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  1. Default Visiting USA! Traffic and speed limits?

    I'm going to visit a friend in Florida around new years, but I have never driven in america before..

    I'm 18 yrs old and live in Norway, I found some rental car companies that would rent cars to me even though im only 18.
    But I have never driven in America before, so there are two things i need answered before I go..

    1: I like road trips, and found out that it is cheaper for me to fly to New York and then rent a car and drive to Orlando, FLorida than just fly all the way down. And I thought it might be fun since it's in a new country and i kinda enjoy driving! I saw on google maps that the trip would take 16-20 hours each way with various traffic, I have never driven for this long before so I was wondering if there are any people on this forum that have taken one of these kinds of road trips and can tell me if it'll be worth saving a lot of money on? Will it be kinda "fun", or will it be hell on earth?
    (Sub-question): Google maps told me to keep I-95 all the way down. Is it best to always stay on the interstate, or could it be smart to go on to the US-routes that run parallell to the freeway when traffic gets high?

    2: I have some problems when it comes to speed limits in america..!
    Where I come from (Norway), there is a special speed limit system that goes like this: If you drive inside densely populated areas, the speed limit is automatically 50 kilometers per hour if there are no speed limit signs. And if you drive outside densely populated areas, the speed limit is automatically 80 kilometers per hour if there are no speed limit signs. Though this rule does not apply if there are physical speed limit signs on the road. This rule exists for several reasons, one of which is so there wont be a need for physical speed limit signs everywhere.
    So if i enter a rural highway in the "woods" in Norway, there won't be a speed limit sign since the common rule is that im supposed to drive 80 kph there since its outside a densely populated area.
    Is there a system like this in America too?? Or will there always be speed limit signs on all roads? I checked on google maps, going foot by foot on a freeway from an entrance to check for a speed limit sign, and I failed to find one after checking several miles along the road.. So in what speed would I have been supposed to go in here after entering the freeway??

    Thanks a lot in advance for answers!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Ft. Collins, CO.


    You should really check the rental costs carefully. A one-way car drop charge could be pretty big.

    Google driving hours are always fewer than actual hours on the road. The calculation assumes you travel at the posted speed limit which is not always possible (likely not possible for the portion around Washington DC) and that you never refuel, eat, or take a break. That trip is at least 2 full driving days.

    You are proposing to travel one of the most crowded corridors in the US. That might not be very fun. (current East Coast folks can comment here.)

    Residential areas are 25 mph unless otherwise posted. Divided highways are generally 55 mph or greater unless posted. We're pretty good at posting the limits just about everywhere. Watch for them to change without obvious reasons though. Interstates (with the shield shaped sign and a number such as I-95 ) are at least 55 mph. East Coast probably doesn't go above 65 mph but out in Wyoming the speed limit is 80 mph on some sections.

    Parallel US routes will be more scenic but in most cases not as fast as interstate. If the US route is faster that's the sort of thing that only local people know about.

    Whatever you do - you'll have an adventure! Welcome! Please leave all your money here before you go home!

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


    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    Are you sure that the rental car companies will rent you a car at age 18 will allow you to do a one way trip to Florida? Most companies that do allow people under 21 to rent have significant geographic restrictions, and don't allow one-way travel. Even if they do allow one-way travel, there is typically a large extra fee to do so.

    Also, when you say that it will be cheaper to drive, are you factoring in the underage driver fee - which is typically about $50 per day for someone under 21 - that goes on top of your rental charges, and the above mentioned one-way fee. Have you also factored in the cost of fuel and motels?

    Really, flying is almost always cheaper for a solo traveler, and that's before the extra costs due to your age. There can be an enjoyment factor of driving, but when you say you think it would be cheaper to drive, I suspect there are a lot of fees and costs you haven't factored into the equation.

    I will tell you that google travel time estimates are a pure fantasy, especially in this part of the country where traffic headaches are just a fact of life. There is no place in Florida where you can get to in "just" 16 hours from New York. There also is no place in Florida that you can safely drive to from New York in just 1 day - at least one overnight stop is mandatory if you want to be a safe driver.

