How to buy a car in the usa as a foreigner

In our opinion buying a car in the USA on a tourist visa is not as tricky as it seems however it does not necessarily mean it is the best decision to go with when deciding to buy versus rent.

Most people that are looking into buying a vehicle for their road trip are doing so for reasons related to saving money. But this is not always going to save you money in the long run.

It really depends on quite a few factors such as:

How long will you be visiting?

Whether you plan to go across the country or explore only a few states?

Do you have a friend’s house to stay at the beginning of your trip?

Are you on a tight schedule?

It could take a few weeks to find the vehicle you want and then you need to add on the time that you must wait for the registration and title paperwork to be mailed out.

This may mean a couple of hundred dollars when you add up accommodation and car rental costs depending on where you are staying and who you are renting your vehicle with.

Also, the fact that you will need to pay insurance is another cost you need to consider and compare with the cost of renting a vehicle.

Weighing Up The Pro’s & Cons Of Buying A Car.

If you plan to travel for 3 months or longer, then buying a car is probably going to be a better option for you, especially if you plan to drive across the country.

However, if you are only here for a short time or if you have a strict schedule on where you want to visit and places you want to see, you should consider the fact that your newly purchased vehicle could break down costing you not only money for repairs, but your time too.

This is where renting would be more favorable as you would not need to deal with such unexpected hassles and risk losing valuable travel time.

Weighing Up The Pro’s & Cons Of Renting A Car.

Renting a car does not always have to cost you an arm and leg. These days there are quite a few car rental search engines that compare car rental company rates to help you find the best deal.

This means the rental companies are always competing with each other to give you the best deals. A quick search on will show you that you can easily find car hire for as low as $20 a day.

If you are only going to explore a few states, you can save money on your car rental by planning a loop road trip to avoid additional one-way fee’s.

Some car rental companies have really great deals if you book ahead. Also, most car rental companies will give you a better car hire rate the longer you rent the vehicle.

For example you can rent a car with Enterprise from Los Angeles or San Francisco for under $200 a week. That’s a five week road trip for $1000! Much cheaper than what the cost of a reliable vehicle will be.

Things To Consider Before Buying A Car In The USA On A Tourist Visa

1. Will You Have An Address You Can Have The Registration And Title Sent?

After purchasing your new vehicle you will need to visit the DMV to have the car registered and to get the title changed into your name.

After you have done this the DMV will need to mail you the documents (that is the title and registration papers).

This means you will need to have the registration and title sent to a physical address. This can take up to several weeks depending on what state you are buying the car in.

It is important when planning your road trip to consider whether you will have the time to wait for the registration and title to be mailed out to you.

When we bought our vehicle in California it took three weeks to receive the paper work!

So unless you can stay at a friends house and use their mailing address, you will have to wait at your hotel or other accommodations until you receive the paperwork which could also become costly.

If you will be waiting at a hotel make sure you consider and compare the costs involved with staying at your accommodations the entire time it would take for you to find the right vehicle and to register the vehicle and wait for the paperwork.

Travel the World on a budget

How to buy a car in the usa as a foreigner

Travelling across the USA can be done by many forms of transport though as we are backpackers we were looking for the cheapest possible transport and didn’t want to be limited by bus and train schedules and routes.

We looked into renting a car and at first this looked affordable but with all the additional charges, in particular the one-way surcharge, this was definitely not a cheap option. So the choice fell to buying our own car and transforming it into a house on wheels. We wanted to drive from Portland to Miami with a strict deadline of 6 weeks to catch a flight. This already created two challenges for us that we weren’t aware of at the time. Here are a few lessons we learned along the way that should help you make the decision whether to buy or not, and steer you in the right direction.

Before you buy

1. A residential address

You’re going to need a local address in the state of which the car will be registered. We didn’t need to show any proof like a rental agreement or anything so that makes it easy as long as you know someone who you can register it at their address still. We were volunteering with a great family through the Workaway program so they were nice enough to let us use their address and also post the title out to us in Florida once it arrived. The title being posted out was one big issue that we didn’t count on. We discovered there are still some weird old fashion hurdles that still exist in the USA and this was one of them. The DMV can’t print it for you on the spot and it takes 4 – 6 weeks to post to your residential address. We only owned the car for 6 weeks and it seriously came down to the day before we flew out of the country to arrive. If you are considering buying a car and reselling it, I wouldn’t risk it for less than a 7-week trip.


