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  1. Default British Students Gap Year Please help West to East

    Hi so a friend and I are taking a year out before we go to university and we wanted to do something big with it. After much discussion we decided that we would both love to do an American Road trip but being 19 year olds and not from America, we realised it would be extremely difficult. I have a few questions that i would really appreciate some help with.

    Just an idea of what we plan to help you in answering my questions, ideally and maybe a bit naive/foolish of us is that we want to go from the west coast to east coast and end in Florida, (where we have a vacation house), we do not have any time constraints in wish we have to accomplish this in, so no problem there. Do you guys think its too ambitious? What kind of cost am i looking at? Baring in mind we do not want to live in luxury and if possible most sleeping and what not will be camping ideally and extremely cheap motels and the like. After we arrive in Florida we will be staying and the trip in total will be around the 6 month mark.

    Now on to the most obvious tool to a succesfull road trip, a means of transport. Now obviously all (as far as i am aware) car rental companies require you to be 21, which we arent so we decided that was out of the question. Therefore the only option which remained for us was to buy a used car and sell it at a loss at the end of the trip, which will not be at the end of the road trip because we are staying in America in florida for as long as we can afford, ideally 6 months! Now as im sure i will get told this provides numerous complications. Firstly and most importantly Insurance, now i've done a bit of research concerning this. Correct me if im wrong but i believe you have to have a permanent address which you are staying/living at to have insurance.
    1) Does this only apply to Americans and can Foreigners not get insurance at all? 2) My parents do have a vacation home in Orlando Florida which is completely ours so i sort of hoped i could use this for an address to get insurance... Is this possible?
    3) If getting insurance is possible, what kind of price are we looking at?
    4) What price are we looking at regarding a used car which will survive cross country?

    Any other tips or advice you have is 100% welcome and wanted.

    I have more questions but before i pursue them, i would love to just find out if the trip is even possible.

    Any help would be GREATLY appreciated.

    Thanks, Lucas.
    Last edited by lucas1910; 01-13-2011 at 03:04 PM.

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

    Default red tape

    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    "Gap Year" trips in the US are extremely difficult and you've touched on a few of those reasons. Here are the major issues you'll have to overcome before you can even get your trip off the ground.

    First, to do a 6 month trip, you'll both need to get full tourist visas, as your plan would be far too long to qualify for the visa waiver program. My understanding is that getting a full visa is a rather time consuming process. This is the first step you'll need to overcome.

    Second, there are far more challenges to purchasing a car than simply getting insurance. For practical purposes, you will also need to get a drivers license. Its perfectly legal to drive on a British License, but you won't be able to register the car, get license plates, and yes, insurance without one.

    Getting a drivers license as a non-resident is extremely difficult to impossible. You do have a big advantage in that your parents own property in Florida, and that will likely give you an advantage - if you buy the car in Florida. Having an address in Florida will be of no use if you want to buy a car in California.

    The good news is that Florida does have a process for non-residents to get a license, but it requires a lot of paperwork, you'll find that here, including two documents proving that you actually live at the address provided (such as a utility bill). If you can get through all that, you should actually be able to purchase a car, and get insurance relatively easily.

    Of course, then you'll have the expensive parts. I'd say for a semi-reliable car you'll need at least $5000 up front. You'll need at least $3-4k for the car alone, and that will typically buy you a 10 year old car with more than 100,000 miles. Insurance for any 19 year old is going to be very high, and that's going to get worse since you don't have a US driver record. I wouldn't be shocked if you needed $1000+ for a 6 month policy. Plus, you'll also need a couple hundred dollars more for taxes, title, and license fees. You'll also need to have funds available to pay for repairs that may come up along the way.

    You will likely be able to get some of that money back when you go to sell the car, but since you'll have a hard deadline when you have to leave, you'll likely find it difficult to get a good value for the car and will likely have to sell it for at or near the wholesale price, which can easily be half or less of what you paid initially.

  3. Default

    Thanks a lot for the detailed reply!

    The prices for insurance you stated do not seem to bad, in comparison to what im paying over here in Britain currently and mine is fairly cheap compared to other people i know, which can get up to 3000 pounds roughly $5000 for a year. But as you said there are far more things to think about than just insurance...

    It almost seems more trouble than its worth. Any advice on alternative methods rather than travelling by car? Obviously it would not be as much of a road trip, but id like to see as much of America as possible, as ive only really seen Florida and bit of California, mainly the very tourist orientated areas.

    The reason i wanted to do it by car, is that freedom to stray off the highways and discover the real America away from the cities. But that dream is seeming less likely until im old enough and rich enough for that matter to be able to rent a car.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    As I mentioned before, Gap Year trips are difficult in the US because it is extremely difficult to solve the transportation problem.

    Getting a car is nearly impossible, because purchasing as you see is difficult to impossible, and renting is usually not an option, and in the rare case where it is, you're looking at a charge of $50+ per day on top of the rental fee.

    Meanwhile, Mass transit is difficult at best. Bus and train service is available, but the destinations are limited, especially if you want to go to places in rural areas like National Parks. And while most cities do have mass transit options to get around town, only a handful have a system where it is really quick and easy to get around (others you'll spend hours just trying to travel a few miles).

    You're not the first to propose this kind of trip, but we rarely have good news for those in your situation.

  5. Default

    Hmmm... Well thanks for all the help. My friend and I are going to need to have a s serious think.

    I'd be lying if i said i wasn't a little dissapointed, but then i'd also be lying if i said i didnt expect it.


  6. Default

    I know you want to go on a road trip but I'd consider checking out Amtrak. There are quite a lot of different routes and I'd imagine you could get to Florida from California. Perhaps take the California Zephyr which stops in Chicago: .

    Then take the City of New Orleans route: .

    Then from NOLA to Orlando you could rent a car for a shorter amount of time. Or maybe even rent from Chicago and drive to Orlando. This way you can do a half train, half road trip.

    It's not ideally what you want but traveling is often about making compromises and making the best out of things. Certainly don't count out train rides. They can be quite enjoyable.

    Best wishes. Don't give up on your dream!

  7. Default

    Seems like a good alternative, thanks!

    However how does it work, when you buy the ticket for say the california Zephyr, are you able to have the freedom to stop wherever you want along the way? If so how long for?

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    Not exactly. You need reservations and a ticket to board any Amtrak train. A USA Rail Pass may be helpful.

  9. Default

    I always thought that you could get off and catch the next train going in your direction (though it could be hours and hours before one comes). I must have been reading something wrong.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    Sure - but all segments must be reserved and ticketed in advance. You can't just get on a train and show your pass, you need a ticket.

    Do I Need Tickets and Reservations?

    Yes. Your USA Rail Pass is not a ticket. When traveling on a USA Rail Pass, you must have a ticket and a reservation for each train you board. You must make reservations and pick up your ticket(s) before boarding any train.

    Reservations for train travel should be made as far in advance as possible; seats available for USA Rail Pass passengers are limited on each train. We do not recommend waiting until the day of departure to make your reservations since there is a greater chance that seats allocated for the USA Rail Pass may not be available on your desired train. If your plans are not flexible, non-USA Rail Pass seats may be available at an additional cost.

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