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We are planning a road-trip in USA (and maybe part of central-america). Our first idea was to rent a car on each stage of our trip, but we realized that this option is about $1000 per month and breaks our budget. So the next option is to buy a car in USA and sell it later. The question is: can a EU tourist buy a car? (tourist VISA). How? What I need?

Note that I assume that each state has its own regulations and some will be easier to accomplish. I don't have any problem to start my road trip in one or the other state, so I can move to the most permisive state if necessary.

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    How long is this trip going to be, anyway? – cpast May 18 '15 at 15:31
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    In California, you can not purchase a car without proof of liability insurance. Even if this isn't required at point of sale in other states, it is required to drive lawfully. If you could get that, I think you can manage the rest. – Andrew Lazarus May 18 '15 at 16:58
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    Related: Car rental vs. buying a car for 1 month, which indicates that tourists do (or did) purchase cars rather than rent them. – choster May 18 '15 at 18:24
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    There seem to be some insurance companies that offer visitors' car insurance. It may be more geared for diplomats and highly paid ex-pats, but worth a try. – Spehro Pefhany Jun 3 '15 at 14:31
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    I will point out that this is a very common practice for tourists in New Zealand, and presumably elsewhere also -- it's not a ridiculous idea. Whether you can do it in the US, I'm not sure, but I suspect you can. Hopefully somebody more knowledgeable can confirm this. – Shane Jun 4 '15 at 0:21
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Yes, anyone legally in the US can buy and register a car. I have several European and Australian friends that own and keep motorhomes here even though they are not citizens. Some Canadians do the same thing. The only time Canadians get in trouble is if they try to take the vehicle across the Canadian border. Canada gets on their case and forces them to register the vehicle in Canada. Insurance requirements vary from state to state. Most states require proof of insurance to get license plates. I think your biggest problem will be deciding on what states to register the car in. At that point, you will need to check with that state DMV on exactly what their requirements are. I had an Australian friend that bought a motorhome and got a 60 day temporary driveaway permit. He drove it for something less than 60 days and used his Australian address as the new location where the vehicle would be titled and licensed. After the 50 or so days that he sold it in the US and never titled it himself in any US state. He did get US insurance for the time he drove it here. I do not know about taking it across the US Mexico or US Canada border. I do not think I would try it.

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Would some dealership sell to you? Probably. Would the state allow you to register and insure? Much less likely. Most, if not all, states would require a local address for registration and many require insurance, which again is likely going to require a local address.

You'd need to check individual state government web sites to determine if any would allow this. For example, http://www.state.nj.us/nj/trans/

  • I think you can easily use a mailing address like jbmailroom.com for that. Many US RV full-timers do that, why wouldn't a foreigner? – yannn Jul 18 '16 at 18:08
  • I would expect that most of those RV full-timers have a real history in the US which they can use to establish identity, the average EU tourists will have nothing like that. – cdkMoose Jul 18 '16 at 18:32
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Unlikely to get insurance. You are most likely going to take more than a $1000 dollar hit when you buy a car, what if it breaks down? Think about: Who is going to buy this car, how long will it take to find a buyer? You may need to file taxes. Lastly there is significant paperwork for selling a car, which means DMV visits. It may be cheaper to rent...

  • Yes, sure, for 1 month that's true, but I'm talking about a 3 month road trip.. and also it's possible that I drive the car to some other countries (Mexico, central america... until it die or I can sell it for a good price). – Ivan Jun 3 '15 at 22:42

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