October 13, 2009 George Foster

How To………Buy a Vehicle in the US

As promised……………..a demi-guide through the minefield that is purchasing a motor vehicle in the US and A. We’ve had some MAJOR issues (see previous post) with buying our van, all without any form of reliable information from any source. No joke. The laws are so complicated and intricate, even from state to state, that knowing what you’re getting yourself into before you go is at worst desirable and properly recommended!

We found our van, and all those we looked at in fact, through the website ‘craigslist’ (an American version of gumtree or ebay), which is a great way of finding something to your exact specs. Assuming you know to use your common sense etc when looking for a vehicle and end up buying one then here’s some pointers to go on from:

1. It is a whole lot easier for you if the vehicle has been registered before you buy it (see point 4 if it’s not).

2. Insurance (at least where we got it in Oregon) seemed to be by the number of drivers, their experience etc NOT the vehicle…..so it works out similar to the UK system.

3. When you buy your vehicle make sure you get – the vehicle/vessel transfer and reassignment form; the vehicle title (VERY IMPORTANT in non-title states i.e. Oregon and, i think, Pennsylvania); a valid smog certificate (if in California).

4. To register you need to go to the local DMV with the forms/papers from point 3 and an address in the state you’re registering in.

5. To get insurance you eiher need to – go to an independent insurance company OR get a US license from the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) whereby you need to do the FULL test, which costs $70 or so.

6. It’s a pretty good idea to get it serviced, or at least have a mechanic give it the once over, just to make sure there’s no glaring faults in it. Do this before you buy it if you can, or as soon as you can after you buy it, and let the people you’re buying it off know that only when you get the all clear from the mechanic will you be happy with it.

That’s pretty much it, or at least the major points any way, and hopefully it will help. California is a notoriously anal state to get any sort of vehicle but it’s not impossible. Here’s a brief history of our motor failures…..if you’re reading this, hello, and things seem familiar then have hope cos we’re thick as pig-shit and still managed to get out of it:

We bought a van with NO registration, NO title, NO license plates and LOTS of charges outstanding due to a long expired registration. We went to another state (Oregon) in the hope that we could beg a mechanic to sort out a ‘lien sale’ whereby the van is assumed to be ‘found’ by a garage then sold onto us making the late registration fees exempt. It didn’t work out like that for us. We weren’t allowed to register the van without a title and were informed that trying to do a lien sale was HIGHLY ILLEGAL. Insurance was got through an independent company for roughly the same price as it would have been had we had US licenses (no biggy there). Our predicament was that we’d……….got a van for $1200, driven across half of California and half of Oregon with NO registration, NO insurance, NO title a distance of 700 miles HIGHLY ILLEGALLY. When we eventually made it back into California we had driven over 1300 miles, again HIGHLY ILLEGALLY, and still had to pay the $1500 for late registration fees………the moral of the story?? Get a van with fuckin’ registration you idiot!! It’s worth paying a little bit more in the first place to avoid all the faff that goes without it. 

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