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  1. Default Planning my first roadtrip. Coast to coast!

    Hello !
    I'm new around here, and to road trips too :)

    I'm planning a ~50 days C2C road trip with my girlfriend.
    We are both 21. We decided to purchase a car and then resell it at the end. We live overseas so I guess the insurance will be quite expensive? Our overall budget is between 7000$ to 9000$. We will manage do lodge most of the time for free (family friends and couch surfing).

    We will begin from New York City (for about a week) and finish in Los Angeles.

    The plan for now contains : (can't really say how many days at every spot, the short stays are noticed though)

    NYC
    Boston
    White Mountain National Forest (1 day, returning to Boston)
    Buffalo (1 night)
    Niagara Falls (1 day)
    Cincinnati (1-2 days)
    Nashville
    Memphis
    Clarksdale (not final)
    Jackson Mississippi
    Mobile Alabama
    New Orleans
    Oklahoma City/Wichita (1 night rest on the road to Denver)
    Denver
    Salt Lake City (not final)
    Las Vegas (2-3 days)
    Grand Canyon (1 day, returning to Vegas)
    San Francisco
    Sequoia national park (1 day)
    Los Angeles
    I have a few questions which I hope you can help .

    - I want to buy a used car in Boston, what should I pay attention when buying one? How should I prepare the car for the ride? Does a 10-15 years old car will do the job? I'm planning to spend around 1500-2000$ including repair if needed for the car, and resell it afterwards for a few hundred bucks less. Am I dreaming ?

    - I'd LOVE to hear from you guys some places along the road I never mentioned (National parks, attractions,nice cities, and anything to do with some nice music milestones) . I'm not that familiar with most of the places around there.

    - Are 50 days enough time to be everywhere?

    - I'd like hear if the southern part of the trip is good enough (Nashville to New Orleans). I don't really know what I'm missing and mostly picked the major cities around the area.




    Thank you very much!
    Best wishes,
    T_w

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,271

    Default

    Welcome!

    In order to buy, register, and insure a car here, you need to be on a business or student visa - not a tourist visa or the visa waiver program - and you need to have a verifiable US address.

    The only possible way around this that we have heard about is described in this thread.

    You are also going to need something better than a $2000 car for a trip of this scope.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,936

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by T_w View Post
    - I want to buy a used car in Boston, what should I pay attention when buying one? How should I prepare the car for the ride? Does a 10-15 years old car will do the job? I'm planning to spend around 1500-2000$ including repair if needed for the car, and resell it afterwards for a few hundred bucks less. Am I dreaming ?
    The short answer is 'yes!'

    I could not think of a more expensive place to purchase anything... let alone a car.

    But first things first. glc has pointed you to a thread which may help. It could well be worth changing your plans. But you might have to rethink your budget.

    Another avenue you may like to consider is Adventure on Wheels.

    Lifey

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,749

    Default

    Hello and welcome to RTA !

    I think I am right in saying that it is unlikely a 15 year old car bought on the East coast would pass the strict emission tests in California and you could end up paying to have the car scrapped. Not sure if there is any age of vehicle related exemptions or not. [?] Your biggest hurdle though will be to actually purchase a car as a non resident and if you get around that, trying to find a reliable road trip vehicle in a short space of time with a very limited budget won't be easy. You can't put a price on a car "including repairs" as the engine or transmission could blow and your budget would be out the window and your plans ruined. It's one of the risks where you have to weigh up the Pros and cons.

    As for planning your trip, get a good map [if you haven't already] and use all the resources that RTA has to offer. As well as the forums there is the Map centre, routes, Attractions and much more in the tool bars above. Check out the nps.gov Website for all the info you could want on the National parks. As you build your trip and specific questions come up, just ask and we can help to fill in the blanks.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,064

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    Quote Originally Posted by Southwest Dave View Post
    Not sure if there is any age of vehicle related exemptions or not. [?]
    There are exemptions for "classic" type cars, however, a car that's 15-20 years old won't qualify. If memory serves, they basically have to be grandfathered in, thus at least 1970's if not earlier.

