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  1. Default Flashpacking Aussie buying a Car in USA for long term driving adventure?

    Hi all,

    Apologies if wrong forum, hoping some may be able to assist with my plans next year?

    I am taking a year out from work in 2013 and will be travelling around the world. I have the fortune (misfortune?) to be 37, and be travelling with a much better budget than my previous RTW trip when I was 25!

    My plan is to spend the first few months in Asia/South America, and arrive in Miami approx mid-late April, spend three months driving around the USA, and then three months driving in Canada, finishing in Anchorage about September-October. I am keen to buy a vehicle, am thinking a Toyota FJ cruiser 2007-8 model, should cost me US$20k if Autotrader is a good guide.....

    My challenge is how do I register and insure the vehicle as an Australian passport holder with no fixed address in the USA?

    I am of the understanding that I will lose some (a fair bit perhaps!?) money on the vehicle between the buying and selling from Miami to Anchorage, and have factored that in to my budget. Any challenges with buying in Florida and selling in Alaska legally speaking?

    Hopefully I have posted in the right forum and some USA citizens can point me in the right direction with my plan.

    Thanks,

    Sean

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,936

    Default First things first.

    Hi Sean, and Welcome to the Great American RoadTrip Forum.

    What you plan to do is technically possible.... if it were not for one issue.

    Your entry into the US will allow you to stay for 90 day, unless you have a visa (B1/B2 or similar). The 90 days include Canada, in so far as, you will not be able to re enter the US once you have spent 90 days in North America. So planning on spending 3 months in the lower 48, then some months in Canada, and then re enter the US in Alaska, is simply not possible, without first leaving the continent. In fact, if you arrive in LA, you may not transit through LA on your return journey, if it is more than 90 days later.

    Sorry to throw a wet rag on those plans, but they are the facts. I suggest that you get in contact with the US consulate for your State, through their website, and make further enquiries. But until you have that figured out, there really is no point pursuing your other plans.

    I do need to say one thing though.... if you bought a vehicle in the US, spent three months there, and then some months in Canada, you would have great difficulty selling it in Canada, and you will not be allowed back into the US to sell it. The only way you could do it is to fly directly into Canada, buy a vehicle in Canada, spend three months travelling the lower 48 and the remainder of your time in Canada, where you would be able to sell the vehicle, and catch a flight out. That however, will still not allow you to enter Alaska.

    When it comes to long term travel the US is simply not a tourist friendly destination.

    Lifey

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,063

    Default very very difficult

    It looks to me like you've done a fair amount of research already, because you're very realistic on the costs and challenges of your plan.

    It is extremely difficult for a non-resident of the US to register a car, especially when coming as a short term visitor exactly because of the registration and insurance issues. I can tell you that some states are easier to register the car than others, and if I remember correctly, Florida is a state where it is probably not possible because you do need to be able to prove you live in the state to register the car. Lifey is one member from Australia who did purchase a car in the US, here is her story, and I suspect she may be along at some point to offer more tips.

    Autotrader is a good point to start looking for a vehicle and is a good spot to get an idea on prices. There are typically not issues with buying a car in one state and selling it in another. The only potential problems I can think of are that you need to make sure you have the title, which you'll get when you register the car, but it might not be processed immediately and you'd have to have it mailed to you, which could be an issue in your case. The other potential issue is if you were going to sell the car in California, which has its own set of smog rules, and you'd have to make sure your car could pass their tests to sell it.

    The one other potential problem I do see with your plan involves Alaska, however. I'm assuming you're planning just to travel on the Visa Waiver Program, and not on a full tourist visa. You are only allowed a maximum of 90 days in the US under the VWP, but as I understand the rules, your clock does not restart unless you leave North America. So if you use all 3 months in the US before going to Canada, you would be likely be denied entry into Alaska later in your trip.
    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 10-26-2012 at 02:52 PM. Reason: changed link to the vehicle purchase thread

  4. Default

    Thanks to you both for the speedy replies, much appreciated. Your posts have had me searching with my friend Google (both on this site and others) and whilst mind boggling, it appears that America is not keen to have some of my cold hard earned due to the registration and insurance of vehicle for non-residents. This leads me to researching car rentals, at least it appears long term rental is possible, best rate for a SUV was through Kayak at about $3k for three months (without insurance, hoping that can be done through a travel insurance policy for the year that I take from Australia?).

    As to the 90 day visa, thanks for the thought, I am assuming that I would be ok to land in Miami, spend 90 days in USA, and then in to Canada where you can stay for 6 months as an Aussie I think? Means a change of plan for the Inside Passage time wise, not a deal breaker by any means.

    My only other thought is whether an easier for an Aussie to buy a car in Canada (I am going to hazard a guess Mexico is a no go!), off to visit my friend Google again!

    Sean

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,063

    Default

    Canada may be easier to register and insure a car, its something you'd have to research. I'm just not familiar enough with their system to even take a guess. The biggest thing is that you will have to sell the car in the same country where you purchased it. If that works out, your best bet might be to start/finish your trip in Canada, and travel into the US at some point in the middle.

    I will say that $3k for a rental might make more sense than buying anyway. I'd guess you'd loose at least that much in the costs of a purchased vehicle. However, when you factor in time in Canada, buying probably becomes the better deal.

    You shouldn't have a problem using your 90 days in the US and then going to Canada, although you will want to show you have an onward ticket from Canada to show you aren't planning to overstay your welcome.

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

    Default There are ways around it.

    Be aware that the Inside Passage is US territory, and as such, will need to be included in your 90 days.

    If you have not already committed to anything, have you thought about rearranging your trip? Why not do something like, Asia, North America, South America and back to North America. That would give you at least 6 months. In fact, it could give you more time, if you were to on at least one of those visits, fly in and out of Canada. If you wanted to still purchase a vehicle, you could store it whilst out of the country. Easily done! Of course you would have to be careful about which areas you visit in which season.

    Lifey

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
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    Default Just to clarify...

    Quote Originally Posted by Midwest Michael View Post
    You are only allowed a maximum of 90 days in the US under the VWP, but as I understand the rules, your clock does not restart unless you leave North America. So if you use all 3 months in the US before going to Canada, you would be likely be denied entry into Alaska later in your trip.
    If you enter the North American continent via the US, all your time in the US and Canada will be counted towards your 90 days, (for the purpose of re entering the US). The clock does not stop ticking until you leave the North American continent.

    I do not know if this applies the other way around.... i.e. if you enter via Canada, I suspect that your clock will not start ticking till you enter the US. But you would have to check up on that, as I have never made those enquiries.

    Lifey

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
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    10,747

    Default Sedan would be cheaper.

    it appears long term rental is possible, best rate for a SUV was through Kayak at about $3k for three months
    And no doubt a mid-size sedan would be considerably cheaper to rent over such a period of time and probably save on gas costs. A standard car will do the job just as well. Keep in mind that you are not allowed off paved/manintained roads in any rental car without breaking the terms of your contract so there is no real need for an SUV other than for personal choice.

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