I spent many hours looking for the cheapest possible insurance company and filled in many applications right up until a roadblock I couldn’t pass. It seems like there aren’t any actual rules stopping a foreigner getting the insurance though just a few unintentional restrictions that don’t allow you to complete the application. For example; a US drivers licence number, or a US credit card. Another absolutely confusing and downright stupid thing is that it’s cheaper to pay with a cheque than a credit card!! So, if you’ve somehow time travelled from the 90’s with a US cheque book than you can post it in to the insurance company, wait a few weeks for it to be received and processed and you manage to save a couple of hundred dollars. But, failing that and failing having a US drivers licence the next best option I found after a couple of frustrating days was Progressive car insurance. It was the cheapest I could find that allowed me to input my Australian license number and credit card. The frustrating part with this one was that we had to pay for 12 months up front and once we sold the car, cancel the insurance and receive a refund of the unused months. So it worked out in the end but an expensive upfront cost.

3.Researching the car and buying

We knew we wanted to either buy a camper van or build a simple bed in a van. A lot of camper vans are huge old fords or similar that use a lot of fuel and obviously stand out when we’re trying to be inconspicuous. So we decided to look for a smaller family van or wagon and ended up with a Honda Odyssey. It was good on fuel and didn’t stand out when we wanted to park up and sleep in a nice safe neighbourhood. Craigslist is a pretty terrible website which looks like it hasn’t changed since it was created but there are loads of cars on there and it’s the main classifieds site in the states.

How to buy a car in the usa as a foreigner

You’ve got a car. Now what?

Receiving a title. Do not hand over money for a car without having the title in your hand! Take the title and your insurance details to the local DMV and fill out a couple of forms. This part of the process was surprisingly simple and strangely I didn’t even show my Australian licence or passport. If you’re registering the car in a different state to which you bought it there are a few other steps involved including new plates and more fee’s, the DMV website will be able to help you out here.

Now the fun part of building a bed and buying all the equipment for a 6-week road trip. We found a great second hand building supplies place in Portland and bought a perfect big piece of ply wood for $7 and that was about it. The great thing with the Honda Odyssey is the two rows of seats fold down flat and formed two thirds of the base for our bed. Roy, who we were staying with had all the electric tools that we needed and a range of wood and other things we could use so it made it cheap and quick to create our new home. Finding all of the camping supplies took a little longer actually, driving around between thrift stores, Walmart and Home Depot. The mattress we used was actually two pieces of 7cm thick foam from Home Depot and was surprisingly comfortable. We wanted to buy as much second hand as possible but things like sheets and pillows we wanted new and were really cheap at Wallmart. For the windows we used this great material used in home insulation that helped not only with privacy but blocked out lights and helped a little with warmth. We cut it to fit and slid it in to each window at bed time, no permanent glue or Velcro required. A simple curtain across the front and some fairy lights and we’re ready to hit the open road.

How to buy a car in the usa as a foreigner

Selling the car

1. Place the add on Craigslist in the state you wish to sell it.

2. If you’re selling in a state different to which you bought it, there’s not much difference for you as the buyer is responsible for registering it in their state. Keep in mind though it might be harder to sell and you may not get as much for it.

3. Make sure you keep the sellers part of the title, take it into the DMV or even easier use the DMV website to register the sale.

Arriving In Los Angeles

We arrived at LAX in high spirits and were sure our plans would go accordingly.

We headed for the Enterprise parking lot as we had pre-booked a car for ourselves until we found our van.

After a few days of being tourists in the Hollywood area we decided it was time to start the search for our own vehicle.

How to buy a car in the usa as a foreigner

We began looking on craigslist once again and was able to find some vans that were within an hours’ drive from where we were staying on Melrose.

What we didn’t realize or have knowledge of was the amount of people in the area that spoke no English. This hampered our quest dramatically as we could not communicate with many of the sellers who only spoke Spanish. This crossed off over half the vans on our list that we were interested in.

We had three left on our list to go look at on the first day of searching and thought for sure one would be our future home.

The next day we set out on our mission to check out the vans.

Beginning The Search For Our Van In Los Angeles

The first van on the list was a 2001 Astro for $1800.

