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You found your perfect RV. You’re ready to buy it. There’s just one problem: it’s in one state, and you’re in another. How is that going to work? This post is about how to buy and register an RV from another state.
This is the second post in a 2-part series in answer to a question I received from a reader. His question was (in paraphrase):
I live in state A. How do I buy an RV in state B and register it in state C (which will be my new domicile state)?
If you have yet to choose your domicile state, I recommend you read the first post for some tips. The reason you need to choose a domicile state first is you will need an address (at minimum) in your new state to register your RV. This way, you don’t have to re-register your RV in a different state once you make the move.
Buying an RV from another state
I have a confession to make. We almost bought a new (to us) RV a few months ago. Shopping for a new RV is something we worked on for a long time. We thought we finally found the right one. It was the right size, had features we wanted and was at a good price. Unfortunately, the buyer received a lot of interest. He decided to try to incite a bidding war to drive up the price. We decided it was not worth more than his asking price. We refused to offer more money and of course did not end up buying it.
Regardless, had we bought the RV, we would have faced an issue. The RV was registered in New York, and California is our domicile state. I’m going to review the process we went through while investigating the purchase of this vehicle and the logistics of registering. It’s an example of how anyone can complete this process if the steps are applied to your situation.
Registering an RV from another state
The seller was a private party.
He informed us that New York state law requires the seller to remove the plates from the vehicle when selling. The buyer then must register the vehicle and obtain new plates before driving the vehicle away. So, you leave the vehicle with the seller after you’ve paid for it, and then bring back the plates and registration.
Here are the requirements we needed to meet for registration from the New York DMV website:
As you can see, there are several problems for us, because 1. We don’t have a New York insurance card, 2. Our driver’s licenses are from California, not New York, and 3. We don’t have a permanent address in New York, nor do we intend to get one.
Luckily, for the low, low price of $12.50, New York allows you to purchase an interstate in-transit permit. This permit allows you to buy a vehicle in New York and transport it to your home state for registration. The permit is good for 30 days.
This is a good thing. When bringing a vehicle from outside of California to register for the first time, it needs inspection by the DMV in person. We would have to hurry to get back to California in 30 days, but it’s possible.
It would also mean that unless we would try (very quickly) to sell or consign our current RV. If not, we would both have about 3000 miles of driving to get the 2 RVs back to California in time. We did it before (see this post about our first cross-country trip), but Ryan drove the whole way so I could work. It was not easy. We were both really tired by the time the trip ended. Working full-time and doing all the driving myself for one of the RVs would be a lot harder. For a lot of people, buying an RV on one side of the country and registering it on the other is not the ideal situation.
The scenario above shows some of the reasons why it’s so important to know the facts before you buy from out-of-state.
How is buying and registering an RV from another state different from buying in your own state?
Here are some things to consider when choosing an RV to buy from another state:
- A different state may have better prices and lower sales tax than your current state.
- However, the costs of transporting your new RV to your domicile state and/or current state of residency may negate any savings. If you decide to drive your RV back to your home state, are you familiar enough with RVs that you will be comfortable driving it back during the requisite time?If you pay to have someone else drive it or have the RV delivered to you, do you have someone trustworthy? How much will that cost you?
- You need to know the registration requirements for the state where you intend to register the vehicle. Will your registration state require you bring the vehicle to one of their DMVs?
- You need to know if the state where you purchase the vehicle offers a “temporary tag” or other temporary registration that allows you to take the vehicle to a different state for registration.
The easiest and most cost-effective way to purchase from another state may be to choose a state that is nearby, not across the country. At the very least it will save you in gas getting the RV back to where you want it.
Don’t get incorrect information–or get scammed
Don’t rely on the seller to give you accurate information about buying and registration requirements, even if it’s a dealership. Find out for yourself. Also, keep in mind that dealerships may be able to handle your out-of-state registration, or at least a temporary/in-transit registration. But they may also (legally) charge a fee to handle it for you.
Also, you probably already know this but be very wary of ads where RVs are for sale for very low prices. They are probably scams. Most of them will claim that health issues, divorce or the death of a family member. They had to move to a different state and leave the RV behind. It’s in storage so they can’t show it to you. You have to buy it sight-unseen. They ask you for personal information and tell you to await an email from eBay Motors, who will handle payment and shipping of the RV to you.
Even if you tell the “seller” you can go to the state where they have the RV to pick it up yourself, they will refuse and make up an excuse.
I dealt with a scammer like this recently. I went into a long series of emails, trying to trip them up. This person sent me an email attachment with the passport of an American citizen as proof of identity! I’m afraid to think what happened to the owner of the passport. I gathered as much evidence as I could then reported the incident to the authorities.
It’s common to see these ads on Craigslist. They will often have very low and sometimes weird prices that aren’t round numbers (see possible examples below). But they don’t limit their ads to free ones anymore. Recently I found a scammer through RV Trader, and they charge to place ads on their website.
I pulled up these 2 today from Craigslist Boston. One posted 3 days ago and one posted 3 hours ago. Each listing only had a single picture and contact only through email. I think this makes it easier for them to scam many people at the same time.
NADA Guide pricing for this RV puts the value at $34,000 to $41,000, but they only want $4900?? Fat chance!
These people steal pictures and even descriptions from legitimate ads. They also usually insist the RV is in immaculate condition. Please be very, very careful, and never agree to send someone money sight-unseen (even if they claim to have a dealership).
Just so you know, eBay has very strict rules about only using their escrow accounts for ads placed on eBay. Anyone claiming that you can pay them through eBay without having an ad on eBay is in violation of eBay policy (and lying to you).
I know how hard it is. You’re looking for your dream home on wheels and see what you hope will be the perfect solution. Don’t put blinders on and lose your time and money.
Final thoughts about buying and registering an RV from another state
I love research, but giving you the information and requirements for every single state in the U.S. would be a lot of work. That is not something I would do for free–I just don’t have the time. So I’m afraid you will need to do your own homework for your state of choice. However, I will show you what the Texas DMV requires, just so you have another example.
For any other state, visit the DMV websites for your domicile state and the state for the RV you want to buy. See what the rules are for buying and registering a vehicle from a different state. Make certain that a seller can supply any documents they are responsible for, such as the title and bill of sale. And if you have any doubts or uncertainties, make sure they clear up before any money changes hands.
Just know that whether your dream RV is down the street or hundreds of miles away, you should put as much effort into making sure it’s right for you as you would in buying a sticks-and-bricks home. This should mean a personal inspection, asking lots of questions of the seller and probably a professional inspection, too. And don’t forget–any seller, whether dealer or private, should be willing to give you a full tour and show you how everything works.
If you want more information about what we look for in an RV, please see our post: How to Buy an RV: Learn from our experiences. There is also an RV Buying Checklist in the Resource Library you can get access to for free with the password you received when you signed up (or you can sign up below).