How to Buy a Car if Your Family Lives in Alaska
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Are you relocating from Michigan to Alaska?
Cars are a way of life in Alaska, especially if you have a family. The Alaska state government says that there are 82 passenger vehicles for every 100 citizens in the state, compared to just 75 per 100 in the rest of the country. Also, Alaska has nearly 74 drivers per 100 citizens, whereas most of the nation has only two-thirds. Cars are a necessity in most of the state of Alaska, but buying one isn’t always that easy.
Car Shopping in Alaska
Roughly half the state population lives in the three cities of Juneau, Anchorage, and Fairbanks. This trio of population centers is also home to most of the major car dealerships in the state. You might be able to do traditional car buying in these locations and then drive home with your new vehicle, provided where you live has ferry or road access and connections to these places. Some parts of the state don’t, and others get blocked off seasonally.
The other way to do your car shopping is online. You can look up local dealerships, but you can also look up private sellers, online dealership listings, and even vehicles from out of state that you could have shipped in.
Buying from outside the state opens up many more possibilities. You might find better deals by casting a wider net. However, you would also have to factor in shipping costs, which are higher than usual due to Alaska’s location and geography.
If you can buy a vehicle in the state, then you face no state-level sales tax. Anchorage and Fairbanks don’t charge their own sales tax, either. However, many smaller municipalities might charge taxes or fees of their own based on the model and year of the car. Depending on the vehicle in question, this might run you from $50 up to $150.
The state will require title, registration, and plate fees. These are usually under $200 for passenger vehicles under 10,000 pounds. Car insurance is also required, but you might also need to have that in place already for a vehicle you have shipped in from another state if you buy that way.
Shipping a Car in Alaska Is Different
Handling Alaska auto transport is a very different matter than it is in the Lower 48. Many people in the continental United States can just reserve a spot on a car carrier fairly quickly. However, moving anything in the state of Alaska takes a lot of planning. The capital city of Juneau isn’t accessible to the outside world by road, and many locations in the state have seasonal limitations on how you can get in and out. The transport driver is going to need more time and will go through potentially complicated routes to move vehicles. This means it takes longer and costs more money.
Winter is the longest season in most of the state. Anything north of the Arctic Circle will see the sun physically set for months on end, so being able to drive in these conditions is crucial in any corner of Alaska.
Certain cars tend to do really well in such conditions. Many people select Subaru models for their ability to handle the climate and terrain, but there are other good choices. The 2019 Honda CR-V and 2020 Kia Telluride both have options for all-wheel-drive and heated seats. Also, the 2019 Mazda CX-9 has over 9 inches of ground clearance.
Keep things slow anytime you drive in winter weather. Also, keep a longer than normal distance between you and any vehicle in front of you. Clear any snow off of your passenger vehicle before you start driving as a safety consideration both for yourself and other drivers. Also, keep a means of contacting someone in the event of an emergency, be it a smartphone or CB radio.
Hard, Not Impossible
Depending on where you live in Alaska, car buying might be hard to pull off. However, it’s not impossible. Whether you can buy in your local market, drive home from one of the cities, or just have one shipped to you, be sure you get something that is resistant to rust and can handle the winter climate in your part of the state. Having 4WD is another option to strongly consider.
*This article is based on personal suggestions and/or experiences and is for informational purposes only. This should not be used as professional advice. Please consult a professional where applicable.