Best States to Buy a Car in 2020

The state line of Maine is marked on a road bridge

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If you are thinking of purchasing a car, you are probably budgeting for a lot of different things: insurance costs, gas, and financing. If you have saved up a downpayment, considered the features you want, have practiced your negotiating skills and have a realistic grasp on your budget, you may think you’re ready to buy a vehicle for the best price you can get. But are you? 

While the cost of car ownership encompasses a lot more than just the sticker price, getting a great deal can go along way – and just how much you will pay for your vehicle might depend on where you buy it. Due to differences in demand, the needs of the locals, and the competition in each state, prices can vary wildly. If you live in one of the more expensive states for car buyers, you can even pay thousands of dollars in unexpected costs when you drive off the lot, versus just hundreds of dollars in other states. If you fall into the first category and live relatively close to a border, it might be worth it to shop around in a nearby state

Worst State To Buy A Used Car: California

With the cost of living skyrocketing in California, combined with moderately high unemployment, drivers are holding onto their used cars for a lot longer, making buying a used car a competitive adventure in which often only the rich (or very lucky) feel like they can succeed. 

Best State To Buy A Used Car: Florida

Used vehicles in Florida can be nearly 10 percent cheaper than the national average for a variety of reasons. Most grimly, an aging population means that more and more drivers are giving up their vehicles each year, whether due to death or just impaired eyesight or driving abilities. On the other hand, the lifestyles of the high-rolling Miamians mean that as people try to keep up with their neighbors, they sell their used cars along the way and exchange them for bigger, better, faster ones, making it an ideal buyers market. 

Unexpected Fees

When you buy a car, you are paying for a lot more than just the vehicle itself. Before you drive off the lot, you’ll have to pay both state and local sales tax, registration fees, and dealer documentation fees – the fees that the dealership collects to cover the costs of paying the people who file paperwork for your title and registration. Some states limit the amount dealerships can charge for this convenience, but many do not. 

Because a title and registration are required for the state in which you reside, you’re not likely to save a lot of money by shopping around for a car in a lower-cost state because they’ll likely charge you an additional fee for requiring out-of-state filing. However, if you are moving to a lower-cost state soon, it might be worth putting off your purchase for a few months to save a bit of money. 

At the end of the day, it is probably best to try and find a car you can afford that is located in your state or, at the very least, in one close by.

Worst State To Avoid Unexpected Fees: Alabama

If you want to avoid paying unexpected fees, steer clear of the cotton state. Buyers in this state pay an average of $2,313 in total fees when they purchase a new or used vehicle. Other states that have fee costs in the neighborhood of $2,000 or more also include Arizona, Colorado, and Tennessee. 

Best State To Avoid Unexpected Fees: Oregon

If you are buying a car in the Beaver State, a nice steak dinner for two at a restaurant will likely cost more than your total fees for purchasing a new vehicle, which is often in the neighborhood of $115-$130. Perhaps to make up for its freezing temps, Alaskans also pay no more than $360 on average for their fees – as do those who reside in New Hampshire.

It Pays To Know What You Want 

It may seem counterintuitive that knowing the make and model of your dream car can make it cheaper to purchase, but it’s true. Due to the fluctuating local markets and taste preferences of local consumers, some states tend to have great deals on particular vehicles. Maine and Delaware, for example, tend to be the cheapest states to buy a Honda CRV – where prices are 12-15 percent lower than the nationwide average – while those in the market for a Toyota Camry might want to try their luck in Kentucky or Washington, D.C. 

Prices can fluctuate week to week, and it can pay to spend a few weeks comparison shopping online and calling dealerships before driving to a far away state in search of your dream, say, Ford F-150 (which will probably be cheapest in Missouri or Rhode Island).  

The price of buying the actual car will likely depend much more on your credit score, the type of vehicle you buy, and the specifics of your loan terms than what state you buy it in. In order to get the best possible deal, you should carefully do your research on the make and model you want after you evaluate your financial situation to determine how much car you can afford.