    It's rare for there not to be any speed limit signs in the US - and you will always find them on Interstate Highways. Typically, speed limit signs are posted right after the entry ramps, and of course, they will be posted in miles per hour. Most of the Interstates you'll be driving on will have a speed limit of 65 or 70 mph. Outside of the Interstates, the speed limits will be similar to what you are used to. City streets typically have a 25 mph limit, and rural roads are typically 55 mph, unless otherwise posted - although things can vary a bit from state to state.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Some Driving Basics

    Velkommen! Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    First of all, congratulations on finding a car rental firm that will let you, as an 18 year old, have a car. The one thing that I will warn you about is that I am aware that New York does require firms to rent to 18 year olds, but that doesn't mean that you are free to do whatever you like with the car. I would strongly urge you to examine the fine print on your rental and make sure that you are not restricted to driving only in a very limited region around New York City. The same goes for the cost of the rental. Check closely for under-age surcharges, one-way drop off fees, mandatory insurance, fuel costs, etc. before you assume that such a rental will be 'cheap'.

    Next, computer-based mapping routines are quite accurate on their mileage estimates, but notoriously inaccurate in their driving-time estimates. That's because of the outlandish assumptions that they make such as that you will always drive at or above the speed limit; that you will never need to stop of fuel, or food, or to go to the bathroom; that you will never get behind slow moving traffic; that you will never enter a construction zone; that you will never get tired, etc., etc., etc. The drive from New York City to Orlando should be measured in days, not hours. It is a two day drive if you just stick to I-95 and make no stops other than minimal food, fuel and bathroom breaks the entire way down. If you want to take a more scenic route, then you're looking at three days. If you want to spend time seeing things, hiking in the mountains, or relaxing on the beach, then plan on four days.

    Speed limits in America are always posted. That's because highway laws are a patchwork of state and local regulations. We have no national highway laws - just recommendations to the states. It would be unusual, but not impossible for there not to be a speed limit posted very shortly after an entrance onto a freeway. If you don't see one, just travel at the same speed as most other traffic until you see one. If you're passing more cars than are passing you - you're going to attract police attention eventually.


  5. Default

    Thanks guys! No, unfortunately i haven't checked everything that will cost extra on this trip... But I am actually willing to drive for a long period of time, even if it's more expensive than flying! I'm thinking the trip would probably be an "experience" and something new, and I believe I would think it will be kinda fun! (Big picture). I called a rental company in New York, I said I was 18 years old, and she said there was no problem for me to drive across states to Florida.

    And I guess I forgot to mention that i was planning to drive both ways, both down to Florida and then back to New York later, where I would drop off the car at the same location I picked it up.

    I have some follow up questions for you if that's not too much to ask! :P

    A 2-day trip from NY to FL with either a couple motel stops where I get a couple of hours sleep, or a full-night motel stop, and then stay in FL for 2-3 days, then drive back again to NY with the same kind of motel stops, would this simply be too much? Or is this something that can be done without problem if being on the road is not a big problem for you? (I will ofcourse also stop for bathroom breaks and meals on the trips).
    Because as I said, I like driving, but I have never driven this far before. And I hope it's not that far that I will stop along side the road half-way there and start crying because it's simply too far for a person to handle? (over-exaggeration intended)..

    Norway is so different when it comes to traffic, the largest freeways you will find here are the ones around the capital, and they are only 2 lanes in each direction! And everyone drives manual here too, so i have always driven manual! So when I rent an automatic in america, i'm guessing that will make the trip easier than what im use to, too.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Ft. Collins, CO.


    2 hard days of driving followed by 3 days of relaxing vacation followed by 2 hard days of driving.... I think the 2 days going back to NY will feel more like punishment than adventure by the time you get there.

    The ease of driving an automatic won't be enough to offset the long days of driving. If you are really, really glad to be driving automatic it means you are probably stuck in a traffic jam and not moving very quickly so - maybe you'll be driving 3 days instead of 2?

    If Norway doesn't have heavy, fast traffic, then you probably aren't accustomed to those conditions. So you will be spending a lot more energy per hour dealing with the roads and traffic than you are used to now. The first day leaving NY will be a tough one.

    I drive a lot and have made many long trips. But the area near NY would force me to mentally prepare myself for battle and endure it to the end. Dense traffic, aggressive drivers, less than wonderful signage etc

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    Stopping for a couple hours of sleep wouldn't be an option for a trip like this. It is two full days of driving each way, and you need a full night of sleep along the way to recharge and be a safe driver.

    I don't think you'd find your proposed trip to be much fun. The 2 hard days of driving involved sticking to the Interstate on the busiest freeway in North America. Sitting in a car for 12 hours at a time, plus quite possibly even more time sitting in traffic, for 4 out of 7 days just isn't much fun, even if you enjoy driving. The timeline you're talking about don't really give you time to take any scenic detours or explore things along the way.