The van seemed to look in good shape and match what was said in the ad however after taking it for a test drive it seemed like it hadn’t been driven for a long time. The engine was running rough and the breaks were worn.

When we spoke to the seller on the phone the previous day he assured us that it was running fine, that he had the title and the van was currently registered.

It turned out it was not registered nor did he have the title.

At this point we knew there was no way we were buying this van.

We did a lot of research on buying before we embarked on this trip and one thing we knew for certain was not to buy a car without the title.

If the seller does not have the title, the car could potentially have been stolen, financed, or may have been a right off in which case could lead to problems when trying to register the vehicle so we moved on to inspect the next van.

The second van we went to look at was a 2002 Astro for $2200.

We arrived and parked across the road from where the van for sale was parked. The van looked in really good condition with nice paint and fairly new tires. The interior was also clean. The van started up right away and sounded fine.

We took it for a test drive and everything seemed good whilst driving under 20 miles per hour but as soon as the accelerator pedal was pushed down a little harder, the gear box began to slip jumping from gear to gear and making all sorts of strange noises.

We knew straight away that the gear box had major problems and we did not have enough money to deal with something like this.

The seller who was in the passenger seat insisted that the van had never done this before and it was running fine yesterday. Yeah right!

The third van on the list was a 2000 Astro for $2700.

Driving in LA traffic is very stressful and was a lot more time consuming than we had anticipated but we had one more van to look at. It was now around 3pm and we were feeling a little discouraged.

Long story short we were not lucky third time around either.

The van was a 2000 Astro for $2700 which was a lot more than we had budgeted for. The van was running well but the interior was disgusting!

We were willing to negotiate as the main thing we were looking for was a strong engine but the seller would not budge on his price and declined our offer of $2100.

Feeling exhausted from a long day sitting in traffic and dealing with dishonest sellers we headed back to the backpacker hostel.

Having To Change Our Vehicle Preference

We spent the next couple of days searching for vans on craigslist but it seemed like there was not as many available as there had been before we left Australia or they were out of our price range.

We looked at a few but they all didn’t seem to run very well unless they were over $4000.

After a few more days and no luck finding the van we had set our hearts on we decided to look at other options.

We still had our rental car plus we were paying a ridiculous sum of money to stay at the hostel so things were beginning to get stressful.

We made a decision to leave the hostel and found a beautiful campsite in Malibu overlooking the ocean.

How to buy a car in the usa as a foreigner

The view from our campground in Malibu.

Turning Our Attention To Car Dealerships

Looking again at craigslist there seemed to be a lot of Ford Windstar’s available at reasonable prices so we decided to check a couple out.

Once again we had issues with sellers that didn’t have the title or vans that were a little dodgey (meaning not up to the standards they had claimed).

Starting to think we may have to go a little longer than expected without our own van (which we should have been living in by now and saving cash for the road trip) we turned our attention to car dealerships.

This was hard to do as we are suspicious of used car dealers. They are always overpriced and have sneaky fees but at this point we were willing to give anything a shot.

We came across a 2000 Ford Windstar from a dealer who was asking $2000.

He was located in Huntington Beach about 2.5 hours away from us. After speaking to him he assured us that we would have no trouble with this van. Taking his word we decided to drive down to Huntington hoping for the best.

We arrived at the dealers office and the van was there waiting for us. We test drove the van and it ran well with no immediate issues or problems we could find apart from a small oil leak coming from the engine but this wasn’t enough to deter us.

Even though this was not the ideal van (a lot smaller than what we wanted), it was a van and we were getting desperate.

We made an offer of $1700 but the dealer said he would take no less than $2000. He then told us there would be a dealer fee and that we were supposed to pay for registration which would be an extra $300 dollars.

He was now asking $2300 drive away but never mentioned these fees to us prior. This made us very unhappy and reminded ourselves why we didn’t deal with used car dealers. We tried to negotiate some more without success.

Our final offer was $2000 and the dealer to pay for registration but he was not impressed so we said never mind and began to walk away. The moment he realized we were actually leaving he changed his tune. He said “wait a minute, I can do $2000 drive away for you guys and I will pay for the registration.”

We were surprised he gave in but relieved knowing that this whole buying a vehicle ordeal would soon be just a memory.

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.

4 Answers 4

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.

People visiting on a tourist visa will have no problem buying a car.

