Is it really this hard to buy a vehicle as a foreigner?

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Is it really this hard to buy a vehicle as a foreigner?

Postby oli » Mon Apr 05, 2010 4:23 am

I've started doing my research for buying a van for the burn and it all seems a little bit daunting now Ive discovered the legal requirements regarding insurance/ needing a us license/ needing a social security number etc etc etc. I was hoping to buy a van to use for a couple of months and then just quickly selling it before i leave. But getting a us license seems crazy considering my short stay.

Anyone with any experience of this can you point me in the right direction?

What about car sharing or are there other systems that exist where long term hiring actually makes hiring fee sable such as a buy back scheme with the vehicle not in my name of course. Surely there is something to accommodate this situation.
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Postby AntiM » Mon Apr 05, 2010 10:06 am

You can drive in the US as a visitor with a valid license from your own country. You do not need an international license, they're useless in the US.

If you do purchase a vehicle here, you will have to register it and acquire insurance. I don't know if you can do that without a US license, and I'm not seeing the answer easily on the California DMV site.

Of course, you can simply call teh DMV and ask about registration and insurance for a visitor in the US.

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Postby dragonfly Jafe » Mon Apr 05, 2010 11:41 am

buy it in mexico, and drive across? don't know if that would be better or worse...
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Postby phil » Mon Apr 05, 2010 2:02 pm

> Telephone: 1-800-777-0133

Does that 800 number work when calling from, say, Southeast Asia?
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Postby lambert13 » Tue Apr 06, 2010 6:50 am

When outside of the country, I have not been able to call 1-800 type numbers.

While in Mexico a while back I needed to contact my bank. I found a regular phone number for them and called that. By regular I mean (area code) - then local number. It was not toll free, but it worked.
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Postby AntiM » Tue Apr 06, 2010 7:05 am

Unless he sweet talks someone competent into calling for him.
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Postby LostinReno » Tue Apr 06, 2010 8:12 am

If you bought one in Nevada, I do know you can get a 10 day move permit from the DMV (not have to actually license the vehicle). As far as insurance goes, our website doesn't say much for foriegn drivers. You could chance it and go with out insurance, unfortunately if you get caught or even worse, wreck, it will cost you much more in the long run. I dont' know maybe check around with insurance companies first. They would probably have better knowledge than the buffoons at the DMV. http://www.dmvstat.com/
http://www.statefarm.com/
http://www.allstate.com
Think this might be a start??
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Postby Elliot » Tue Apr 06, 2010 10:17 pm

:D
California Department of Motor Vehicles,
Out Of Country callers: 916-229-0370

Right there in the Sacramento telephone directory.
:D
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Postby oli » Thu Apr 08, 2010 1:33 am

The mexico idea had come into play but the distance, border crossing insurance seemed more complicated. All avenues are still open at the moment though. Thanks
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Postby Token » Thu Apr 08, 2010 9:54 am

Hi Oli,

The rules are the same for everyone. US citizens, residents and visitors must do the same thing.

You must have a mailing address where the DMV sends you bills and stuff.
You do not need a social security number.
You must have insurance.
You do not need a US drivers license to own a vehicle.

My nephew from Europe who is in the states for school bought a car, registered it, insured it all without having a US drivers license or SSN.

It can be done and you have the exact same process as the rest of us.
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Postby Elliot » Thu Apr 08, 2010 10:49 am

:D
I agree with Token. My brother lives in Norway, and he bought, insured, and registered a car here. His insurance company is GEICO.
:D
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Postby oli » Thu Apr 08, 2010 8:06 pm

Alright. Ive contacted a few companys and just waiting on there replies. How long does it take to get a social security number? Is it just a matter of signing in and being allocated one on the spot? Im trying to figure how much time will be spent before i can start driving around and being productive. I imagine insurance would be fixed as soon as i agree and pay. Oh yeah and emissions of the vehicle play a part in how much i pay?
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Postby Elliot » Thu Apr 08, 2010 8:35 pm

:D
I cannot imagine you would need a Social Security number.

Emissions: Every car and light truck -- even my (former) 1983 gasoline-powered bus-come-motor-home -- must pass a "smog" inspection in order to be registered to a new owner. Flunking the "smog check" puts many older cars in the crusher these days.

The law is that the seller must get the car thru a smog check before he sells it. But this is often ignored. You will sometimes see the phrase You smog or similar in ads. That usually means that the car failed smog check, but it could also mean that the seller is so broke that he cannot afford to pay for a smog check.

But.... You can start the registration process at the DMV without a smog check. They will give you a month or some such to get the car repaired and "smogged". They give you a Temporary Permit which must be displayed in the rear window or equivalent spot on the vehicle. For your purpose, that might be the way to go! A car that runs fine but needs expensive repairs to pass smog will usually be for sale cheap.
:D
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Postby oli » Fri Apr 09, 2010 1:10 am

Nice one on the smog test. Any ideas how that time frame could be extended? Do they fine if you dont get it done in time? Yeah i thought the social security number story is odd because i could only give an address that is temporary and what good would that do?