    But to the larger point, the plan just won't work. The idea of being able to buy a car for $2000, have it be roadworthy for a major cross country trip, and be able to sell it for just a few hundred dollars less only works on paper.

    Beyond the paperwork issues that basically make it impossible for any non-resident to buy a car, the key reason such a plan won't work is time. There are road worthy cars out there for $2,000, but it takes a lot of work to find them. You'd have to have at least a few weeks available to search out such a car. Then on the backside, you'd need a good amount of time available to sell it for a retail price. As a tourist, you've got a limited amount of time where every day you are looking for a car is a day you can't continue with your trip, and at the end, you'll have to get on a plane on a specific day, so you'll have to sell the car for whatever price you can get - which will typically be a wholesale price that could easily be less than half of what you originally paid.

    Sorry to tell you, if you want this trip to get off the ground, you're likely going to need a whole lot more money than you are thinking - and renting will most likely be your only real option.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
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    Quote Originally Posted by Midwest Michael View Post
    ... and at the end, you'll have to get on a plane on a specific day, so you'll have to sell the car for whatever price you can get - which will typically be a wholesale price that could easily be less than half of what you originally paid.
    Half a dozen times now, I have stayed at the same hostel in LA - both on my arrival and before my departure. And every time there has been a good collection of cards on the hostel notice board. The majority of these are 'cars for sale'. I have never bothered asking how many are actually sold, before their owners need to leave. But going by the number for sale, selling a car in LA is not necessarily going to be quick, nor fetch the sum you are hoping to recoup. And that is at only one of the many hostel in LA.

  7. Default

    Hello again and thank you all for your comments !


    Well, First of all my girlfriend has an American passport, and I'm traveling with the visa waiver program.
    We have some family who can possibly help us with purchasing the car in advance, so there are no too much paperwork and time to be wasted.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lifemagician
    I could not think of a more expensive place to purchase anything... let alone a car.
    Are cars in Boston really that expensive comparing to other places?
    I'd be possibly able to purchase a car at Cincinnati, and continue from there. Is that a better idea?

    Quote Originally Posted by Lifemagician
    But you might have to rethink your budget.
    You mean just because of the car? Or it won't be enough even with a cheap car if I'm lucky to grab one.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lifemagician
    Another avenue you may like to consider is Adventure on Wheels.
    From a quick look on their website I understand they require a US driving license, so it is not really possible.


    Quote Originally Posted by Southwest Dave
    I think I am right in saying that it is unlikely a 15 year old car bought on the East coast would pass the strict emission tests in California and you could end up paying to have the car scrapped.
    Do I have to pass emission tests only when willing to sell the car?
    I guess you're right and a 15 year old car can't survive this trip, but maybe a car from 2000-2004 could be okay for that? I saw some within the price I mentioned more or less.

    Quote Originally Posted by Southwest Dave
    You can't put a price on a car "including repairs" as the engine or transmission could blow and your budget would be out the window and your plans ruined. It's one of the risks where you have to weigh up the Pros and cons.
    I guess the insurance should cover those kind of things right? I know it's not for free but even with a 5000$ car you can have an accident and blow your budget and trip plans..

    I started to look in the RTA attractions and MapCenter, it seems really helpful . Thanks !


    Quote Originally Posted by Midwest Michael
    Sorry to tell you, if you want this trip to get off the ground, you're likely going to need a whole lot more money than you are thinking - and renting will most likely be your only real option.
    Well, renting is apparently impossible due the age restrictions and taxes. A low cost rent will be around 2000$ if I'm really lucky.
    Btw, how much should I consider for the road tolls ?



    Thanks again! I really need these comments to rethink about the general plan.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
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    I guess the insurance should cover those kind of things right? I know it's not for free but even with a 5000$ car you can have an accident and blow your budget and trip plans
    No.
    Insurance will cover accident damage but not mechanical failures. With any car bought on a budget and in a hurry, to take immediately on a long road trip could possibly increase the chances of a major mechanical failure. It hopefully wouldn't happen, but if it did you would be facing a huge repair bill, lost time with the possibility of having to try and rent. It's not all 'doom and gloom' and everything could work out well, it's just a case of having all the possible scenario's to consider when deciding what is best for your trip.