Registration and insurance are more difficult.

(Full disclosure: my company,, helps international visitors buy, register, and insure vehicles as an alternative to renting.)

Vehicle registration is regulated by the 50 US states, so there are 50 sets of registration laws.

Some states, like Tennessee, require proof of residency in the state to register a car, while others, like Georgia, require an in-state driver’s license.

We published a Free Guide that covers the international visitor’s vehicle purchase, registration, and insurance process for 20 of the most frequently visited US states. I hope it’s a helpful resource for you and your trip.

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Thinking of travelling to America and possibly doing Route 66.

Would be interested in buying a car for the journey. Do I need a fixed address to insure a car in the US? What state would be the cheapest for buying and insuring a car?

It is possible to purchase a car without being a US resident. But, you are usually required to produce a driver’s license showing an address in the state that you are making the purchase as well as show proof of insurance.

Welcome ti the TA . How long do you plan on being in North America ? What is your age ?? What will you cash-in-hand budget be . for purchase,insurance & overall trip expense . Finally, what will you do with the heap at tours end . Inquiring minds need to know . carracar

Sarah K, it can be done but it is quite difficult. It would only be worth doing if you were going to be in the USA for at least several months.

You have to think about the cost of things going wrong. If the transmission fails, for example, it might cost $2,000 or more to fix. Used cars are not as cheap as they may be in Ireland. You’d need to pay in the range of at least $3,500 to $5,000 to get one with lower mileage in good condition.

This is an oft asked question on this forum. The simple advice is to reconsider.

Basically, buying a car in the USA as a foreigner is very tricky, and involves needing ties of some nature, fixed addresses, etc that make it very difficult. Plus, you need time at the start of the trip to find a suitable, reliable car, and then presumably at the end to sell it.

You’ve specifically said you wish this car to do Route 66. Most travellers doing that route are taking about 3 weeks. The cost of car rental and ease of arranging car rental for that kind of trip and that duration are just so much easier, that’s what you should be researching and budgeting for.

If you really want chapter and verse on how to buy a car in the USA as a foreigner, and all the pitfalls and paperwork needed, we can tell you.

For tourists coming to the US, getting a car is a great way to get around, especially if you want to see the national parks. Rental, especially for younger drivers, can be very expensive, so buying a car is a good alternative. The process for buying and registering a car is aimed at US citizens and not tourists, so it is a little hard to find all the information.

How can a tourist buy a car in the US to take on a road trip, and what steps must they take?

3 Answers 3

First off, don’t let anyone tell you it’s not worth it: you can find cheap cars that are very likely to keep running for a the duration of your trip. They won’t be in the best shape, but that’s true of buying second hand cars in general. If you are under 25 years of age, car rental will be very expensive and buying is (in my opinion) the better option.

When buying a cheap car, consider the total value as lost: anything you get back when you sell it is nice, but don’t be too disappointed if you can’t get your expected money back.

1) Check out the DMV (department of motor vehicles) regulations for the state you want to buy your car in. The requirements are different in every state. Florida and Georgia, for example require that you have a drivers license from that state. You may be eligible for one, but a drivers test or additional information may be required. All requirements per state are listed on (not a government website but accurate). I personally flew to Virginia as they do not require a local drivers license. As the state is on the East Coast, I’d say it’s a great start for a road trip!

2) Find an address. This is where you’ll register the car. I asked my Airbnb host whether I could use hers. There is no risk for the address owner, but you need consent, partly because there will be mail going to this address.

3) Get proof of address. For example, Google “rental agreement example” and fill it out for your name and the address you’ve arranged. You need this proof for the DMV.

4) Get a means of payment. If you want to pay for your car in cash, you’ll need to withdraw that. I personally opened a local bank account, wired in money, then withdrew it. Just walk into any bank, and use your new US address as the mailing address when signing up. Opening a bank account takes about ten minutes. Note: the bank will not let you withdraw your wire transfer in the first week after receiving it, as the foreign bank is still able to withdraw it. Allow for a week’s margin there (this bit me!).

5) Find a car! You can go to any car dealer that you think is trustworthy enough. Try to get someone to refer you to a good one that they’ve dealt with before. The dealer will give you the title to the car. This is the proof of ownership for the car, not the registration with the state.

