The Best States to Buy a Used Car
If you're in the market for a used vehicle, some areas of the country are better than others if you plan on car shopping out of state.
The days of strictly local car-buying seem as distant as $2-a-gallon gas. Today, used-car buyers can easily access millions of vehicles from Maine to California. All of which are a few clicks away on the Internet or a phone call away from a pre-sale inspection and a hauler that will bring that dream car right to your door. But some areas of the country are better than others at offering used cars that are worth the effort to go out of state.
If you want to expand your used-car search area beyond your local dealer lots, here are the three best states to buy a used car based on my personal experience.
Editor’s note: With nearly 20 years of experience buying and selling used cars, Steven Lang has seen quite a few good, and bad, vehicles from across the country. Lang runs a car-buying service that often requires some rare cars to be flown from low-rust states with smooth roads to areas where potholes, rust, and bad weather conditions usually turn older cars into junkyard relics.
What state offers cheaper cars than most of Texas, but offers a similar climate?
Arkansas makes a good target for high-end, late-model vehicles, leased or financed. Only two big wholesale auctioneers have a relatively small presence in Arkansas, and many higher-end models purchased in comparatively ritzy Northwest Arkansas can struggle to find new homes when their leases are up.
This lack of competition and the far deeper pockets found in much of Texas make the Arkansas market a solid place to search for luxury brands such as Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz.
There are two Floridas: The heavily populated coastal areas of Florida, where saltwater causes rust and bad traffic causes constant snarls. And then there are inland cities and towns, such as Orlando and Lakeland, with limited rust concerns and smooth, flat roads that don’t stress the powertrains and suspensions of older cars and trucks.
Lakeland, in particular, used to be my favorite place to buy four-wheel-drive vehicles that could be sold for more money up north in the New York area. Although used rental cars are always in Orlando thanks to tourism, garaged, retiree-owned vehicles make Florida a great place to shop for a modern classic. Many online sellers specializing in older, low-mileage cars and trucks intentionally make Florida their home, too.
The Volunteer State has every advantage that a used-car shopper could ever want: smooth roads, reasonable commutes with limited traffic (24 minutes on average), and a low-snow climate. As an added benefit, the substantial retiree population may be anecdotally less hard on vehicles than daily commuters who deal with heavy traffic in big cities. I also find many Tennesseans spend up for fancier models and don’t mind paying for the maintenance required to keep them on the road.
Even though my dealership is within a two-hour drive of southeastern cities like Atlanta, Birmingham, and Chattanooga, most of what I buy for my Georgia customers comes directly from Tennessee or Florida.
Should you buy a car from out of state?
Today it’s less of a gamble if you do your homework. Reputable sellers, pre-sale inspections from experienced mechanics, and basic organizational skills can make buying out of state quick, easy, and painless. Just make sure not to cut corners and do your due diligence.