I'm a UK citizen who has a full time job offer for a US company in San Francisco starting next September. They're fully sponsoring my visa. I'm planning on a road trip down the west coast from Seattle to SF for a week or so, before I start work.

The plan is to buy a one way plane ticket from London to Seattle, then buy a car in Seattle and drive it down to SF and move into my house there. I'm 21 and have a UK drivers license.

Is this possible? What would I need in terms of tax and insurance for the car? I would buy a car anyway in SF otherwise, so I figured buying it before the trip made sense, but would it still be cheaper to rent a car for the trip and buy one later?

Also, if some friends from the UK join me, will they be able to drive the car?

This might be a totally infeasible plan so I wanted to check before I spent any more time planning it.

1 Answer 1


If you're going to live in California, you should purchase the car in California. California has stricter emission limits than many states and car manufacturers have to specially certify cars for sale in California. This includes used cars that are less than two years old.

You will also owe the difference in sales tax between the two states.

Details are here.

  • Ok cool, thats pretty much a dealbreaker. Sounds like we're better off getting a Zipcar. If I can't keep it afterwards that pretty much removes any benefit from buying. Thanks for the advice.
    – lavelle
    Jan 8, 2015 at 18:38
  • 2
    As an alternate suggestion, you could always land in LA, buy the car and road trip up from there... Jan 31, 2015 at 0:22
  • 1
    This used to be a big deal, but almost all cars sold in the US since around 2009 have CA-legal emissions. California used to be special, but several other states joined the same requirements, so the market for the more-permissive emissions became too small to support with separate vehicles. Unless you're looking to purchase a 10-year-old car, getting one to take to CA and register should not be difficult.
    – BowlOfRed
    Aug 29, 2017 at 23:58

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