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  1. #1

    Default 3 Months roadtrip - costs?

    Hello everyone,

    New to this forum so I hope i'm on the right page.

    I'm French, currently working in Canada, and I'm trying to plan a big USA roadtrip for summer 2016 (thinking of starting in mid - June and finishing up in mid-September). My starting point is South-East Wisconsin, and that would be where I end back up. My plans are to buy either a station wagon or a van. Plans are to camp when possible, and to use motels in bigger cities (with the odd hotel to enjoy some cities a bit further). I'm not entirely sure of how much money, on a daily basis to save. I've estimated around $160USD should be sufficient, however I'm not entirely sure. I love hiking and sightseeing, hence I'm doing lots of national parks, as that will also allow me to save money on camping. However, I also want to visit Museums, do some rafting in Grand Canyon, and those types of activities that are sort of deemed "must-do's". My budget is around 15k's (This does not include cost of car purchase - I know its difficult as a foreigner, it will be registered in my American GF's name). Please note budget is for one, I would obviously adjust if I take her or anyone else with.

    I'm also hesitant on going either through Denver and Colorado, or through Oklahoma City... I would've already seen lots of mountains similar to Colorado by the end of it, I'm not sure if its worth it or not.

    This is what I'd ideally like to do, obviously this isn't set in stone, its just a general guideline. I intend on stopping in tourism information centers and see what else I may have missed online.
    https://www.google.com/maps/d/viewer...g.ktQfp2KBD9k4

    Does anyone have any recommendations as to what I might want to see along the way, and most importantly, how my budget is looking for what I want to do?

    Any input would be greatly appreciated :)

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,063

    Default

    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    $15k for 3 months should be a very healthy budget, especially if you're going to be camping. You could certainly do it for far less if you really wanted to keep your costs down.

    Registering the car under your gf's name certainly will clear some of the hurdles of purchasing a car, and for 3 months, purchasing makes sense. However, you should be aware that you will be putting her at a great deal of financial risk by doing this. First, she's going to have to put you on her insurance, which could cause her rates to go way up, since you'll have no US driving record - that that will impact every car that's in her name/her family's name. If you get into even a minor accident, that will impact her insurance rates for several years, and worse case, if you get into a major accident that pushes the limits of the insurance coverage, she could be held liable. While it's a nice offer, those are some serious things you need to think about when taking on the responsibility of "borrowing" someone elses car.

    With your route, it would make a whole lot more sense to do Yellowstone with the other attractions in Wyoming and Montana, rather than doubling back more than 500 miles north. You could also make the CA/NV/AZ/UT a lot more efficient. Yosemite is something you'd likely want to do before Vegas, rather than doubling back across a mountain range a couple times.

    Denver vs. OK City wouldn't be the debate for me, the question is do you want to ignore all of the other amazing sites and National Parks in Colorado vs. Is there something you really want to see in Oklahoma?

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    9,358

    Default On the Cusp

    As Michael has pointed out, three months is roughly the break even point where the cost of a car rental and a buy/sell are nearly equivalent. Doing a quick cost check, I found three month rentals out of Billy Mithell Airport (Milwaukee) running around $2,000 for a compact/intermediate/midsize car. You can find slightly lower prices for economy models and slightly higher for full-sized models. But that gives you a good round number to deal with. And that's right about the hit you could expect to take by buying a car retail and selling wholesale, and as a 'motivated' buyer in both cases.

    Since price won't be the deciding factor, what other considerations do you need to take into account? Well, there's quality of the ride. If you buy/sell, you're most likely not going to be buying a new or even late model car. If you rent the car is unlikely to be more than two or three years old at most and can almost be guaranteed that it will have a CD player and air conditioning, and may even have Bluetooth. Then there's insurance. If you currently own a car and have insurance it is quite likely that your current insurance will also cover you in a rental. 'Your mileage may vary' - check your coverage with your agent. It would also transfer to your new car, with a possible premium adjustment based on the book value of your current car and your buy/sell car.

