Ok, I need a car, but should I buy it before or after I move
May 12, 2014 4:26 PM   Subscribe

I live in DC. Sometime soon after Labor Day, I'll be relocating to Charlotte, NC. I'm sure I'll have plenty of wailing detailed questions about this as the time approaches [and after!], but it's happening [and it's very good for my career. I'm calling it a new adventure]. Should I buy a car here in DC or once I'm in Charlotte?

The last time I owned a car was 2002, and that was a family handmedown. I know how to get a car loan, and insurance, but....that's it.
I'm expecting to buy a lightly used/new smaller car. Should I buy it in the DC area or Charlotte area? Does it matter? If I wait until Charlotte, I'll have to move quickly and won't have much assistance from friends. If I buy in DC, I have to...register it here? And, obvs, drive it to NC. Are prices regional? I don't even know the questions to ask about this DC/NC car buying thing. Please answer the questions I don't even know to ask!
posted by atomicstone to Travel & Transportation (14 answers total)
Most likely taxes and fees in NC will be less due to the cost of living. You can look at the states and city fees and compare what will be a better deal.
posted by AlexiaSky at 4:38 PM on May 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm in NOVA and people I know regularly drive down to NC to get better car prices, so I would just buy it there. Plus it'll simplify your paperwork.
posted by brilliantine at 4:40 PM on May 12, 2014

You can car shop around and pick the car you like in DC. So when you do move all you need to do is compare different dealers and not deal with finding the car you like.
posted by AlexiaSky at 4:40 PM on May 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

You can start the shopping process digitally. Lots of dealerships have moved online, and people completely negotiate the purchase and then just show up to pick up the car. You could certainly shop around locally (test driving cars you like) to choose, and then look up dealerships in NC and purchase from one of them. Then your car will be ready when you move, but you won't be in a rush and end up making a mistake.
posted by DoubleLune at 4:43 PM on May 12, 2014

Also, cars from northern regions tend to get exposed to a lot more salt from winter road treatments...more salt can lead to quicker rust.

Buy it in the south.

FWIW, I live in Charlotte...
posted by keep it tight at 4:45 PM on May 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

Looks like North Carolina has a 3% tax on cars and Washington DC has a 6% tax.

It's also possible to get a double-whammy of paying taxes to both places, but it looks like for NC that's only if you buy it more than 90 days before registering in NC.
posted by ckape at 5:10 PM on May 12, 2014

I'd wait till you get here* so you don't have to deal with registration transfers and such. Generally the dealership will take care of it for you.

(*I live in Charlotte too - happy to answer any questions!)
posted by Sweetie Darling at 5:34 PM on May 12, 2014

Wait. Less DMV hassle, used cars less likely to have been through nasty winters.

That gives you the option of comparison shopping south of the state line in SC, although you would still have to pay the 3% HUT on registration in NC. (There are a lot of dealerships in Fort Mill and other places just south of Charlotte, and while it's a wash tax-wise, the competition might help you out.)
posted by holgate at 6:33 PM on May 12, 2014

Another reason to buy it in Charlotte is that you can go back to the dealer if it has any problems. Perhaps some of the good people above who live in Charlotte can help you choose the best dealer for whatever make of car you want.
posted by mareli at 6:56 PM on May 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

Buy it in Charlotte and you can avoid taxes. Also, since you're moving to Charlotte, let me advise you never to take your vehicle to the local regional Griffin brothers chain.
posted by oceanjesse at 8:43 PM on May 12, 2014

Never buy anything significant right before you leave the state. Makes customer service and returns impossible.
posted by valkyryn at 3:06 AM on May 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yeah, wait. You'll have a relationship with the dealer in your new hometown. You'd have to double register it, and double the fees. You may need to pay an excise tax (I know DC requires this of cars coming into DC, not sure about NC).

But shop a lot now, pick out a car and model or two that you'd be willing to buy, then you can make a decision in NC quickly.

Since you mentioned small car (subcompacts FTW!), my Kia Rio 5 door has performed like a champ during my recent move. Took a surprisingly large amount of Ikea flat pack furniture. Actually had a few gawkers at the loading area.
posted by fontophilic at 6:36 AM on May 13, 2014

Ask at a dealership. They'll probably be able to give you reasonable advice. If you wait until August, you might be able to get away with only having to register in NC.

I'd vote for "Before" if you can avoid the double-registration trap. You're not going to want to have to simultaneously deal with the stress of moving and buying a car.

Owning a car will also make the obligatory trips to Home Depot and Ikea much, much easier. The last time I moved, I was car-less, and it was a HUGE pain in the ass compared to the time before that. I probably spent upward of $200 on carsharing that month, just because of all of the small chores that I needed to get done in a timely manner.
posted by schmod at 12:42 PM on June 16, 2014

Oh, and there aren't actually any car dealerships in DC, so all of the dealers in the area are pretty familiar with the rules surrounding out-of-state sales.
posted by schmod at 12:44 PM on June 16, 2014

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