See our original state-by-state research article.
Getting your hands on the car of your dreams has been hard over the past year. When you have a specific EV in mind, it may feel even more out-of-reach. For instance, there are some Karma Reveros for sale in Florida, but very few in other states. One Reddit user bemoaned the lack of Hyundai Ioniq in their home state of Ohio, and another reported picking up a used i3 in California for use in Montana. Recurrent has also found that the price difference for the same car from state to state can vary 5 or 6 thousand dollars! For instance, the average price for a 2020 Tesla 3 can go from $49.3K in Wisconsin to $55.6K in Iowa, and a 2019 Chevy Bolt is an average of $23.6K in Alabama but $27.5K in Texas.
One of the perks of online car shopping is that you can look at inventory outside of your immediate area to see more options. But what do you do if you fall in love with a car across state lines? Will delivery prices eat up any cost savings? Will you have to pay sales tax twice? What about applicable incentives?
Remember that in general, you will register and pay sales tax in your home state, so most of the rules and incentives will be based there, not where you buy the car. For instance, if you’re a Washington resident, and you buy your vehicle in a state that has no sales tax, like Oregon, applicable taxes and registration fees will be due when you go to get your Washington plates. People have tried for years to get around this, but as Ben Franklin said, “nothing is certain except [death and] taxes.”
Below are some considerations if you’re looking out of state for your next EV.
Dealers to service your car
If you live in a state without zero emission vehicle (ZEV) laws, or simply can’t find the EV you want nearby, purchasing one from another state can be a great idea. However, areas with low EV adoption often lack EV-qualified repair centers. It is worth a call around to your local service centers and dealerships to see if they will be able to help out if your EV has any maintenance issues. Many times, a dedicated EV technician is necessary, and it’s good to know who that will be in advance.
If a New Yorker wanted to get a car from New Jersey or Connecticut, it would be easy enough to take a train or cab to the car and drive it back. But what if you wanted a car from Michigan, or New Mexico? It may not pay to fly there and drive back, and if you do, the dealer may know they have the upper hand. Instead, you can have the car shipped! There is an old but good write up about shipping a car in this 2015 InsideEVs article, but we have some updated costs, too.
Companies such as Carvana have mainstreamed the idea of having a car delivered, so there are more options than ever before. While the cost of shipping a car is based on the distance between point A and point B, the cost per mile will generally decrease with distance. A typical price structure is around $1.90 per mile up to 500 miles, then $0.97 for distances 500 - 1,000 miles. We looked at a few sites to get quotes for a midsize sedan being shipped from Portland, OR to Brooklyn, NY. Most of the quotes were between $1500 and $2100, with the higher end including expedited shipping and an enclosed container.
If you’re buying a new EV, many of them qualify for a federal tax credit of up to $7500. The exceptions are Chevys and Teslas, both of which have exceeded the 200,000 sales limit from the original incentive, but there is hope the cap on sales may be lifted in the coming year. This credit will appear when you do your taxes at the end of the year, and the amount you get back may be determined by your tax filings. Note that this incentive does not apply to used sales.
State and Local Incentives
In addition to the federal incentives above, there are many statewide and municipal incentive programs that you can look into. Remember to look at incentives in the state where you register your car. However, in rare cases, there are point-of-sale rebates open to non-residents. Usually, you will need to present proof of residency, such as with New York’s Drive Clean Rebate. Local utility companies also offer incentives for EV chargers and charging. These are generally based on your residency, but you can also reach out to them to ensure that purchasing an out of state vehicle won’t render you ineligible.
What Qualifies as an EV in Your State?
One of our teammates bought her PHEV out of state. When she returned home, she learned that “my 17 mile battery didn't make the cut for WA's state incentive (it requires 30 miles of battery power), which I didn't discover until too late.” The takeaway: check what qualifies as an electric vehicle in your home state before banking on an incentive. Some states, like California and Washington, have strict definitions.
If you live in California, which has more strict emissions standards than the other 49 states, you should verify that any out of state vehicle can be registered.
Another good question posed on Reddit is how lemon laws apply to cars purchased out of state since these laws are generally state by state. Lemon laws are protective rules that give consumers recourse when a vehicle is defective or unrepairable. In some states, lemon laws cover any vehicles “purchased, leased or transferred” or “presently registered in the state.” In this case, you may be able to appeal to a state’s lemon laws if you bought it there, even if it is registered somewhere else (or registered but not purchased). In other cases, the lemon laws only cover vehicles purchased or leased in state.
Battery and Range
If you’re thinking about any EV purchase, local or out of state, new or used, take the time to consider what sort of range you need. Is this your only car? An around-town car? Will you regularly be using it for longer trips? Particularly if you’re shopping for a used EV, you should look into Recurrent’s one-time vehicle reports to get insight about range degradation and range predictions. If the car you’re looking at is across the country, you can enter your zip code to see what that range translates to on a map centered around your location. Check out the screenshot below to see and then head to Recurrent to learn more.