When you come to the US, and want to get a car, it is a nightmare because you probably don't have any credit history.
I have summarized some options. Hope this helps.
Buying a new car in cash
If you have enough cash in USD, you can of course do this. But be aware that paying for car lease or finance is one of the best ways to build your credit scores, so keep that in mind that you will not be able to leverage your credit score if you do this.
Buying a used car in cash
As mentioned above, buying in cash will not improve your credit score. So be aware of this. However, you may be able to find good deals on bulltinboard sites like vivinavi (in Japanese https://sanfrancisco.vivinavi.com/ ) where expats who are returning would like to release their cars.
Buying a new car as lease
This will help you build your credit score. One of the most popular cases especially for Japanese expats to get a lease deal is at the Toyota Sunnyvale. There is a person called Nobu Ishihara, who can speak Japanese and can help you.
Another company which can help is IAS. They specialize in expats in getting cars, so it may be worth talking to them.
Buying a new car as finance
This will help you build your credit score. I have not heard any expats who has done this (most of them do leasing), because usually the expat benefit only applies for leases. But I heard that some German and Japanese car dealership do have such financing programs for expats w/o credit score, only if they were to submit the original employment contract and prove that they are financially secured. IAS mentioned above can also help you too. Hope you find one and if you do, please let us know!
Buying a used car in finance
Same as the case for financing new cars, need to find a right dealer who can provide financing even without credit history. Good luck and let us know!
The new trend is coming for car ownership. One of the known one in the Bay area is Canvas( https://drivecanvas.com/ ), which is run by Ford. They provide lease terminated cars, so usually few years old, but good enough for day to day driving. It even includes insurance, which is the biggest difference compared with buying it.
However, Canvas does also require credit check. So a newbie to the US will probably not qualify. But there is good news for a work around. This is their CS
If you have any further questions, you can talk to Martin Tamrazi from Toyota Sunnyvale.
His contact information is below:
We require all applicants to have a valid US driver’s license with a good driving history, in addition to having sufficient credit history in the U.S., being over 21 years of age, and able to receive and return their car at a location that we serve. While we're unable to accept primary drivers without meeting these qualifications, we accept secondary drivers without running a US credit check or with an international license and a valid passport. In order to qualify as an international additional driver, neither of these documents may be expired. If you know someone else who is willing to sign up for a car through Canvas who has a credit history, have them apply for a car and request to add you as an additional driver. It's also important to note that the person who signs up for the car will assume sole financial responsibility for the car, which includes being present for both the delivery and return of the car. However, an approved additional driver will be fully covered under our insurance and can even use their credit card for payment for the car.
Currently we do not offer corporate accounts, as the primary driver has to be the one applying for the car.
In any case, if you can find someone who is willing to take the liability as a signer, this could be a good option.