6) The dealership may give you temporary registration, good for 30 days, or if it’s a small dealer, they may not be able to. If they do, the DMV system will ask them for the number of your drivers license (which you may or may not have). The application will go true just fine if you just have them put in your name.

7) Insure your car before you drive anywhere. This is a legal requirement! I called an insurance broker that charges a fee to find you the cheapest insurance option (adding the name as requested: “Right Answer Insurance”. They speak English and Spanish, you can sign all paperwork electronically and they know not to connect you to insurance companies that won’t insure foreigners). Through this party (or by directly calling an insurance agency) you can arrange your insurance over the phone. You’ll be emailed a “proof of insurance”: with that, you can legally drive. Note that as you don’t have a driving history in the US, insurance might be more expensive than it is at home. Expect upward of $150/month if you are under 25 (still way cheaper than what a rental company would charge).

8) Register your car at a DMV location. Any major city will have multiple. Get in line, tell them you want to register a car, and wait for your turn. In Virginia, you’ll be asked for a social security number or Virginia drivers license, but if you don’t have either, that’s fine. The dealership has given you the title when you bought the car. The DMV will take it and issue you a new one in your name. You’ll also pay sales tax (varies per state) of a couple percent of the sales value (4% in Virginia).

9) You’ll receive the new title, two license plates and a proof of registration from the DMV. With that, your drivers license and the proof insurance, you can go on your road trip!

As requested, how to sell your car:

1) First, make sure your car can be legally sold in the state you are in. There are state by state differences. For example, if you sell to a private person in California, your car must be smog-tested.

2) The new title you’ve received from the DMV must be filled out (by you) when you sell it. Make sure you complete all the fields and the buyer signs it. People that intent to resell the car might try to have you skip fields so they can have the next buyer sign the title (with the intent of skipping sales tax). Don’t be a part of that, it’s not legal. The buyer takes the title, you take your money. If you don’t feel comfortable selling to a private person, try to sell to a dealer. If you’re about to leave the country and need to sell your car at the last minute, you can go to a CarMax (I don’t mean to advertise but this is a practical tip, and they are nation wide): they’ll make you an offer on the car and you can sell it there and then.

3) You must remove the license plates off of your car. These identify you as the owner, which you no longer are after you’ve sold it. You don’t want someone driving around pretending to be you.

4) Call your insurance company and cancel your insurance.

5) Call the DMV in the state where you bought and registered your car to tell them you’ve sold it. If you are (back) in that state, you can go hand in your plates and get a minor refund (all though I’d keep them as a souvenir!).

When to do this:

A bank account is not the only way to get a larger sum of cash. You could get the cash before flying to the US at your local bank, or use a service like Western Union. Neither of those would take for than 30 minutes. Going to a car dealer, checking out and test driving a car took me about two hours. Getting insurance took me 40 minutes on the phone. The DMV wasn’t busy, I spend approximately 20 minutes in there. If you start in the morning, the whole thing can easily be done in a day.

As for minimum trip length, I’d compare to the price of a rental car, including the fees for dropping of in a different location. Consider the budget for the car, the sales tax, and the insurance. I wouldn’t go through the trouble for a two week trip, but if you’re visiting for a month it’s worth it, in my opinion.

How to buy a car in the usa as a foreigner

My friend & I are going to the USA for a roadtrip in three weeks. (Roadtrip will take a couple of months)
I’ve been trying to dig into older threads on this forum, in order to find suitable advice when buying a car for a roadtrip.
Its all a bit confusing, which is why I created this specific topic, to get exact advice.

So – here is the deal.
I’m arriving in NYC in early september, where we will only be staying for a couple of days, until we find the right car.
Then we will be travelling to Montreal –> Toronto –> Detroit –> Chichago –> Route 66 –> LA –> And alll the way up to Seattle.

Our budget as per now, as around 2.000-3.000$ – we’re aiming to get a convertible of some type (Please let me know if thats impossible with our budget?).

Here is some of the questions I’ve been struggling with:

-Is it problematic buying a car as a foreigner in the state of New York? (We could buy the car in Chichago if that easier)

-I’m only of 20 years of age – would that be a problem when buying a car? (I know insurance is gonna kill me,)

-If I buy it in New York, will i be able to sell it with ease in Seattle (Washington)? Or could there be any problems in terms of laws etc.