Still waiting for reply from insurers
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Postby pizzamancer » Fri Apr 09, 2010 1:54 am

oli wrote:How long does it take to get a social security number?


You can't get a Social Security number as a non-US citizen. You will need to go to a US embassy and get a Tax ID number. They are nearly the same thing, and can be taken care of in an afternoon. Easily far less painful than any sort of US visa paperwork.

Emissions are really a state by state deal.

You can call 800 numbers for free with skype. I have dealt with that frustration. They are a serious PITA for people who don't live in the US.
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Postby Elliot » Fri Apr 09, 2010 8:43 am

:D
Right, I should have mentioned that each of the 50 States has its own rules for vehicle registration. In a sense, the USofA is not one country but 50 closely associated countries.

Once you have what you need in your home state, the other states generally accept that when you travel. There are exceptions -- such as wearing a helmet on a motorcycle, even if it is not required in your home state.

In my personal experience of four years ago, California will issue a second Temporary Permit if you have a good reason. There did not seem to be a specific standard for such a reason -- no documentation. The DMV clerk simply listens to your request and makes the decision on the spot. A typical reason would be that a needed part is on backorder, or that you need a couple more paychecks before you can pay for the repair.

No fine for not getting it done -- unless you drive after the Permit expires. You can simply sell or scrap the vehicle, and that wipes the slate blank. But you do not get any refund of the registration fee you paid.

As for your address, if you do not have a friend here whose address you can use, then you can rent a mail box with a "residential" address -- the address looks like you live in an apartment complex. (Unless the DMV screens such addresses out -- I don't know.) (Sorry, but my address is already "overloaded".)
:D
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Postby kore » Fri Apr 09, 2010 11:48 am

It is not hard to buy a car as a foreigner.

When you get here go on craigslist.org and just pay cash for the car or van you want.

YOU DO NOT HAVE TO GO TO The DMV.

As long as the Registration is still valid you can drive the car/van.

You just need to make sure your license is good here.

Best of luck,
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Postby Elliot » Fri Apr 09, 2010 1:31 pm

:D
Well, that's how some people do it. They shop for a car with 11 months left on the license plate stickers, and then just drive it until the sticker expires. If they behave themselves in traffic, and nobody else runs into them, and all the lights on the car work, they can often get away with it.
These are -- generally speaking -- the folks who drive without insurance, and that's a crime.

And the law in California allows you only ten days to start the registration process when you buy a car.

Also, the seller is supposed to report the sale to the DMV within five days.

The authorities have all this information on computers, so any law enforcement officer can simply run a check on the license number, and know all about the car in a minute or less -- including whether the car has liability insurance. Without insurance, the car's registration is automatically suspended, and you will be seeing a bright red light behind you.

Now.... I've been talking about private transactions. If you buy the car from a dealer, then the car will have been smogged, and the dealer will give you the Temporary Permit. I do not know how it works with the insurance. Generally, insurance companies give you maybe as much as 30 days to add the new car to your policy -- IF you already have a car insured with them. But you do not have an existing policy, and I do not know how the dealer would... eh... deal with that. I suppose I could telephone a couple of dealers and ask.

But you will pay more for a car at a dealer than from a private individual. And few dealers have cars as low as $1.000,-.

Hope this helps.
:D
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Postby pizzamancer » Fri Apr 09, 2010 4:35 pm

kore wrote:YOU DO NOT HAVE TO GO TO The DMV.

As long as the Registration is still valid you can drive the car/van.

You just need to make sure your license is good here.


This has to be the worst advice on this thread. If you don't own the car, ie you paid for it, but didn't change the registration with the DMV (in other words fraud), not only are you breaking the law, but even if you do buy insurance, they won't cover you in the event that you need it.

It is not something they will deport you for, but it does stand a good chance of getting you on the no visa list in the event that anything happens.
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Postby Token » Sat Apr 10, 2010 10:06 am

Since you will be in San Francisco, get a monthly bus pass. It will take you anywhere in the city in under 30 minutes (SF is 7 x 7 miles big).

When you do need a car or truck, they can be rented for ~ $20 per day. ~ $30 per day if you buy their insurance (recommended if you do not buy seperate insurance yourself). Of course you must be over 25 to rent.

Everthing else will be walking distance.

Keep it simple.
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Postby Edana » Sat Apr 10, 2010 9:39 pm

You can't get a Social Security number as a non-US citizen. You will need to go to a US embassy and get a Tax ID number. They are nearly the same thing, and can be taken care of in an afternoon.


This is not true. You can get a Soc Sec number even if you aren't a citizen. There are a bunch of other categories that will let you get one. Including temp guest workers, permanent residents etc.

Now, I'm certainly not saying that this particular person would be eligible for one, it all depends on the kind of visa you come into the US with, but it is NOT an "only for citizens" thing.

(Non-citizens have cards that have some or other disclaimer printed on them like "Valid only for work with CIS authorization" etc).
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Postby motskyroonmatick » Sun Apr 11, 2010 1:32 am

Ive never had to supply a social security number or proof of legal residence to buy any of the 9 vehicles and trailers I have owned. I may have had to submit that info to get a loan but it seems that a loan is not needed here.

