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How to buy, and then sell the car in the US, if you are a tourist

Material published on the project about travel Perito burrito, look for the original article here.

Yes, according to a Russian passport and rights, you can become the full owner of a car in the USA. The car is not only easy to buy, but also to sell right before departure. Olesya Rekunova tells how to do it. But the laws in each state of the United States may be different, and not everywhere you, as a tourist, will manage to register a purchased car.

Photo Olesya Rekunova, Vitaly Kuvshinov,

USA - a country created for cars. Road junctions, lack of sidewalks, affordable gasoline prices and sometimes a terrible public transport system are pushing to have two or three cars in an American family. Tourists to travel around the country on buses is not always convenient, hitchhiking in Kerouac is not the same, on airplanes is cheap, but there is a risk to remember only airports. The romance of American travel can only be penetrated by car — when a comfortable car with a box of automatic rides rolls on a smooth road, the driver relaxes the steering wheel with one hand, while the other adjusts the volume of the radio station. Outside the window glimpse stunning landscapes. Just awesome - it feels like North America has gathered some of the most beautiful places on the planet in 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 States, then it is cheaper and easier to buy a car. In the end, your own car is often given names, rather quickly from a vehicle it turns into a motorhome, in which you can sleep, have lunch, bring travel companions, smoke and not worry about every scratch.

Photo Olesya Rekunova, Vitaly Kuvshinov,

Buy cars in the US for a long trip


  • It is cheaper than renting a car. Monthly rent a car will cost an average of 1 000 – 1 500 dollars, whereas for 1 500 you can buy quite a good typewriter.
  • Independence from the rental company. Only maximum insurance covers, among other things, glass, mirrors and wheels, which usually adds 100 – 300 dollars to the rental. If this item is deleted and the wheel is punctured, then the rental company will keep you with an impressive amount.
  • Owner himself: he wanted - he sold the car, he wanted - he left.
  • The opportunity to get to hard-to-reach places in the style of "yes we will pass."
  • In extreme cases, there is always a place to sleep.


  • Risk to buy a car that will soon break.
  • Need to sell a car before returning.
  • The cost of fuel and maintenance.
  • Search for parking in cities.
  • Worry about the car being broken down or being evacuated.

Photo Olesya Rekunova, Vitaly Kuvshinov,

What should be considered?

The laws in each state of the United States may differ, and not everywhere you, as a tourist, will be able to register a purchased car. We tried it in four states on the East Coast, but it didn't work. 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 bill or telephone bill, a letter from a government agency addressed to you or an American bank card statement indicating your data.

The bill for the light, of course, can be faked in Photoshop, but you are punched through the i-94 database, where you can see the date of your arrival in the country, and if you just arrived, what kind of electricity bill can we talk about? The only loophole opened to us through a bank card Citibank, which can be issued c proof of the Russian address. After a month of using the card, they can give you a statement of account, which will already have a US address that you provide. But this is a long process.

The easiest and most convenient state to buy a car is California. There is no need to invent anything; only the Title, or Pink Slip, is needed for registration of the car - a document on the car and smog-check - like our technical inspection. You can try your luck in other states by checking the information on the site. Department of Motor Vehicle (or simply DMV) in every state.

Action plan

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

You can buy a used car from a dealer, which sometimes includes registration, but dealers have cars, of course, are 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, know where to look for the dealer.

Buy a car with the hands of the owner can be cheaper, but you will have no guarantees that it will not fall apart in a week. Moreover, the process of buying and selling a car in California is designed so that you give the owner the money and register yourself with the car, and if something is unclean with the documents, all the problems fall on your shoulders.

Photo Olesya Rekunova, Vitaly Kuvshinov,

Ads are usually looked at Craigslist.
Check the information about the car and compare the price can be on the site

It is important to consider: if you are engaged in buying a car in Los Angeles, then you should understand that the city is just huge, and cars are scattered in the most remote areas. The lower the price, the farther from the center the owner usually lives. We were incredibly exhausted trips around the city - sometimes for three hours with transfers. Moreover, do not think that the sellers are waiting for you with open arms. We sometimes had the impression that they post ads just like that. We called one seller three times with a request to send an address, he said: “Yes, yes, I’ll send you now” - and never sent it. Often they do not pick up the phone - you need to leave a voice message, and then they choose who to call back. One seller kept in touch with us for an hour while we were driving, and when they came to his house, he said that he had already sold the car. In general, just be prepared for the fact that this process is very laborious and is accompanied by stress.