-What will I need to recieve when buying a car? in terms of paperworks

This is just some of the questions im struggling with at the moment, will be post the rest, when i recall them.
Also I’d like to know if I should buy the car of domestic car-selling-company (or that would be too expensive?), or it would be better (cost-wise) to find an old beater on craigslist, and meet the seller at a automechanic to have it “tested”.

I hope there are some helpfull guys out there, who can help me/us out!

PS. Advice for cities to visit/places to go are VERY welcome!

Know about your duration of stay, the documents you need when returning back to the U.S. from abroad and how to get a work authorization card.

On This Page

  • Duration of Stay in the U.S.
  • Employment Authorization Document (EAD)
  • Travel Documents for Foreign Residents Returning to the U.S.

Duration of Stay in the U.S.

The Arrival/Departure Record (I-94) stamped in your passport when you arrived shows how long you can stay in the U.S. If the notation is:

  • A specific date – you can stay in the United States until that date.
  • “Duration of Status” (or “D/S”) – you can stay as long as you meet the conditions of your visa.

Do not confuse the notation with the expiration date of your visa.

Extend Your Stay

If you need to stay in the U.S. longer, request an extension well before your visa expires. An “overstay” can result in a denial of a future visa.

Employment Authorization Document (EAD)

If you are a foreign visitor such as an international student, researcher, or refugee, you might be able to work temporarily in the United States with an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) work permit, which can be issued to certain nonimmigrant visa holders. You will need the actual physical EAD card before you can start working. The card is your proof to an employer that you are authorized to work in the U.S.

Learn more about the Employment Authorization (Form 1-765), review the instructions and filing fee, and apply to get your EAD card.

In most cases, an EAD work permit is good for one year. If you are approved, your EAD card will be mailed to you or you may be required to visit a United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office to pick it up.

Travel Documents for Foreign Residents Returning to the U.S.

You may need additional documents to return to the U.S. after traveling abroad if:

You are a foreign citizen living in the U.S. or

You have a Permanent Resident Card (Green Card)

These necessary documents should be obtained before your trip. You can get them from United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Permanent and Conditional Residents

If you’re absent from the U.S. for one year or longer:

For permanent residents, the re-entry permit is valid for two years from the date of issue.

For conditional residents, it is valid for up to two years.

If you’re absent from the U.S. for less than one year:

No additional document is required.

Show your Green Card upon your return.

All Other Foreign Citizens Living in the U.S.

Contact USCIS and your country’s embassy or consulate for all document requirements.

Note: If you need a travel document, but left the U.S. without obtaining one, contact U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for assistance:

United States: Call 1-800-375-5283; for TTY dial 1-800-767-1833

Do you have a question?

Ask a real person any government-related question for free. They’ll get you the answer or let you know where to find it.

Last Updated: October 2, 2020

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Usually leasing requires you to have a credit history in US and establishing it takes at least a year. What options you have to lease the car without credit history in US but having employment here (eg being able to show your income)

6 Answers 6

There are brands that have special programs for foreigners:

  • Mazda (Foreign Resident Program)
  • All European brands (VW, BMW, Mercedes, Audi)

There are dealerships that might have specific programs allowing foreigners to lease (I know about some Ford dealerships).

There are special companies that can help foreign nationals get a car lease

There are offers from Hertz and other rental companies for foreigners (my personal experience: extremely expensive)

Toyota, Nissan, Honda (and their premium counterparts) are known NOT to have any offer for foreigners, regardless of dealership, however YMMW.

Note to be very upfront about your situation with the dealer and demand clear answer regarding offer not to loose time.

Have you already chosen leasing as your best option for a car? Leasing has some attributes that might not make it a great choice.

A lease is for a fixed period – usually two years. You are contracting to make monthly payments and there is no way out of that (well, repossession, but you don’t want to go there). There are also mileage limits and wear and tear limits. If you go over your mileage allowance the penalty costs can be very high.

If you’re not sure that you can commit to all that, consider buying – a modest used car can be quite inexpensive – or try a car-sharing service like ZipCar.

I used ExpatRide with great success. They can assist expats with any make or model available in the U.S. Before or after arriving in the U.S.

I got a pre-owned BMW 5 series with manufacture warranty on an Open End Lease (which means that I can break the lease at any time at little or no cost). I was afraid to lock myself into a regular Closed End Lease which is impossible to get out of.