worst states to buy a used car

What are the Worst States to Buy a Used Car?

Steer Clear

Did you know there are major differences across the United States when buying new and used cars? You’ll be surprised to discover there are tremendous variations in both price and availability, meaning that it’s often worth traveling outside of your home state to find one.

In this article, we’ll explore the five worst states to buy a used car in the US. Read on to discover more about the states with the worst fees, taxes and inventory before finding out our top tips for sourcing an affordable vehicle.


The Magnolia State of Mississippi is the 34th most populous in the country and gave the world Elvis Presley. But you may be surprised to learn that it also has the most fatal car accidents out of all the 50 states. This indicates that road safety in Mississippi is worse than in all 49 other states. It ranks highly in relation to the number of smaller-scale crashes, too.

Because of the frequency of both fatal and minor accidents, used vehicles here are likely to be more damaged when they come to be sold. Smaller-scale crashes happen frequently in Mississippi, leaving bumps and scratches. Many of these vehicles end up on sale, meaning that you aren’t likely to find the best quality used cars you should strive for in this state.

Other states with more frequent fatal and minor crashes, which indicates car damage is more common, include Wyoming, Arkansas, South Carolina and Montana. The best states for buying a used car are Massachusetts, New York, Washington DC and Hawaii.


California is one of the worst states to buy a used car in the US because of its limited inventory. It has very few new and used cars for sale, when compared to other states. Orlando, specifically, is one of the worst cities in the country when it comes to new and used car availability.

The issue is that people there tend to keep their cars for longer than in other states, meaning that the inventory is poor. It also means that used cars for sale tend to be older than used cars for sale elsewhere.

The state of California also charges customers more for used cars than most other states. The average used car will cost you as much as US$5,000 more if you buy it in California than in other states such as Vermont and New Hampshire.


Florida is a bad choice for prospective used car buyers due to the high fees that exist there. In fact, unlike in other states, Florida has no law to prevent car sellers from charging extortionately high documentation fees. This means that, in theory, these fees can be any amount because there’s no cap. You can expect to pay as much as US$1,000 or more on top of the cost of the vehicle.

Like in California, the state of Florida has an issue with vehicle supply, too, resulting from car owners keeping their vehicles for longer.


The law in Iowa insists that used car sales are final. This means that buyers don’t have the right to change their minds as they do in some other states. Car buying in Cedar Rapids or any other part of the state is a fixed agreement and, therefore, isn’t advised for those who desire the legal right to change their mind.

The state of Iowa also has one of the higher sales tax percentages when purchasing a used car. At 5%, it’s much higher than states like Colorado at 2.9%, Alabama at 2% and Alaska at 0%.


Kansas is far and away one of the worst states to buy a used car. That’s because of the big 7.5% sales tax they impose on used car sales. The tax means that if you purchase a used car for US$10,000, it will cost US$10,750 with sales tax added. Add documentation fees to that, and you’ll pay much more than you initially expected.

The price of a used car in Kansas is also significantly higher than in most other states. While cheaper than states including Montana, Alaska and Wyoming, you’ll find cheaper second-hand vehicles in Maryland, Missouri and Michigan.

Tips on Finding an Affordable Used Car

Buy from reputable companies. Websites like AutoNation are renowned for having legitimate quality vehicles. Look here next time you need an affordable second-hand car.

Be prepared to travel. Travel to a nearby state where used car costs are lower if it’ll save you money overall. Don’t forget to factor the cost of gas into the equation.

Do the math. Remember to add the cost of the car, documentation fee and sales tax together to establish where you can find the best price. Don’t make choices based solely on any one of these three costs. Remember that while a car in New York might be cheaper than one in Washington, DC, the difference in fees and taxes might make it more expensive overall.