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  1. Default Summer Roadtrip as Foreign citizens

    Hi everyone!

    Hope you're all doing well. A friend and i have been planning a US west coast roughly 2 month long roadtrip this summer and would love some advice. We're both swedish citizens with swedish drivers licenses, we're 19 & 20 years old and will be spending roughly 2 months on the road.

    Our question is regarding purchasing a car. We have a friend that lives in LA who will be helping us purchase the car but we honestly have no idea whats required in the way insurance, adress, possible age limitations and so on. Any help regarding this would be greatly appreciated :)

    Thank you so much in advance!

    PS. In addition to this we would also just in general like to ask what sort of car any of you would recommend? A small car where you could then stay in motels/hostels or a bigger car that you can sleep in (if so any recommendations)?

    Thank you again!

    PPS. Would it in any way be possible for our friend that lives in the US to buy the car, get the insurance, and then let us drive it? Or am i hopelessly naive?

    Thanks for the third time :D
    Last edited by Sebastian.B; 04-05-2016 at 08:28 AM.

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

    Default

    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    Purchasing a car as a non-resident is extremely difficult. Generally speaking, it is nearly impossible to get insurance and register the car as a visitor without at least a long term visa. While things vary a bit from state to state, you generally have to prove you are living at the place where the car is being registered, and that's usually not possible while traveling under the VWP.

    The easiest way to do this actually would be for your friend to buy the car, however, that is not without some major downsides. First, you'll have to go on their insurance, and since you're under 21 that means their rates are going to skyrocket for all of their vehicles. Second, that means you're putting your friend in a very large amount of financial risk. If you were to get into an accident, it would cause their rates to go up for years, even after your trip is over, and if you were to get into a major accident where the damage was beyond their coverage limits, you could be putting all of their financial assets at risk, as they could be held liable. If you go that route, make sure you and your friend understand just how much of a financial responsibility you're talking about here, because it is very serious.

    If you are able to get a car, I would not plan to sleep in it. Personal Space and Proper Rest are essential to a good roadtrip, and that's not possible to do in most cars with 2 people. You'd also have issues about where you can safely and legally sleep, etc....

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,270

    Default

    It's also a pain to register a car in CA - the taxes and fees are high and it must have a current emissions certificate (smog test).

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

    Default Not if you value your friendship.

    Or am i hopelessly naive?
    Yes, you are..... like most of us who do not live there.

    Insurance and car ownership in the US is not like it is in most other countries. In the scenario which Michael mentions, where the damage and injuries could exceed the sum insured, it is not the driver, but the owner of the vehicle who will be sued. In the case of a very serious accident that could be many millions.

    Lifey

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2016
    Location
    Phoenix, Arizona
    Posts
    162

    Default

    Hello!

    Reading this, I couldn't help thinking that we're all warning you about something that has a very small chance of happening, and I'd hate to see your whole plan pitched out the window for that reason. Anyway, I did some quick research, and I was surprised by the results. There are 210 million people licensed to drive in the United States. Over the course of the last year, more than 43,000 of those 210 million were involved in automobile accidents that resulted in a fatality! Figure, very roughly, one chance in 5,000! And more than 7 million of those same 210 million drivers were involved in accidents resulting in property damage. That's one chance in 30! I knew it was bad, but that's even worse than I expected. Judgments that exceed the limits of our insurance are rare, fortunately, but your friend would still be assuming that risk, and that's a lot to ask, even of your very closest friend.

    Being a good driver yourself doesn't always save you from trouble. In fifty years of driving I've been in several accidents, and in every case, I was minding my own business when someone else ran into me, usually from behind. And what the heck can you even do about that? Still, you can greatly improve your own odds by driving responsibly. Don't drive when you've been drinking, don't drive when you're overly tired. Find a safe place to pull off the road and stop when the weather is seriously bad (no need to be a hero just to keep a schedule). Avoid rush hour traffic--meaning try to stay away from major metropolitan areas in the mornings and afternoons, Monday to Friday. Period. Wait it out, if you have to, but seriously, try to avoid it. There's nothing like LA or San Francisco anywhere near Sweden, and when rush hour is bad, it isn't any fun at all. Last, and most importantly: don't ever take the other drivers for granted. Their notion of who has the right of way might be different from yours. They might not even see you. They're probably sending a text message. Expect the unexpected, and you're less likely to be surprised.

    Just sayin'.

    Rick

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

    Default Interesting information.

    Interesting statistics Rick. they might surprise you, but they certainly do not surprise me. One thing it does not include is the numbers seriously injured. On average for each fatality you can count on 20 seriously injured in accidents, of whom almost 5% are never able to return to work or live an independent life again. That's where the biggest insurance claims often are.

    Thanks for posting.

    My concern would be with a 19 and 20 year old, with only a few years' driving experience and none of that on North American roads.

    Lifey

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    4,546

    Default

    CA resident chiming in here. GLC is "right on" when he says that registering and licensing a car in California is a major pain. You find a car, fine. Your friend buys it, for the purpose of loaning it to you. Within a certain amount of time (30 days, I believe), you have to take it to a smog station. From experience, it may not pass the first time. If it is past a certain age, they will require that it be taken to a specific type of smog testing station, a "Star Station", where it is put through a slightly different test. Then you must stand in line at DMV again -- or your friend does. Since a used car is supposed to pass smog BEFORE it is sold, you always hope that it will still pass smog test after it is sold, but there are stories in the newspapers locally about problems like this, all too often. If it does not pass the smog test, CA will not allow you to register or license it. You have then lost money.

    Then there is insurance. California has among the highest insurance costs. If your friend is also under 25, the price is going to be rocket-high. That's just the way it is here in California. (I am waiting to retire to get out of this state and find somewhere a little more reasonably priced, to live.)

    While I see Rick's commentary having some logic, I also know that Lifey's comment about serious injury accidents accounting for high insurance claims, is right on as well.

    If I were your friend, I'd say, "no, I'm sorry, I can't afford that risk."

    My advice would be to wait a few years until you can legally rent a vehicle, and then make your dream trip come true.


    Donna

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

    Default I'll second that.

    Totally agree with Donna. It won't be very long till you are both 21 and then there are a lot more options open to you. For example, this organisation requires that all drivers be 21 years old, and have a valid foreign drivers' licence.

    They also organise insurance and registration.

    Lifey

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,270

    Default

    You do have one rental option - Fox will rent cars to 19 year olds in California. You will be restricted to driving it in the following states:

    Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.

    There will be a daily surcharge of $15 to $25 for drivers under 25, and you may only have an additional driver if you pay with a credit card - cash and debit cards are not acceptable. In CA, there is no surcharge for additional drivers.

    Before coming over here, you should get an international driving permit, which is a translation of your home country license.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,748

    Default

    Renting is the way to go, even if it means your trip is restricted in time due to your budget. If you halved it, a month is still a nice amount of time to see plenty of sights and will probably be more enjoyable as you won't have the burden of your friends predicament hanging over you at each turn.

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