I say,
1 Find an insurance agent and tell them you want to buy a car and insure it. See if they have specific input on the insurance aspect.

2 Find vehicle and buy it. Make sure the license plate is not going to expire soon.

3 Call insurance agent and get insurance on the vehicle before driving it anywhere.

4 Drive all over the place getting supplies and to the burn and back.

5 Sell vehicle, cancel insurance and fly home.
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Postby Elliot » Sun Apr 11, 2010 11:48 am

:D
Motskyroonmatick's scenario is an improvement on Kore's suggestion. Insurance is more important than registration. While insurance was always mandatory, there was precious little enforcement until just a few years ago, when the DMV's computers learned to "talk" directly with the insurance industry's computers. So now they are all having a grand time "playing with their new toy".

Even with insurance, you are still facing the ten day deadline to start the registration process. Failing to comply with the ten day deadline is in itself not all that big a problem -- you would have to pay a fine at the most. Having proof of insurance to show the officer would probably go a long ways towards just-a-warning.

But if an accident occurs after the ten days, you can be pretty sure the insurance company will take that opportunity to declare your policy invalid. That's why I recommend you go to the DMV within those ten days, and start the registration process. You say you plan to stay a couple of months, and that should work fine if you get one renewed Temporary Permit. You may even be able to get the first permit for two months. Or you might get lucky and have the car pass a smog check! Smog checks are performed by hundreds -- maybe even thousands -- of private shops all over the state.

Another thought. There is no smog check for diesel vehicles built prior to 1998. And no smog check for gasoline vehicles built before 1975. So I would certainly explore those two options.

The registration fee is higher on "commercial" vehicles than on passenger cars. Even the smallest pickup-truck is considered commercial. I'm not sure about vans. A "window van" full of seats might be OK as a passenger vehicle. Just look at the license plate. Assuming the vehicle has the modern white reflective license plates, a commercial plate looks like this: 2B22222, and a passenger plate looks like this: 2BBB222.

:D
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Postby gyre » Sun Apr 11, 2010 4:39 pm

Must be another california thing.
I don't even have to own a car to insure it here.
They sure can't cancel coverage for tags here.

Are you sure about this?
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Postby Elliot » Sun Apr 11, 2010 7:25 pm

:D
Well, like I mentioned earlier, we live in 50 States, which are United on a number of topics, like defending the borders and building Interstate Highways. But many issues are handled by the individual states, and that includes motor vehicle registration and driver licensing (non-commercial driver licenses).

Of course, I am always happy to be overruled by better information!

I'll send my brother an e-mail now, and ask if he remembers any details from his visits at the DMV.

I do know I had to drive down to San Diego with my trailer last year to "bail out" his car, which had been towed and impounded because he had neglected to renew the insurance.

I'm not talking about cancelling the coverage. I'm talking about denying a claim.

Here is an example of differences between States: In some States the license plates stay on the car for the duration of the car's life. In other States, the licence plates stay with the owner, who puts them on his next car.

:D
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Postby mdmf007 » Sun Apr 11, 2010 7:27 pm

gyre wrote:Must be another california thing.
I don't even have to own a car to insure it here.
They sure can't cancel coverage for tags here.

Are you sure about this?


Does not work that way in WA or NV either, no waiting periods in either state. I walk in aI walk out with registration and plates. Insurance is as fast as you can print it from any of the large national companies offline.
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Postby Elliot » Sun Apr 11, 2010 7:36 pm

:?:
Now I'm confused. What exactly is it we are discussing?
:?:
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Postby gyre » Sun Apr 11, 2010 7:52 pm

Elliot wrote:I'm not talking about cancelling the coverage. I'm talking about denying a claim.
:D

I don't know, but I would be dismayed if that is true.
It would have to be allowed by the insurance commission and the courts too.
Too many technical reasons tags or license could be revoked by error.

Most policies void coverage for criminal activity, but that usually involves running from the police, etc.
They all try to avoid paying claims.
Only the very weak state regulation makes them ever pay anything at all.
And lawsuits.

Let us know if you can confirm this.
I can't even determine if I can register my ford in california.
And I've asked people that should know.
All I can find out is that nevada would welcome my business.
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Postby Elliot » Sun Apr 11, 2010 8:13 pm

:D
They all try to avoid paying claims.

We seem to agree on this.

As for...
...could be revoked by error.
...this would be cleared up in the investigation. Once the facts are established, the insurance people will start looking for loopholes. But this is just off the top of my head. And I'm not about to ask my insurance agent whether I can get away with doing something illegal. :shock:

Registering an older car or window-van or mini-van is not all that expensive. That gets you a Temporary Permit, and now everything is "kosher". Heck, when you buy the thing, drive it straight to the nearest Smog Check station -- it might pass!
:D
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Postby Elliot » Mon Apr 12, 2010 9:50 am

:D
My brother reports that he took a California Driver License withOUT a U.S. Social Security number. He believes they used his Norwegian passport number instead.

And, as we already knew, he had no difficulty getting his car insured and registered.

This was only three or four years ago.
:D
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