    But perhaps the biggest thing to keep in mind is responsibility for upkeep and/or breakdown. In the case of a buy/sell, the responsibility is yours and yours alone. You have to take care of any required oil changes or other servicing whereas in the case of a rental it's the rental company's responsibility. In the case of a mechanical breakdown in your 'owned' car, you have to pay for the repairs and you have to wait around while the car is being repaired, perhaps over several days if you break down in a rural location and parts have to be ordered. In the case of a rental, it is again the responsibility of the rental car company. They take the car in and f they can't repair it right away they'll usually give you another similar car and you just go on your merry way. And what do think the relative chances are of breaking down in a relatively new rental vs. breaking down in a car of the vintage you can afford on your budget trip?

    So, there are things to consider besides just the price as you decide what works best for you.

    AZBuck

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,936

    Default The realities of buying a vehicle for just three months.

    As one who went the way to purchase a vehicle for my multiple 6 month long trips to the US, I can assure you Buck is spot on. The van I bought is a beauty, after having it checked out by several independent and dealership mechanics, all announced it in excellent condition. Yet three weeks into my trip there was an almost $700 repair, which had me sitting in a motel for four days.

    On a previous trip I had been loaned a vehicle by a friend, which was quite new with low mileage. It was in AK that the fuel pump went which held me up for five days (it had to come from the lower 48) and set me back more than $800. Compare that with the very minor accident I had in a rental car, somewhere between Seattle and Vancouver. The car was replaced within hours. The accident was deemed to be too minor to charge me any extra.

    These are the realities you need to factor into buying an old car. A car which had probably been traded or sold because it was costing too much for the regular repairs. [Now all these things are minor when you are planning to keep the car for several years and use it for extended trips.]

    ... seen lots of mountains similar to Colorado ...
    Ah! But not the same! Having travelled through most of the mountains in western and northern Canada and AK, I venture to say CO has much to offer like nowhere on earth. Colorado's history, National and State parks, as well as its many scenic routes are unique. You could spend a month there and not see it all.

    ... I intend on stopping in tourism information centers
    If you plan to do camping, it will pay you to stop at rangers' offices, BLM offices and State Park offices for detailed and more important up-to-date information. I was caught out a few times with campgrounds closed, which was not mentioned on their website.

    Be sure you get good maps to plan this trip. They are invaluable when planning and essential when on the road. CAA/AAA has good detailed maps, or get yourself a Rand McNally road atlas. It often pays to pick up a State issued map at Welcome centres along the highway as well. They often have small bits of information not on other maps.

    Have a great trip.

    Lifey

  5. #5

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Midwest Michael View Post

    With your route, it would make a whole lot more sense to do Yellowstone with the other attractions in Wyoming and Montana, rather than doubling back more than 500 miles north. You could also make the CA/NV/AZ/UT a lot more efficient. Yosemite is something you'd likely want to do before Vegas, rather than doubling back across a mountain range a couple times.

    Denver vs. OK City wouldn't be the debate for me, the question is do you want to ignore all of the other amazing sites and National Parks in Colorado vs. Is there something you really want to see in Oklahoma?
    Hey Michael,
    Thanks for this awesome information. I'm not sure how I can do both West Coast of Cali and do the interior all in one without backtracking. Do you know if the East side of Yosemite is better than West side? Also, How can I do Lake Tahoe, Salt Lake City, Arches and Canyonlands, etc, without doing a sort of loop?

    In terms of Denver vs OK, there is nothing specific I wanted to see. I just figured CO would be similar to other places in the Rockies (I currently live in the northern Rockies in Canada), so I've seen and will see my fair share. I heard Denver has awesome food though, and I'm a bit of a foodie... What do you think?

  6. #6

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Lifemagician View Post
    Ah! But not the same! Having travelled through most of the mountains in western and northern Canada and AK, I venture to say CO has much to offer like nowhere on earth. Colorado's history, National and State parks, as well as its many scenic routes are unique. You could spend a month there and not see it all.

