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  1. Default Hiring a car vs a minivan

    Hey guys, this is my first post on these forums, but I've been doing a lot of reading.

    So here's the deal-my girlfriend and I are planning to do a road trip to the States (we are from Australia) around August/September of next year (2011), for roughly 6 months. My initial plan was to try and buy some form of a minivan/conversion van so that we could sleep in it, however that plan has gone out the window now that I have realised you need proof of a US address.

    So after looking on adventures on wheels, there are a few choices to be made. Do we lease a conversion van from them (not sure about cost-they haven't got back to me on that one), or do we just lease/rent a car to take us around, and we stop off and camp at a camping site/trailer park, or just rock up to the nearest hostel. Out of those choices, which would be the most cost effective, in your own opinion?

    Any response would be appreciated!



  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Cost Effectiveness

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    Renting a small RV, full-sized van, or van conversion almost never makes sense for a group as small as 2. For example, I did a quick cost check for a month long rental out of San Francisco airport and found that you could get a mid-sized car for a shade over a thousand (U.S.) dollars, while a full-sized van would be over $2,200 and a compact RV would start around $2,600. You could also get a minivan for around $1,500 but then you have to figure out what to do with at least two sets of seats if you want to sleep in it. Also, if you plan to go the van/camping route you'll have to add the cost of a camp site, around $20/night or $600/month, and you have to add in the extra cost of gas to move the larger vehicle down the highway. So, you're looking at at least double the cost to go van camping vs a small sedan. That $1,000-1,500 difference per month will get you some very nice (but still modest) motel accommodations for which I generally budget $60-75 per night. But you can quite often do better, in the $40-50 range. The ultimate low cost travel method is to get a relatively low cost tent and a couple of sleeping bags when you arrive, throw them in the trunk (boot?) of the car and set up/take down a camp site each night.


  3. Default

    Thanks for the reply!

    I have been starting to come around to the option of renting a car. We don't really need that big a car, just enough to fit a couple of backpacks, and maybe a few incidental items along the way. I guess it's time to start researching cheap rentals then..

    Would the cheapest form of a rental be to lease a car for 6 months? And are there any other companies that do cheap rentals apart from Adventure on Wheels?

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default First things first.

    Maybe I will see you on the road, that is when I will be over there next.

    First question .... are you able to get a six months visa? Tourist visa's are now rarely issued. It is the visa waiver program, for 13 weeks, which you will most likely be issued. (If you have family in the USA, you may be able to apply for a B2 visa, which will allow stays for up to six months. But that would not cover your girlfriend.)

    Sleeping in a conversion van can be a great way to go, but I doubt that you would want to in Aug or Sep, especially not if you are travelling in the south. Though the northern States can get very hot as well. It would be most uncomfortable; and leaving the windows and doors wide open would not be safe. I'd go with a car and tent. There is no shortage of great camping areas, especially in State Parks and Forests.

    For two of you hostels may not be the most economical, as it is often possible to pick up a cheap motel for less. Remember that in hostels you pay per person and in a motels per room. On the other hand, in a hostel you have access to a kitchen and other activities and information.

    Lifey who might see you on the road

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default Adventures on Wheels

    AZBuck, you will find that going through Adventures on Wheels, the cost is significantly less than renting from conventional rental companies. And they have conversion vans in which sleeping is possible. No need to remove seats. Neither do they have an under age surcharge.

    Lifey who investigated them for her needs

  6. Default

    Thanks Lifemagician,

    I was unaware of how hard it was to be granted a 6 month visa..Given that I wouldn't be working at all, and we are from Australia, how likely is it that we would be able to get one? I'm unsure of any of the procedures of obtaining a Visa, but I sort of assumed it would have been a formality for someone like myself to have got one.

    How long before the trip should we be looking at getting a Visa?

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default Priorities

    When travelling anywhere overseas, the first thing to do is make enquiries about entry conditions and visas. That goes for all countries you wish to enter. Check on the internet or in your local phone directory, and contact your closest US consulate. After you have the information from them, then - and only then - do you start to plan your trip.

    From my experience, you need to write them a (snail mail) letter after downloading the form from their site. They do not accept phone calls at all, and from memory, will not accept emails. (They still live in the dim dark ages!) Neither are you allowed to go to their offices unless you have an appointment. They are not the friendliest organization to deal with, but it is the only way to get through immigration on arrival.

    Lifey who does like some things about the US
    Last edited by Midwest Michael; 03-01-2010 at 12:21 PM. Reason: Good Neighbor Rules - Lets stay away from political statements

  8. #8


    Hi Blako... I thought this might be useful to know, if you are still interested in the initial idea of buying a used car or minivan which i believe would save you a LOT o fmoney.

    Did you know you could get an International Licence in several agencies here in the US, with a proof of your personal aquired liscence from your own country? I mean, if you ever get stoped (and i would suggest you are extra careful so you avoide this at all, just in case), some cops, might be like, well, this is an international licence and i dont care about it, and might take it away, and tell you not to get on that car again. This would be the worst case scenario, but they won't send you to jail or give you a ticket or anything, cuz obviously you're a tourist so they wont ake a big deal about it, then you would rent a car or something, but even to rent a car, you need some kind of licence, this is where the ionternatinal licence would come in handy, too. But honestly, you shouldn't have any problems on driving your own car with an international licence....i belive it would save you more money for those 6 months. Google about getting international driving licence in the US to get more info.

    I hope this was useful. =)


  9. #9
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    An international driving permit is not required here unless your home license is not written in English. Your Australian license is valid for the duration of your stay. If you do want to get one, you cannot get it here, you must get it in your home country before you leave.

    You can very easily buy a vehicle here, but without a verifiable residence you generally will not be able to register and insure it.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin

    Default not accurate

    Sorry Luz, but a lot of your info just isn't accurate.

    First, an International Drivers License really isn't a license at all. It doesn't do anything but provide a translation of your home country's license. With an Australian license, it really isn't needed for travel in the US.

    Second, a cop isn't going to take away a license and tell you you can't drive again because you have an international license - and if they attempt to do so, then you'll be delayed for a day until you can go before a judge who actually knows the law. These things are regulated by international treaty - which many local cops may not be familiar with.

    Third - as has been noted on this forum many many times, purchasing a car in the US as a non-resident is virtually impossible, because without living here it is virtually impossible to license, register, and insure the car - all things needed to legally drive it. And if you are driving a car without those things, then don't expect to be saved because you're a foreign tourist, in fact, that could make your situation worse.

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