on the internet through dealerships, private sellers, and online auction sites, you have access to an enormous inventory of vehicles. This means you might find your perfect car halfway across the country. Although purchasing a car long distance might seem like quite a hassle, it’s actually not as hard as you might think and it can often serve as a very beneficial option for many people. Here we will break down what to look for when buying a car long-distance and provide some guidance to help you through the process.
Start with an Online Search
The process begins with an online search for your desired vehicle. There are dozens of great sites to search that offer both new and used vehicles for sale. Many of these sites allow you to narrow down your search criteria by make, model color, price, mileage, and more. Do be sure to check the site and review it’s reputation, but a few good options to search are AutoTrader, Carvana, Joydrive, CarsDirect, and Cars.com.
Start a Conversation with the Seller
If you happen to find your perfect car but it is located hundreds of miles away, not to worry. The dealers that use these sites can provide you with an abundance of information about the vehicle including pictures, videos, and carfax reports. This allows you to get an up close view of the car from every angle as well as gather information about the vehicle’s condition. This is your chance to ask any questions about the vehicle and begin the process of deciding whether or not it is right for you. Ideally, this contact should be made over the phone. Verbal communication allows you to get a better sense of the seller from their tone of voice and their eagerness to answer questions.
Invest in a Vehicle History Report and Inspection
While some sellers might include a vehicle history report, others may not but it is worth the extra $30-$50 to pull the report. This report will let you know if the car has been in any accidents or obtained major damage. If your vehicle passes the report, you can move on to the next step. At this point, you should ask if the seller will take a refundable deposit to hold the car, pending an inspection. Choose an inspection location in the same city as the vehicle and arrange to have an authorized person fax or email the inspection report.
Figure Out Delivery
There are some online sites that include shipping with the purchase of the vehicle. This is mainly if you are working with a dealership. If you are working with a private seller, you will need to decide how to pick up the vehicle. Generally for long distances, it is cheaper and more convenient to have the car shipped to you than flying to pick it up. At this point, you will choose a reputable auto shipping company and make arrangements to have the vehicle shipped to you. Don’t forget to have the seller include pictures of the vehicle’s condition prior to shipment. You also want to obtain proper insurance before shipping the car.
Payment and Paperwork
If you are purchasing a car from a dealer, they will have a few payment options available including financing. They should also be able to use an e-document service to sign paperwork. If you are working with a third-party seller, make sure you only pay using a protected payment service such as PayPal to ensure your payment is secure. You should also arrange to have the bill of sale and title mailed overnight.
Frequently Asked Questions
Honest Answers to Your Car Shipping Questions
Yes, we always ask for your specific pickup and delivery addresses, if the carrier can get right to the addresses you provide, they will. If the addresses that you give us are not safely accessible for a Multi-car carrier, however, you will need to make arrangements with the driver to meet at a nearby location where the carrier can safely get in and out.
People do it all the time (rarely for free) but the official answer is no.
Not what you wanted to hear, we know, but that is the honest answer.
We are not licensed to broker the shipment of household goods and, likewise, no car carrier that operates in the USA is licensed to transport them from state to state either. Despite what you might be being told by other car shipping companies you may speak with.
Remember, at the end of the day we're all salespeople, and the true answer to this question is not a great selling point.
You will hear a lot of companies tell you that you can put up to 100 pounds of items in the trunk, but that is not entirely true. That fact is that items of that amount are fairly common and the department of transportation is probably not going to split hairs and fine the trucker over items of that amount, provided they are not over their weight limit. They could fine them, however, if they see a vehicle stuffed full of personal items so the car carrier will most likely try to negotiate something with you to cover themselves against any costs they could incur. It's not something we can build into your contract though.
We have a short and helpful video on this topic in our user videos.
Only in rare cases and car carriers will usually charge a premium to make it happen.
All dates given by car carriers are typically estimates and projections.
For this reason (and to keep your cost down) we ask that you build in some flexibility and give us the earliest possible date you would be WILLING to release the vehicle, even though it may not be your preferred date.
We'll put you in direct contact with your car carrier and the driver will also typically call you the afternoon or evening before your pick up and delivery (they won't just show up unannounced, and if they do we want to hear about it). However, car carriers are out on the road battling traffic, weather and any number of other factors that can and do throw them off of their pickup and delivery projections from time to time.
If the projected dates we give you come and you are unable to make contact with your carrier, please call our office immediately so that we may help resolve the situation.
The average transit time from pick up to delivery on any vehicle going coast to coast will average 7 to 10 days. From there you can figure your transit time based on how far your vehicle is traveling, i.e. from either coast to the Midwest might average 3-7 days.
Even better, we do not even ask for payment until we have you confirmed for pickup by a safe, reliable, fully insured, direct car carrier. If for any reason you do not ship your car with the carrier that we arrange for you, there is no fee.
The fees paid directly to the carrier however, (in most cases, their fees are not paid until your vehicle is delivered) are not directly controlled by us, so any requests for a refund of the carrier's portion would need to be addressed with the carrier directly.
Of course! And you are always backed by our Damage Free Guarantee policy.
Part of what you pay us for is to verify that the car carrier that we put you on is covered by the proper amount of insurance and that everything is up to date.
There is never any additional cost to you for this coverage, and their insurance is always primary.