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Thread: Coast to Coast

  1. Default Coast to Coast

    Hi there,

    My wife and I are in Boston, about to launch ourselves on a great roadtrip across country. We're from New Zealand, although my wife is American-born and we're off to live in San Fransisco for a while. Exciting, but also a little scary.
    We're now confronting the realities of buying a car in a few days time. We're planning to head up to New Hampshire to buy, to make the most of the fact it doesn't have sales tax. We're thinking Concord or Manchester... Anyone know the best dealers there or can advise where to go? And is around $8000 a reasonable amount for a car to make the trip? We're planning to head up into Maine, then turn around and head south through - roughly - Penn, Virginia, Tennessee, Louisiana, Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, California... We've got 6-8 weeks.
    I've read some of your other postings and tips, but would value any advice you could offer on car-buying for such a long trip... What official paperwork will we have to complete? How hard will it be to get insurance? Given my wife has a US passport, will that make it simpler? And will we be able to 'borrow' my brother-in-law's address in San Fran as our own?
    Also, we've looked online for an indication of accommodation costs, and just keep hitting hotel chains - Best Western, Super8, Ramada etc... And they're all $60-$130/night, which is more than we hoped (can afford!) to pay. We're after motels, rather than hotels, which from a NZ viewpoint means a humble room more around the $30-40 mark and perhaps with a kitchenette or at least a stove or a microwave in the corner so you can cook something yourself. Do such things exist here?
    Hope you can help...
    Thanks heaps in advance,

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default How Do You Pronounce Maori?

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    I used to live in New Hampshire many, many years ago, but I never actually bought a car there! I do remember how easy it was to get registered, etc. But that was because I was a resident of a particularly small town and tags, license, and taxes were taken care of over coffee and danish with the town clerk. Anyway, in your case, I wouldn't go all the way to Concord or Manchester, but would go to the first city over the state line, either Nashua or Portsmouth. They should both have enough car dealers that you can do some comparison shopping, and the dealers there should be used to dealing with handling the paper work for out-of-state purchases. Having a US address and a US citizen should make this a lot easier.

    $8000 should be more than sufficient to get you a car capable of crossing the continent. But since you will have no recourse once you start on the journey, plan on spending a few hundred dollars to get any used car thoroughly inspected by an independent mechanic before purchase. Any reputable dealer will understand and agree to this. Insurance is a relatively simple matter which you should arrange before you purchase the car. Check with a local agent or on-line. Rates and coverages are going to vary enough that you're going to have to do some leg work to find your best deal and any specific advice I give you would be almost useless.

    Unfortunately, the 'motels' that you are used to do not exist in the US. $30-$40 really is the low end of the market here and usually won't get you much more than 4 walls and a bed. Microwaves and small refrigerators are becoming more common in the medium-priced ($50-$70) motels that I frequent, but still are not de rigueur. If you're looking for something other than the standard chain motels, then you should consider joining AAA and getting their TourBooks which list a lot of stand-alone motels and their amenities, and also requires that they meet certain criteria for listing.

    Last edited by AZBuck; 09-08-2006 at 10:20 PM.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Washington state coast/Olympic Peninsula

    Default Budget for tires, too!

    I have a feeling that a used car might not have the best tires. And I really wouldn't trust the dealer to throw new ones on for you. Could be re-treads, for example. I would budget the money for new tires before your trip. If you're lucky, you won't need them but best to be prepared.

    As for hotels...some chains, like Motel 6 and Day's Inn, often have hotels for around $40/night as long as you are not in a metro or touristy area. You can go directly to their websites, just google the name of the chain, and get more info. You can also stop at any of these and pick up a free guidebook to their locations.

    I agree that AAA would be a great resource for your long trip for their free maps/guidebooks, discounts, and road assistance services if needed. Check 'em out. You might want to join the California one since that's where you'll be living.

  4. Default thanks

    Hi guys,

    Just wanted to drop you a note of thanks for your advice. My wife and I muddled through. Lots of hiccups, but we've made it onto the road. We bought our car in Concord, NH. An immaculate wee 2002 Honda Civic 4-dr auto with 57,000m on the clock for around $9500. Good deal from Lovering Volvo there, and lots of friendly help. WE were able to get around 8 or so car yards in two days and spent both evenings doing lots of online research. The page was really useful comparing car types, prices, features etc.
    The major hassle came with registration and insurance. We could get 20 day plates, but were planning to spend 40-odd days getting to CAlifornia. Could we get hardship plates? No. Could we get California plates over the phone/email/fax? No. We tried DMVs in both states... In the end we had to go with 20 day plates from NH. But the DMV there says we can re-register and get another set of 20 day plates down anywhere along the way... Then we hit insurance trouble. My wife is a US citizen, we could use her brother's Ca. address for residency... but neither of us had Ca. drivers' licences. That was the sticking point with the big insurance co.s. WE had clean NZ licences, great track record with NZ insurance co, my wife even had a Ca. licence 8 years ago... but nothing doing. But thanks to some help from a woman at allstate we got put onto a smaller co who would take the risk. WE did't have much choice by that stage, and the price is horribly, horribly high ($800). AND we have to be in Ca. in 30 days. That's as long as the insurer will cover us... Ouch.
    Still, we're away and have already seen parts of Maine we could never have reached on public transport.
    Thanks for the heads up...

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin

    Default Thanks!

    Thanks for posting your experience.

    The topic of visitors looking to purchase a car in the US is frequently brought up on the forum. It will be nice to have your experience as a reference point for others in similar situations.

  6. #6


    Well that's a great story...

    I have a thread about getting coast to coast and have been weighing up options too as you know so it was good to see what finally worked for you. I was kind of getting thrown with the 30 day thing too - as like you I aim to be on the road for more like 39 so it's a bit of a pain.

    Also, I am blessed with having a CA driver's licence and credit card, but I actually want to pay for stuff on my UK credit card (or else my dad gets hit with the bill...which may be no bad thing) ha ha. Just kidding.

    I plan to hit Maine after time in CT and MA so I'll look forward to your tips for that part of the world.

    My itinerary is coming on nicely.

    Take care and safe travels you two.


  7. Default

    Hi there!

    Sounds like you had a good adventure!

    Your story is very much like what I am trying to set myself up for. I will be arriving in San Francisco to buy a car in late November, to drive to NYC. Insurance is the thing I'm concerned about too. I'd love to get some more info from you if that's possible!


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