When inspecting the car, do not hesitate to ask questions, check the wheels, the oil level, whether the music and air conditioning work, whether the roof and side racks are deformed, whether the cigarette lighter is working, if there are any suspicious sounds while driving, ask for the wheel and drive yourself, ask how long the machine is in use and why it is sold. In one of the cars we watched, a “check engine” light was on, and the salesman strongly urged us that this was just a sensor junk. We decided not to mess with such a surprise machine.

In the USA, a car is just a means of transportation, they are often changed and not always even look under the hood. Drivers often couldn’t even properly answer what the car’s consumption was or how long the oil was changed. So do not be surprised that in ten minutes they will start asking you: “Well, take it? Make a deal? ”.

We would advise not to take the money for the first meeting, the temptation is too great, but given the large distances, the variability of the sellers and, most likely, your limited time frame due to not living in your own apartment, decide it yourself.

Photo Olesya Rekunova, Vitaly Kuvshinov,

For a deal, the seller must have:

  • Original Title, or Pink Slip.
  • Registration applicationin which you can see when the registration for cars ends (it is necessary only to make sure that you do not have to pay for the previous owner, like us).
  • Smog check (analogue of our inspection).

If the latter is not there, then either ask the seller to do (it will take one day), or ask for a discount, but keep in mind that with a good deal, a smog check will cost you about 50 dollars, but if the car cannot pass it, you will have to contact black service centers and lay out for it 120 – 200 dollars. We said that we were foreigners, did not understand anything, and the seller did the smog check himself in one day.

To register a car in your name you will need:

  • filled in your name Title;
  • address in California;
  • smog check

Insurance is not necessary for registration, but it is forbidden to move around without it. It is more difficult to apply for online insurance, as they are asked to enter the California driver's license number, so it’s best to contact the insurance company’s office in person. We took out insurance for a month at the office, and then extended it online on the site. It came out about 60 dollars per month to cover our responsibility in the event of an accident - an analogue of our CTP.

Vehicle Registration

The very process of auto registration 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 of the car can be specified below, since tax will be deducted from this amount. We did not even check the passport when they registered the car. Plus in Title there were errors in the dates, as our seller turned out to be a middleman and the transaction went through the first buyer (our seller) and the second buyer (we). In general, everything was very difficult there, and we were afraid that we had found a lot of problems for ourselves, but the woman in the window smiled, counted the tax amount and registered the car to us faster than we could recover.

You are given a registration letter with the final date, and a new Title will come in a couple of weeks to the address you specified in California. It is useful only when you are thinking of selling a car.

Next, the first thing we recommend to change the oil in the department stores Walmart You can purchase oil and an oil filter (they have access to the system, where the brand and the filter series are given by brand), in the service station they will take 15 – 20 dollars for work, or you can change everything for 20 dollars right away Walmart, and the price will include both oil and filter, but the lines there are sometimes wild.

What to fear

  • Unscrupulous sellers. For example, the guy who sold us a car did not pay for it for a whole year, and when we came to DMV, we got a bill for the current and previous period in 304 dollars. Of course, we then shook off the guys, but we were lucky that we knew where to look for him. Other car owners often met with us in obscure parking lots, no addresses, no attendances or passwords.
  • Scammers We encountered them first in New York when we tried to buy a car there and then twice in Los Angeles. The process looks like this: you see the announcement of the sale of a fairly good car at a relatively low cost. As a rule, there is either an e-mail or a phone number, but no one picks up the phone. Later comes SMS with a request to also go to the communication by e-mail, allegedly to send all the details.

Then you receive a letter from some Mary Brown, a middle-aged woman, who without a twinge of conscience pushes you the story that this car is her son or husband, who recently died in a car accident or a heart attack. Like, the car brings a lot of sad memories, so she sells it cheaper, just to get rid of. She herself travels a lot for work or now lives with her parents somewhere far away, for she has no one left. In general, she proposes a deal through eBay, they say, you will pay, and they will deliver you a car to the address. You will have 5 days for a test drive, and if something does not work for you, then you will return the car and get the money back. But the link sends not to the account eBay, and to the adjacent site where the banner is hanging eBay. Apparently, through this site, they somehow withdraw your money and disappear.

Here is one of the letters:

Honda Accord EX Honda Accord EX because we want to sell the car asap. The price is 2003 including delivery to your home address. No accidents / liens / loans. The odometer shows 1,500k miles. Never been repainted. We have all the car manuals, titles, documents. 92 months ago we were in a car accident. A drunk driver hit him. He was with his fiance's car coming home. He wants to sell it. The last price is $ 4. I want you to make this deal through eBay Payments. 1,500L 3.0CC V2977 GAS SOHC Naturally Aspirated Engine, Automatic Transmission, Cruise Control, Power Locks, Power Windows and much more.
Here are some pictures with the car:
Best Regards, Mary Brown

  • Yourself. When you acquire at least some property in the States, the temptation to stay increases at times - it seems that once there is already a car, then you can quickly figure out the rest. In addition, Americans constantly leave something free on the streets - after three months a bar stool, a Mexican hat, a pair of pans and a whole box of food lived in our car.

