How to Buy a Car When You’ve Just Moved to the U.S.

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Unless you’re moving to a city where you can walk to wherever you need to go, you’re going to have to get a car as soon as you move to the U.S. You will also most likely need a new driver’s license. Take the appropriate steps and you will be on the road in no time.

How to get an American driver’s license

Step 1: Get your driver’s license or renew it before you leave your country. You may have to get a new one when you get to the U.S., but it will be easier if you already have a valid driver’s license.
Step 2: Determine if you need to get a U.S. driver’s license right away. This varies, depending on the state you live in. Contact your local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to find out.

Figure out how you will pay for the car

Step 1: Consider your budget to figure out how much you can pay. Decide how much you can spend on a car. If you don’t have enough cash to pay for the car outright, figure out how much money you can spare each month for a payment on a car loan.
You will need enough cash for a 10% to 20% down payment, taxes, and the registration fee.
Step 2: Contact International AutoSource. They have Expatriate Car Programs that can help you get a car.
Step 3: Talk to your new employer to see if the company you work for can help. Larger companies often have a Credit Union that is prepared to loan money to new American citizens.
If not, you may be able to get financing through the dealership where you buy the car or through a bank. Get a letter from your employer that proves you are employed and states how much you earn each month.

Figure out which type of vehicle you need to get

Step 1: Think about how you will use the vehicle.
  • Do you need to transport supplies?
  • Will you be driving a long distance every day?
  • Do you have a family to transport or are you on your own?
Step 2: Narrow down the list of potential vehicles.
  • Can you only afford a used car or can you afford a new car?
  • Do you need a car that gets good mileage to reduce the cost of gas?
  • Do you need an SUV, CUV or van?
Step 3: Do some test driving. Go to area dealerships to see what’s available and go for a drive to make sure you like how the car handles. Check online sites, too, for vehicles that are being sold by the owner. Popular sites include:

Get car insurance coverage

Step 1: Contact car insurance providers. Let them know what make, model, and year the car is that you want to buy and find out how much they charge for insurance. Get quotes from several providers to make sure you get the best rate.
Step 2: Decide on a car insurance provider. Contact your chosen provider and make arrangements for insurance.
Get insurance before you buy the car. You absolutely must have car insurance before you drive your new car home. Get everything in order with your insurance provider before you go to pick up your new car.
Step 3: Go pick up your car. If you buy your vehicle through a dealership, they will give you a temporary registration and a 30-day license plate.
You will have to go to the DMV for a permanent license plate within 30 days. If you buy it from a personal seller, get a bill of sale and the title signed over from the owner to you. Take these to the DMV to get the car transferred over into your name. You will then be able to get license plates, which must be put on the car before you drive it.

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