    If you plan to do camping, it will pay you to stop at rangers' offices, BLM offices and State Park offices for detailed and more important up-to-date information. I was caught out a few times with campgrounds closed, which was not mentioned on their website.

    Be sure you get good maps to plan this trip. They are invaluable when planning and essential when on the road. CAA/AAA has good detailed maps, or get yourself a Rand McNally road atlas. It often pays to pick up a State issued map at Welcome centres along the highway as well. They often have small bits of information not on other maps.

    Lifey
    Thanks for this wicked information. I think you've made a fair argument regarding the rental vehicle. I had a quick look online and indeed, you can find decent mid-size sedans for around $3000, this might definitely be worth a look at it saves me the hassle of buying/selling, and repairs/maintenance.

    I think CO seems like the way to go, like Midwest Michael said, whats there to do in OK...
    I was looking online and saw the average price of motels is around $60, and it might be even higher in the middle of summer. Does this sound accurate? I thought Motels in the US cost more like $30-40 a night...? Perhaps Airbnb might be a good way to go so as to avoid camping for 3 months in a row...

    Thanks for the info :)

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,747

    Default Yosemite NP is west side of the mountains

    Do you know if the East side of Yosemite is better than West side?
    Yosemite NP is pretty much all based on the west side of the Sierra Nevada with the Tioga Pass [CA120] taking you across the mountains within Yosemite NP. It has great views and hikes in places like Tuolumnee meadows and Tenaya lake.

    In terms of Denver vs OK, there is nothing specific I wanted to see. I just figured CO would be similar to other places in the Rockies (I currently live in the northern Rockies in Canada), so I've seen and will see my fair share.
    It really is down to personal taste and what it is that draws you to an area, personally speaking I couldn't tire of the Rockies and the forever changing scenes and light. I just think that there is something new and different to be seen at every turn whether similar in nature or not.

    I was looking online and saw the average price of motels is around $60, ]
    For budgeting purposes I would say that's not a bad number to work from, some more some less. If you stay near a National park or City centre it could easily be more, out in the sticks or an Interstate Motel and you will find cheaper. Why not combine camping and Motels so you can stay in nature for a good price and take a bit of comfort in between.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,936

    Default More affordable accommodation.

    Quote Originally Posted by maximecaffarel View Post
    I was looking online and saw the average price of motels is around $60, and it might be even higher in the middle of summer. Does this sound accurate? I thought Motels in the US cost more like $30-40 a night...?
    Whereas 30 - 40 per night is quite rare, especially in high season and tourist areas, it is possible to find accommodation for around $50. You will find at most rest areas along the interstates, at welcome centres and at some truck stops/travel plazas you will find small booklets with hotel/motel discount coupons. These are normally only for walkins. Tyhey often have good deals. It is a good idea to call up ahead and ask if there are still rooms available.

    Lifey

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,063

    Default

    If you're currently in the Canadian Rockies, I think I might consider spending more time in Colorado, and perhaps skip the detour to Glacier National Park, which would probably be the most similar spot to what you're already experiencing. (That's not to say that Glacier isn't a great place, but if you're looking for variety, and have limited time it's an idea to consider).

    I'm not even saying you shouldn't consider going to Oklahoma, btw - you could very well find the contrast of the southern plains to be quite interesting - I'd just suggest you consider all your options for what you might want to do.

    It's tough to find motels for under $50 these days. Keep in mind, even if you see a place advertised for $40, taxes and fees will often push that up to about $50.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Oct 2015
    Location
    eastern North Carolina
    Posts
    32

    Default

    I'm with the others -- I would definitely think about renting a car. I wouldn't feel comfortable driving an older vehicle across the country like that. The peace of mind alone might be worth it to rent a car.

    As for the hotels, I use Priceline. I don't mind staying in cheaper hotels and haven't been "burned" yet. You can even download an app on your phone that will allow you to score great deals.

    I love Colorado and think it's absolutely beautiful. BUT, spending some time in Oklahoma might not be a bad thing, because the scenery will likely be very, very different from what you're used to.

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