    I don't think you'll find driving is all that much easier with an automatic. I guess when you're stuck in traffic it's nice not to have to deal with a clutch, but if anything, when I go back to an automatic (my roadtrip vehicle is a manual), I miss being able to control the shift points - and really when you're cruising down the interstate, you're rarely shifting anyway.

    I do have to ask which rental car company you're looking at using. Most of the major chains will not allow you to do what you're proposing, certainly not without a huge extra fee. There could be some smaller rental agencies that would allow it, but then you also have to consider what will happen in the unexpected event that you have a car problem hundreds of miles from their location.

  8. #8

    Default I-95 from NY to Florida at New Year's

    I live in Raleigh, NC and have occasion to travel parts of I-95 in NC and VA on a regular basis. The time period between Christmas and New Years Day is normally one of the most heavily traveled times along I-95 between New York and Florida. This year, with New Years Day falling on a Thursday, I expect the heavy traffic season will last through Sunday, 3 January 2016.

    As mentioned above, its most likely that driving on US Highway routes more or less paralleling I-95 would find somewhat less traffic but would involve slower posted speed limits, many towns, stoplights, etc. Even with heavy traffic, I-95 would likely be faster than any alternative.

    I would fully expect to find not a single, solitary segment of the drive from NY to anywhere in Florida to be of an "open road" nature at that time of year. Instead, I'd expect bumper-to-bumper traffic, running 80 mph for a few miles, slowing to 40 mph, sometimes coming to a complete stop, then back to 80 mph once again, for the entire 1,000 miles or so, with no really obvious reasons for why it speeds up and slows down so much. I find it infuriating. As much as I hate flying during the Holidays, I hate I-95 traffic, especially between NY and about Richmond, VA, much more.

    Generally speaking, I-95 features posted speed limits of 70 mph from Richmond, VA all the way to NC, all the way across NC, SC, GA, and into FL. Enforcement is generally lax, as it becomes problematic for law enforcement to detect and stop speeders within a mass of vehicles all doing the same thing (which once again is 80 mph, 40 mph, stop, 80 mph).

    And yes, you'd definitely need a full night's stop. You will crave one after dealing with I-95 all day during the Holidays.


  9. #9


    Welcome to RTA Forum.

    Let me end the speed limit dilemma. Make your first stop after renting your car at an electronics store, like Best Buy, and invest in a GPS. I prefer Tom-Tom, but Garmin is good, too. Make sure it is put on a in-store computer to get the very latest updates to the maps, and buy a beanbag mount for it. Now you have a device to route you and give you the posted speed limits, plus it will monitor your speed and tell you when you exceed the limit. Voila! Problem solved.

    I agree that two days is the minimum for your drive to Orlando, but I would avoid the I- 95 corridor. Instead, take I-78 to Harrisburg, PA, and then I-81/I-77 through Virginia, North and South Carolina to connect to I-95 down there. It will be a little more miles and time, but the Shenandoah Valley is much more scenic, and you will encounter much less traffic. If you want different scenery on the return to New York, maybe you can use I-95 then. You'll be more used to our traffic patterns by then.

    I hope you have a great trip.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default May not be an exaggeration.

    As mentioned above, if you are renting in NY as an 18 year old, you will almost certainly be restricted to the State of NY or a small part of that State. I have had several young visitors tell me this. I would agree with everything said above about I-95, the need for good rest and sleep, and the need to really check the fine print. When it all adds up, you may find that the driving is much more expensive than to fly. There is the rental, the under age fee, the night(s) in the hotel/motel. Then the same on the return trip. Add them all up and you may find you have twice the cost of a return ticket..... and less time to enjoy FL.

    And I hope it's not that far that I will stop along side the road half-way there and start crying because it's simply too far for a person to handle? (over-exaggeration intended)..
    I know you were exaggerating, but it could well end up that way. My first day driving in the US, I had planned to go from LA to Bishop in CA (less than 300 miles). By the time I got to Ridgecrest (look it up on the map), I could take no more, and checked into a hotel..... and sat..... and cried!

    A hearty meal and a good night's sleep saw me ready next day to continue, in the full knowledge, that no matter what others say, if you are not used to it chances are you simply will not cover the distances others say you will. I quietly added another day to each trip.

    One thing I like about the cars in North America. Not only are they all automatic, you will find almost all the cars have the speedo calibrated in both miles and kms, although of course the speed signs and the odometre are miles only.


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