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  1. #1

    Default Visitors - roadtrip USA - buying a car..?!

    Hi there,

    This is our first ever post on Roadtrip America - we've had a look around the forums and thought it would be a good idea to post our issues/questions here as well. Even though we have viewed threads that describe situations very similar to ours, we though it'd be good to see if anyone can give us thoughts on our particular situation.

    Here it is :-)

    We are a 23 year old from the Netherlands and a 30 year old from the UK - we're coming to the USA to road trip from mid-July until end-September (10 weeks). We have not yet decided on a route, and if we are doing a total round-trip. We're sure we'll figure it out in time though, all we know for now is that we fly into and out from New York. We've also started the Visa (-waiver programme) process, and are sure this won't be a problem either. We are also aware that we should get International Drivers Permits because we want to drive.

    Now were we get stuck is the following:

    We would like to buy a car for our road-trip, rather than hire a car.
    There are a couple of issues for us which really seem to make buying a car more sensible; one of us is 23 years old and hiring a car is very difficult when not 25 or over - it is not an option for only 1 of us to drive, we have done this before on a 10 week European road-trip and it is not very fair for the one person having to drive absolutely everything. Further, we won't have to worry about fees for crossing state-borders with hire-cars, or fees for dropping it of in a different city. We can sell the car afterwards, and get a fair amount of our expense of the car back.

    Nevertheless, if anyone can inform us of reasons why hiring will be better (I could imagine; breakdown service, replacement car in case of issues, insurance dealt with), please please please let us know - we understand that we are coming at this from a one-sided perspective (i.e. buy not hire), but it would be great if you feel it is necessary/advisable to hire rather than buy, that you can try explain this to us.
    **Also if you have tips on hiring a car from a company that allows under 25 year olds to drive too, please let us know!

    We have no bad marks on drivers licenses, 30 year old had had a license for 12 years or so, but the 23 year old for about 2 years (will hire companies ask for how long you have had your license??)

    Now about buying; we have found out that you need to register the car and insurance in the state where you buy it (preferably..?). We have a contact in New York who has approved for us to register the car at his address, which is very friendly of him. Does anyone know if this will cause any problems - us not being US citizens or residents, but effectively claiming to reside at this New York address..? We also have a friend and a cousin of one of us in the USA, but they live in California and Texas - so we are not sure if they could be of any use, if we buy the car in New York state?

    Further, car insurance - does anyone know if it is possible to buy an insurance policy for a 10 week period (as regularly, for example here in the UK, you purchase a year's worth of insurance at once)..? Are there legal minimum-cover guidelines for car-insurance (3rd party liability, breakdown etc. etc.)?

    Are there any other legal requirements for taking a car on the road in the USA?

    Gosh, we are sorry this is already such a long post - we really hope some of you on the forum will be able to help us with this.. We are on a budget and hire is just very expensive for 10 weeks (+ the age issue).. So any help on this would be greatly appreciated!!

    Thank you so much for reading this post!!

    Cheers, Dede and Keir!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    Each state's DMV regulations are different. Generally, there is a residency requirement or a "lawful presence" test. It would be difficult to prove either on just the visa waiver program. The only success we have heard of here is from people who are here on longer-term student or business visas and have a verifiable US address, and getting a US drivers license makes it a lot easier - or from people who have relatives or friends living here that are willing to put everything in their name and accept the responsibilities.

    Insurance is generally sold in 6 month blocks, and legal minimum requirements vary by state. It is difficult and expensive to obtain with no US driving record.

    Buying a car that will be roadworthy for a 10 week trip isn't cheap, and you have no guarantee whatsoever of being able to resell it in a timely manner when you are done with it. Odds are that you would not get anywhere near as much for it as you paid for it - and the difference could be in the thousands of US dollars.

    Bottom line, for a 10 week trip a rental is going to be the least hassles. I've heard that you may be able to get the best rates by booking them in your home country, I've also heard that you may be able to get the young driver surcharge waived that way. Generally, they won't ask how long you have had your license, but if they do have that requirement it should only be for 1 year.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    Quote Originally Posted by dedekeir View Post
    We can sell the car afterwards, and get a fair amount of our expense of the car back.
    It might seem that way on the surface, but I think when you get into, you're going to find that the cost difference isn't nearly as great as you might think.

    The reality is, since you're going to be in a time crunch to both purchase and sell the car, you're going to end up paying retail and selling for wholesale. The difference between the two can easily be a couple thousand dollars.

    When you factor in that depreciation, along with the taxes, registration/license fees, insurance, and potential repair costs, you typically need to be on the road for 3 months before you break even with a rental. You're close to that, and with an underage driver, it may be a little cheaper to buy (if possible at all), but the hassle factor is going to be much higher.

    I do mention the "if possible at all" because despite this topic coming up quite frequently, we haven't heard from anyone whose had success purchasing a car while visiting on the visa waiver program. Having a friends address in NY could help, but generally you need to be able to prove that you actually live there to get a drivers license, which isn't possible to do when you're on a short term visa. Without a US license, its virtually impossible to register the car or get insurance. You're going to need to contact the NY DMV directly to find out what the requirements are to get a license and register a car, as the first step to seeing if its possible.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    Here are the requirements to register a vehicle in New York. Note the various requirements.

    This is the form to prove identity. It appears that you are going to have a difficult time coming up with the required 6 points.

    The site will have similar pages for all the other states.

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