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  1. #1

    Default Buy or rent a car for road trip?

    My friends and I are in the early stages of planning our road trip in the US (we currently live in Australia), and were wondering would it be cheaper/better to rent a car for the whole time we are travelling (at least 2 months) or buy a cheap-ish car when we get to America and use that instead? (not sure if trade-in after the trip would be an option?)

    What sort of price would we be looking at for buying a car, preferably used? Would a larger vehicle be more appropriate if there are 2-4 people + our luggage etc?
    Any advice I can get that's relevant to this would be appreciated! Thanks :)

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin

    Default lot of variables

    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    The best choice for you will depend upon a lot of factors, including the amount of time you will be here, your age(s), and the kind of car you are looking for.

    In very general terms, 2-3 months is roughly the break even point for a purchase car vs a rental car. However, if you are under age 25, the fees for a rental car go up significantly, and if you are under age 21, getting a rental car can be virtually impossible. The kind of car you are looking for will also play a small role in the decision.

    If you do decide to buy a car, you should know that its not an easy process for a non-resident to buy, register, license, and insure a car in the US. There is some additional red tape that can be tricky to overcome. There's no specifics on exactly how much you'll need to buy a car until you have a better idea about why kind of car you'll be looking for, but I think as a general rule, $4,000 is about the lowest I would be looking at for a car to be used on a major cross country roadtrip. You might be able to get about half of that back at the end of the trip, but you'll also need to have some money set aside for repairs and other costs that come with owning a car.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Western/Central Massachusetts

    Default Welcome!

    Welcome to the RoadTrip America Forum!

    This is a topic that comes up very often on these forums.
    You'll find some recent threads on this topic here, here, and here.

    Finding a vehicle that will be comfortable for four people for two months shouldn't be hard, since the trend now is towards smaller vehicles (so more larger vehicles are being sold).

  4. #4


    Sorry about delay in replying
    Thanks a lot for your advice =) we probably wont be going on the trip til we are around mid twenties anyway (its just a crazy dream at the moment haha), so hopefully that issue of younger drivers will not be a problem.
    Thanks again for clearing a few things up.

  5. #5

    Default State law rules

    Hello Aimee,

    I would add the general comment that registering, insuring, etc, a motor vehicle in the US is generally a process administered by each of the 50 states, and each state is free to change its rules and procedures as they see fit. The result is quite the "moving target", meaning that information you may generate today might not be applicable a year or two down the line.

    If there are procedures for Federal registration and insuring of automobiles, it's news to me.

    Best of luck,


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