Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 10 of 18
  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Location
    Bucharest, Romania
    Posts
    8

    Default America for Europeans

    Hello everybody!

    I've been to the US several times, and had great road trips with rental cars. But this year will be different! I will spend three months in San Francisco, CA, so I am planing to buy a car instead of renting one.
    The problem is that I am not an American citizen, I do not have an address in the US and I am not willing to wait one month for the paperwork to be ready so I can use my car. On the other side, I want to be 100% legal, meaning I do not want to "stretch" any law.
    I could use any piece of advice you can give me, thanking you in advance for that!

    Cristian

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,064

    Default

    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    What paperwork are you waiting for that will take a month to be ready?

    If your three month visit brings you here on the Visa Waiver Program, then there is no good news. Simply put, it is nearly impossible to purchase a car and then also get the license/registration/insurance/etc while here as a short term tourist.

    If you are here on a longer term visa, then you should find it easier to purchase a car, but as part of that you still are going to need some sort of address in the US.

    My advice is based on what you've said to this point, its quite possible you'll be better off renting anyway. The rule of thumb is it generally takes 2-3 months to "break even" on a car purchase vs. a rental, and even if you can get the paperwork taken care of, you'll easily need to spend a week or two of your time dealing with all of it, as well as the other time consuming elements that come with purchasing a car.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Location
    Bucharest, Romania
    Posts
    8

    Default

    Thank you for your reply!
    I have a J1 type visa for the US, but I am not sure if this will make any difference.
    I am not waiting for any papers, I was just presuming that it might take a while to sort things out. I will have an address in the US, but it will be something like a hotel or rental, I am not sure if this will work.
    Considering renting a car, from my experience I know this can be very expensive ( I usually rent from the airport). Can you suggest a better option? Anyhow, my first option for this moment is to buy. Thanks again!

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,064

    Default

    Well, with a visa you should at least be able to establish how long you are allowed to be in the country, which is an important step in most states to getting a Drivers License. While you can legally drive on your home country's license, to purchase a car you'll need a state DL to purchase a car in a more practical sense.

    That also will usually require some proof of address, so even if you can show you are staying at a hotel for some period of time, that would likely be helpful. You'll really have to contact California's DMV to find out what the requirements are. You'll likely also have to take a drivers test, both written and on the road.

    There's no magic to getting a good rental rate, other than to shop around. However, while renting might seem expensive up front, many people really underestimate how much it actually costs to purchase a car. You're going to need at least a few thousand dollars to get a car with any sort of reliability. You'll have taxes, registration, and other fees which will add a few hundred more to the cost. You'll have insurance, which you'll likely have to purchase in at least a 6 month, if not a year long, term which means another thousand dollars or so. And when you sell the car, likely at wholesale because you'll have a hard deadline when you have to leave, you can easily lose half of your original purchase price. Plus, with a car that only costs a few thousand dollars, you'll likely be buying something older with high miles, which means you've got a higher chance of needing a repair, which then comes out of your pocket, not the rental car company's. None of that factors in your lost time, which could easily take up a week or more.

    As I mentioned, At 3 months, you're close to the break even point. But if you think renting a car is expensive, I suspect you've overlooked a lot of the costs of ownership.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,271

    Default

    You can do it on a J1, but as said, it's going to be time-consuming and expensive.

    In order to get a California driver's license, you will need your BD/LP (birthdate/legal presence) document valid for 60 days or more that was issued by Immigration. You will need a Social Security number - this requires a visit to a SSA office. You will need to take a written and vision test, and you will need to rent a car to take a driving test with. Due to the economy and the fact that the state of California is essentially bankrupt, the DMV offices have cut way back on their hours and the lead time for appointments to take the tests is pretty long.

    I do NOT know if you are required to get a California license to register a car - you MAY be able to do it with your home license (and an International Driver's Permit if your home license is not in English). Contact the California DMV to find out about this.

    You cannot register a car in California if it does not have a smog certificate issued in the past 90 days. The annual registration fee can be expensive for newer cars. I think my sister is paying close to $600 a year for her 2008 model car. You will have a difficult time reselling the car without a current smog cert.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Location
    Bucharest, Romania
    Posts
    8

    Default

    Thank you both for your comprehensive explanations. It seems that buying isn't such a good option after all... I didn't imagine that things are so complicate in the US. In most European countries you can own a car without having a driver license, and no one will ask for your DL when buying a car, new or sh. If your car is inspected, registration takes about 30 minutes and you can drive away in your new car...
    I will most likely search for a good price at some rental companies, maybe you could provide some tips here also. I've been to LA two years ago and paid about one thousand dollars for 9 days in a Ford Escape. I think this is way too much!
    And maybe one last question: if I find some sort of friend or colleague who has a car in the US, could I drive it legally for three months?
    Thanks again!

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,271

    Default

    A Ford Escape is a SUV, and those are always considerably more expensive to rent than a small car. If you are under the age of 25, there is also a daily surcharge. There are also insurance costs. Some people have reported that they can get better deals when they arrange the rental through an agency in their home country before they leave.

    You can legally drive any car with permission as long as you have a valid license from your home country and an International Driving Permit. However, there are insurance and liability issues, the car owner is ultimately responsible if anything were to happen.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,064

    Default

    $1000 for any car rental for a week seems outragously expensive. The SUV element of it certainly going to raise the price up somewhat, but I'm thinking you must have had several "extra" fees like, underage drivers, one way drop-offs, and extra insurance.

    There are lots of places to search for rates, I just used Kayak as a quick and dirty starting point.

    Just doing a quick search for a random week long trip in San Francisco in and the most expensive SUV that came up was only $600 including tax. Several were available for $300 or less a week, and if you went down to a small sedan, you'd be looking at about $100 a week.

    As GLC mentioned, borrowing a car is an option, but the person who owns the car is putting themselves at a fair amount of risk. If you were in an accident, their insurance rates would go up, and if it was a major accident that exceeded their coverage limits, they can and likely would be held financially responsible to pay the bill.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Location
    Bucharest, Romania
    Posts
    8

    Default

    I am not underage, i am 34 and hold a professional drivers license, although this is not my job. The rental I was talking about was indeed one way to Las Vegas, with absolutely no extras. I had a Suburban XL in San Francisco this year for about the same price per week. While I am alone I can drive a small car, of course, but if my family will join me for some time I need something bigger.
    Just reading again your previous posts it is more and more clear that buying is not a reliable option for me...

  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,064

    Default

    The Suburban, being such a massive vehicle, I find that more understandable that you paid that much, but it's still very expensive even for the that kind of vehicle.

    Even with a family, you should be able to comfortably fit everyone into a mid-sized to large sedan, for a fraction of the price of an SUV.

Similar Threads

  1. Coast to coast this summer(two Europeans)
    By Peter mirkovic in forum Planning Summer RoadTrips
    Replies: 6
    Last Post: 05-31-2010, 02:56 PM
  2. Europeans looking to travel NC, SC, GA etc
    By C**L in forum Spring RoadTrips
    Replies: 2
    Last Post: 01-06-2009, 09:04 AM
  3. Three Europeans: NY to LA
    By SimonG in forum Planning Summer RoadTrips
    Replies: 5
    Last Post: 02-12-2008, 03:52 PM
  4. Europeans in need of help... :D
    By ellinorah in forum Planning Summer RoadTrips
    Replies: 2
    Last Post: 06-28-2007, 12:06 AM
  5. Replies: 0
    Last Post: 01-29-2001, 06:58 PM

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •  
  • Find the Perfect Hotel
    Search RoadTrip Motels
    Enter city name

    Loading...



  • MORE STORIES