    At 21 years of age you can rent a car but will be facing daily 'young drivers fees'.

    A low cost rent will be around 2000$ if I'm really lucky.
    I think you would be really lucky to pull this off, but even if it were $3000 is buying a car worth it ? If you were to buy a car for $2000 plus registration, insurance etc, [?] [plus it would probably burn a lot more gas than a modern day rental car] I think I would feel better having the reassurances that come with a rental and just be able to relax and enjoy the trip.

    If you do successfully buy and make the trip we would love to hear about the experience. We get asked about this a lot here, but have never had anyone say they have gone ahead and done so on their own.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
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    Melbourne, Australia
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    Are cars in Boston really that expensive comparing to other places?
    I'd be possibly able to purchase a car at Cincinnati, and continue from there. Is that a better idea?
    I have no experience with Cincinnati. All I can say, I have travelled over most states, and in Boston everything is more expensive than I find in most places. As a rule of thumb getting away from the east and west coasts, things tend to be cheaper. However, I have not checked out car prices in particular, I am just going by everyday purchases. I do however notice, that when you go on some of the second hand car lists, Boston along with the major cities on the east coast, stands out.

    The bottom line really is, that from all the feedback, and the experiences of many on this site, buying a car for anything less than three months is really not cost effective. Taking all costs (and risks) into consideration, a rental vehicle comes out on top with both price and peace of mind.

    Here is another avenue you could explore....

    You do not mention where you reside, but it has been reported on this forum several times by roadtrippers from Europe that they have been able to arrange car rental at very competitive prices in their home country. Some even without the young driver surcharge. Why not make enquiries locally.

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

    Default Mising the bigger picture

    I admire the fact that you are focused on finding a way to make things work, however, I think you are missing the larger points as to why your goal of buying a car just isn't realistic.

    Quote Originally Posted by T_w View Post
    Well, First of all my girlfriend has an American passport, and I'm traveling with the visa waiver program.
    We have some family who can possibly help us with purchasing the car in advance, so there are no too much paperwork and time to be wasted.
    From a quick look on their website I understand they require a US driving license, so it is not really possible.
    Two very big things you need to keep in mind.

    One, without a US drivers license you can't purchase a car and/or get insurance either. If you're ruling Adv. on Wheels for that reason, then you can also rule out purchasing a car.

    Second, expecting your family to basically do all the dirty work of purchasing a car is also not a very reasonable idea. They might be able to help you with some aspects, but ultimately, you'll need to be there to complete the paperwork, and frankly, picking out a car and making sure it is both suitable for a major cross country trip, and comfortable and practical for your use is not something you can really expect someone else to do for you. In other words, your time savings would be minimal.
    Do I have to pass emission tests only when willing to sell the car?
    If the car doesn't pass emissions, it is basically worthless to the person who bought it until those issues are resolved. That's why passing a smog test is generally required before someone will actually be willing to buy it.

    I guess you're right and a 15 year old car can't survive this trip, but maybe a car from 2000-2004 could be okay for that? I saw some within the price I mentioned more or less.
    If you've found a car that's less than 10 years old for less than $2000, there is a reason for it. The fact is, you are going to get what you pay for, and any car that is available for that price is likely nearing the end of its usable life and will likely need significant repairs at some point during your trip.
    Well, renting is apparently impossible due the age restrictions and taxes. A low cost rent will be around 2000$ if I'm really lucky.
    A low cost rental may cost you $2000 with underage fees, but you'd be getting a nearly new car and would not be responsible for mechanical problems.

    Purchasing a car will almost certainly cost you at least $2000 when all is said and done, and it could very very easily cost you more. And that's before you factor in the costs of your time and the lack of comfort driving an old beat up car.

    I'm sorry, but you're not the first person asking for help in this regard, and while your girlfriend could probably get past the legal problems since she's an american citizen (although it will take more of that limited time), financially, it really just doesn't make sense to even try to purchase for a trip that's less than 2 months long.

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