If you have successfully coped with the quest and passed all the dangers, then, most likely, rush across the expanses of Arizona into the sunset.

Photo Olesya Rekunova, Vitaly Kuvshinov,

Some final tips

  • While a tourist visa is valid, you can drive under Russian rights, if you stay longer, you need to get American ones.
  • In the US, police do not stand on the roads and do not check everyone if there are no violations. For almost a week we went without insurance and never saw the police. The meeting with the officer occurred only once, when Vitalik did not turn on the turn signal when rebuilding in the small town of Utah on a Sunday evening.
  • California gasoline is the most expensive, comes to 4 dollars per gallon (3,7 liters). And on the highway number 1 in the area of ​​Big Sur there are for 8 dollars. The cheapest we met in Missouri - 1,49 dollars per gallon. As a rule, fill a full tank costs 15 – 35 dollars depending on the state.
  • By the way, consumption in the USA is not considered as we are used to, in liters per 100 kilometers, but on the contrary - how many miles you can drive on one gallon, that is, the higher this figure, the more economical your car.
  • Sleeping in a car in the United States is impossible; worried residents are likely to call the police, but in parking lots Walmart or Truck Stop can be no problem. You can even purchase an annual subscription to the network fitness and not indulge in your soul. At the truck stops, there is usually a better shower and service, so you can register as a driver in their system and get a pass for refueling.
  • If you are in a big city, then be careful with parking - US fines are very impressive - 60 – 250 dollars. In addition to signs explaining when you can stand on this side of the street, pay attention to the color of the curb - red or yellow are for fire engines or public transport, you can not stand there.
  • Traveling in the US, try to build routes on secondary routes. First, they are more picturesque, you can always stand on the side of the road and take pictures, talk to the locals or ask to spend the night on some farm. Secondly, highways are often paid. To do this, just tick the box. Google Maps - exclude toll roads.
  • It was not easy to part with our car - we came up with different types of options to find a free parking and each time, coming to the States, pick up the car, but they were all unrealistic, so we had to start selling as the departure date from the USA approached.

Sell ​​cars in the United States is no more difficult than to buy

Monitor the market in advance and compare prices. We checked the price range for cars of the same year and configuration on Craigslist.

  • Assess the situation with maximum realism: how much your car is attractive to buyers, how much time you have to sell, how much you are willing to give in to the buyer in the event of a deal, what defects can be beaten in a favorable light.
  • Put the car in order - go to self service car wash where you can wash and vacuum the car yourself. Eliminate odors in the cabin, check the glove box and door pockets. There were stickers from sponsors on our car. Boomstarter, and we barely managed to remove them from the door before the arrival of the buyer.
  • For a couple of weeks, put a test ad with the desired price and see if there will be a lot of calls - this will help to adjust the ad and raise or lower the price bar.
  • Set a meeting place and time for the buyer, take the original with you. Title (Pink Slip), registration application. Smog-check, in theory, should also be done by the seller, but in this case we put everything on the shoulders of the buyer, since “we ourselves are not local”.
  • Pink Slip fill in the new owner, and in the field "seller" enter your details. Spine Pink Slip it remains with you - it will serve as proof of the transaction. Within two weeks, the buyer must register the car with the DMV, and you, in turn, can enter the sales data directly on the site in order to relieve yourself of tax liabilities.
  • Do not accept payment by check - at least they will charge you a fee for cashing in the bank, since you are not a resident, as the maximum the buyer can issue stop checkand you will be left with nothing. Better in the ad immediately indicate that you accept payment in cash.
  • Take a farewell look at your swallow - surely you have been tied up by tens of thousands of kilometers and a hundred stories about your unique journey along the roads of North America.

Photo Olesya Rekunova, Vitaly Kuvshinov,

We put the car up for sale just a week before the plane. We had plans to hitchhike to drive to the next state, so we immediately set the price a little lower than the market. On Sunday evening, an ad appeared on the site, and on Monday at ten in the morning the first buyer took it. Having bought a car from a pastor, we sold it to a guy named Jesus. Immediately after the transaction, we put the data on the sale on the DMV website and heard nothing more about our car - it means that everything is fine.

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