As the next chapter in my ongoing “So I want an IS300 or a Euro brick wagon?” saga, I’m considering the likelihood of buying a car that lives a great distance from where I live (Austin, TX if you must know). Given that I’m looking for something of a unicorn - a 2004 or 2005 IS300 SportCross in blue, black or gray with 100k miles or less - it’s highly possible it’ll be in Flagstaff Arizona.

Regardless what Amazon has done to our collective shopping habits, I don’t buy so much as a lunchbox sight-unseen. There’s absolutely no possible way I will buy a car that costs $8,000-9,000 without at least one person I trust giving me a thumb up, and preferably a complete mechanic’s workup. Here in Austin we have a company called Auto PI who will check out cars for both local and distance transactions. But if the car I find is in Miami? How do people do it?

I could fly to wherever and drive the car back. What I can’t have happen is I fly to Raleigh, North Carolina, see the car, and decide to not buy it. That would suck. Not as badly as buying it, having it shipped, then deciding there’s something catastrophically wrong with it.

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Anyway, I’d love to hear from folks about their long-distance car buying experiences.

I’d also like to hear about auctions. Might that be a viable alternative to Autotrader and Craigslist?

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