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  1. Default Buying a car in america

    Hi, i'm new to the forums and have had a look around, i can't see this question asked anywhere else, but sorry if it has.

    basically, i'm from the uk, but am planning on doing a road trip around america with a few friends. we're thinking of buying a car rather than hiring one, as it will around a 2 month road trip, so we think hiring would cost a fair bit more than buying a cheap old one. is this really practical? and what's the deal with insurance in america? do we actually need it? from some research, it seems that to get insurance, we'd need a fixed address, which we wouldn't really have.

    does anyone have any recommendations for a good road tripping car for less than $3000? obviously we'd love a proper american classic, like a mustang or chevy or whatever, but is that feasible at that budget? and any idea what price insurance would be on a car like that for a 25 year old? we'd just want the basics to cover damage to other people/their cars probably.

    cheers in advance

  2. #2


    Hello mate,

    Done quite a bit of research, on this forum and elsewhere, and it's a non-starter unless one of your group has a full visa (ie not the standard waiver) and a fixed address...

    With that budget, you might well be able to get a long term rental, and even one-way, your surcharge wouldn't be that big. I found that Budget and Alamo seem to do the best rates... Benefits of rental especially on a long trip are the lack of maintenance required, the ability to exchange if broken or damaged, and the (relative) security of having a fixed cost. Will probably save you money on gas too...

    Cheers, and good luck!

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

    Default the bad and the good

    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    The bad news is that no, it really won't be possible to buy a car as a non-resident tourist. Getting registration, license, and insurance taken care of pretty much all require that you be living in this country.

    The other little bit of bad news is that despite the romantic images in the movies, a classic car just would be a poor choice for a trip like this. These cars were never that overly reliable in the first place, but at this point you'd either be getting an old piece of junk, or be spending thousands of dollars to get one that's been restored.

    The good news is that one of your other big assumptions is wrong. For a 2 month trip, it will likely be cheaper to rent a car! We figure the break even mark to even make a purchase worthwhile is a minimum of 2-3 months. Buying a car just isn't as cheap as it seems: You'll lose a lot of money because you'll be buying retail and selling wholesale, things like license, registration, and insurance are all done in 6 month to one year terms, plus you need money to have the car inspected and have money available for repairs if they come up (which is a near certainty on a car that costs less than $3000). On top of all that, buying and selling is a time consuming process that could easily take up a full week of your trip. Once you factor in all of those cost, and consider that you are 25 and don't have to worry about an underage driver surcharge, renting will almost certainly cost less - and you'll have a nearly new car where you won't have to worry about mechanical breakdowns.

  4. Default

    cheers for the quick responses. i've been doing more research today (busy day at the office...), and actually reading this site proper (i'm an idiot apparently, and didn't realise how to show older posts), and it does seem that buying would be a lot more hassle/expense than it's worth.

    it seems that going on a one way trip for 2 months, we could hire an oldish campervan for $2k one way, which is a lot less than i was expecting.

    so that's my next question, do you think it's better hiring a campervan/RV and sleeping in that, or hiring a normal car and staying in cheap accomadation?

  5. Default

    i should probably explain "better", i mean cheaper, more fun, is it reasonably safe, thinks like that.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    An RV can be a great choice, if that's the kind of trip you want, but it is much more about lifestyle than economy. Increased rental fees, extra fuel, and campsite fees (which with full electric/water hookups can be nearly as much as a cheap motel room) all make RV travel more expensive than car/motel trips in most cases.

    With 2 months, you might think about doing this as a round trip, and save yourself the drop fees. With that amount of time you really could do a full loop of the country and not feel rushed.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default Warning.

    How many is a "few friends"? If there is 4 or 5 of you the RV option could be a good way of travelling and could make economical sense, but it should be a lifestyle choice first and foremost. They are also safe and can be fun, the reason I say "can be" is because it will matter what your goals are for the trip. If you are looking at the great outdoors, a couple of beers around the camp fire in scenic surroundings they are great, but if you want to spend Lot's of time in big City's they can be quite a chore to get around in, but it's not to say you can't "mix it up" a bit.

    One warning, an "old camper" for $2000 for 2 months sounds either to good to be true, or really bad [old] and I would be looking into it some more. I know you can rent RV's privately but when things go wrong where is the back up and replacement vehicle ? I would expect a good reliable RV from a known company to be a minimum of $1000 per week plus one way fees, extra mileage, generator use, Bedding and kitchen kits etc.

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