Where/when do I buy a car if I'm moving?
March 26, 2010 1:04 PM   Subscribe

I'm moving from Philadelphia to North Carolina. Where and when do I buy my first car and car insurance?

This summer, I'm finishing graduate school in Philadelphia and heading down to Chapel Hill to teach. I've got the moving and finding a place to live details down pretty well, but I think I'll need to buy my own car to get around North Carolina. Although I've been driving zip-cars and rental cars for a long time, I've never bought a car (or car insurance) before and don't know anything about the costs or benefits associated with buying a car in different states/at different times.

I basically have three related questions:

1. I'm moving to NC in July but can buy a car at any time before that. Where should I buy the car if I want to minimize both cost and hassle (registering the car in different states, getting it re-inspected, etc.)?

2. Do I have to live in a state to register the car in that state or is there some flexibility on that side of things?

3. Do I have to get car insurance before I buy the car and, if so, does it matter where the car is registered or if I'm going to re-register the car in a different state?

posted by eisenkr to Shopping (4 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I'd buy the car I'm the destination state unless there is a compelling sales tax related reason not to. Registering is way less of a hassle.

As far as insurance goes you can call the insurance company and they'll get you set up pm their computer and when you are looking at or purchasing a particular car call them with the VIN and they'll get you set up immediately. So this before you drive anywhere! Ideally check with them before handing over any money to make sure the cost is reasonable and as a double check that the cars VIN is good.
posted by fshgrl at 1:11 PM on March 26, 2010

Also, and this might not be the answer you're looking for, but Chapel Hill (Carrboro especially )is a very non-car friendly town. The public bus system is free and decent, and everyone bikes and walks. When I lived there, I had a car, but the only time I ever used it really was if I was going to get a really big load of groceries or I needed to go to the mall (but there's a bus for that too). I drove it maybe once a week. And there are also zipcars available in Chapel Hill too, for those kinds of trips.

You could always move down and see how you do without a car, and if you decide you need one, then you can get one then.
posted by greta simone at 1:45 PM on March 26, 2010

I live in Carrboro, and I would say that it's actually quite car-friendly here. In fact, if you want to go anywhere that isn't right in town having a car is very, very helpful. Going to the dentist and the doctor, for example, requires a car (at least for me), as does going to many things in Raleigh and Durham.

That said, I also only drive about once a week, and if I were you I might try using our public transport and zip cars for the first month or two to see if you really do need a car.

You will have to live in North Carolina to register a car here. It's expensive to register a car in Orange County (where Chapel Hill is located).
posted by k8lin at 3:51 PM on March 26, 2010

Forgot to add that I don't live right in the epicenter of Carrboro; I live on the outskirts, which means that I need a car a bit more. I would imagine that if you're moving here to teach you are not going to want to live right smack in the middle of downtown either, but I could be wrong.
posted by k8lin at 3:53 PM on March 26, 2010

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