View Full Version : Does it make sense to buy a car sight unseen 3,000 miles away?

Plan B
06-23-2011, 03:55 PM
Having received excellent advice from dopers about car buying in this thread: Earlier car buying questions (http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=607544) I thought I'd try a new question.

Our decision making about what to buy has evolved to where we are now considering buying a new car in California - we live on the east coast - and driving it around the west coast and then home during August.

I'm thinking that if we go with a reputable dealer that it's pretty safe. I can wire them the money and all that and the car will be there.....right? Any precautions to consider?

And while we're at it, can I trust those ratings for the dealer that come up when I do a Google search?

06-23-2011, 03:58 PM
Car dealers in CA are fairly well regulated. I'd do it as long as you were vary specific when you ordered it, color, equipment, etc. As long as it's new you should be okay, but I'd never do it with a used car. What area and what dealer?

06-24-2011, 09:30 PM
I was all set to be horrified and yell "of course not!" but I assumed you were talking about a used car. I don't see why it wouldn't be okay if it's a new car. As for things to consider, I guess I'd double check to make sure you can get it serviced at your local dealership while under warranty.

running coach
06-24-2011, 09:36 PM
Check your state's regulations about buying a car and registering a car out of state and bringing it back to your home state.

Elmer J. Fudd
06-24-2011, 10:08 PM
Consider taking delivery in Oregon instead of California to save a ton on sales tax.

06-25-2011, 03:03 AM
I've bought a used car online, sight unseen.

If you're buying used:

- research the seller
- ask for car service history
- ask for high-res images
- if it is a certified pre-owned, insist on the repair order. A dealer certified car only means that it is now up to a standard acceptable to qualify as CPO, but some repair might have been done to bring it up to that standard. The repair order will list the details of those repairs.
- if it is not certified or if it is being sold by a private party seller, have it inspected by a 3rd party inspection service that has ASE Master Technicians. Here's an example of a 3rd party I used and was happy with: www.autopi.com . That site has some great tips too. It will cost you about $150-200 for an inspection. Make sure that paint and frame damage inspections are included. Visual inspections only, which some 3rd party companies provide, are not sufficient. These companies are mostly local, so you'll need to find a good one that services the area where your car is located.
- get an www.autocheck.com report (carfax.com is not as detailed)
- purchase insurace coverage prior to, or on the day of, purchase.
- if it is frame damaged, do not purchase

If you're buying new (which it seems that you are), check out www.carwoo.com

bahia hombre
06-25-2011, 11:29 AM
Consider taking delivery in Oregon instead of California to save a ton on sales tax.


06-25-2011, 01:40 PM
I have purchased two used cars off the internet from private sellers, sight unseen from thousands of miles away. Great results both times. I have also purchased three new cars from dealers sight unseen from thousands of miles away. Good experiences every time.

06-25-2011, 02:36 PM
I purchased a certified pre-owned Audi from a dealership in North Carolina (I'm in California) in 2003. What I ended up doing was putting a deposit down for the car on my credit card ($1000) to show them I wasn't jerking them around, then flying out there and paying for the balance with a "loan check" I had received from my loan company. We had pre-arranged the total and all I had to do was sign a couple documents and I was out the door.

Please note that I was purchasing a certified car (meaning it was backed by a warranty) and from a reputable dealership (meaning they were accountable). I'm not so sure I would have bought the car if either of those weren't the case.