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  1. Default Question about driving across country

    My family and I (there are three of us with only two of driving age, my daughter is 12) are driving from NJ to CA, staying a week in CA, then driving back. We are giving ourselves four days to drive out and four to drive back (we are only making two designated stops along the way). My first question is will four days be enough time to make the drive? My next question is about the car we drive. I have an Nissan Xterra with 34,000 miles on it; would it be smart to take it or rent a car? I am getting some good prices on Chevy Trailblazers and Ford Explorers. If I am to rent a car what are some good rental companies to go with and should I spring for the extra insurance? I already checked with my insurance and they said I would be covered the same as I am covered in my personal car (which is full coverage). Any help would be great thanks!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin

    Default take your time

    Welcome to the RTA forum.

    I don't believe 4 days is enough time to get across the country on a trip with a 12 year old. Depending upon your exact starting and ending points, you're looking at a trip that's about 2800 miles. That means you'd need to cover 700 miles - or about 12-13 hours in the car - EVERY DAY for 4 days. That doesn't even include your two planned stops.

    Simply put, there are very few adults who could enjoy a trip that is this taxing, and almost no children who would find this to be tolerable.

    As far as renting a car, its really a personal choice. An Xtera would see to be pretty close to a perfect roadtrip vehicle, and personally, I would not add the extra expense of renting an SUV that is basically the same type of vehicle you already own. You might also find that you are simply more comfortable driving your own car when you're in an unfamiliar environment.

    That said, there are advantages to renting, you don't have to worry about the wear and tear a 6,000 mile trip would put on your vehicle and if you did have a maintenance issue the rental company would take care of it.

    If you do rent a car, adding insurance would be a personal choice, but since your insurance company already provides the same coverage you drive with on a daily basis, I wouldn't see the need to pay for the extra.

  3. #3
    RoadTripper Brad Guest

    Default Rent vs. Driving your own

    Welcome to the Forum!

    To answer your first question, your Nissan Xterra with it's mere 34,000 miles on it should have absolutely no problem making the trip. I've taken cars with 350k miles on it across country and had no problems, so milage is only good in assessing risk factor, and not the actual outcome.

    However, with that said, my opinion always has been if you can afford to rent a vehicle for a long haul, do it. No sense in putting thousands of miles on your own car if you can swing the cost of the rental. This will save you loads in the long run by not turning your 34k mile SUV into a 54K mile SUV over the course of a few weeks, bringing on the maintenence and repair costs.

    If you insurance will cover you in the rental, I don't see a need to get the rental agencies insurance.

    As far as reputable car rental agencies, the company I work for is partnered with Hertz and they do offer a good product, but so does many of Hertz's competators, such as Alamo, Avis, Budget, National, Enterprise, etc. I would choose based on cost, if it comes with unlimited milage, and features such as on-board navigation, etc.

    If there's anything else we can help you with, just ask.


  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Washington state coast/Olympic Peninsula

    Default The question is: are you into speed runs?

    Greetings, jbo, and welcome to the forum!

    If you are going to Southern CA, you will want to link up with I-40 for the quickest route. It is roughly 2900 miles. This means MINIMUM of about 48 hours on the road. And this doesn't include stops for meals, gas, etc. So you are looking, at minimum of four 12-hour days. Are you up for this?

    If you are going to Northern CA, your quickest route is I-80 for roughly 2820 miles. It's still about the same driving time.

    The time to drive I mentioned above is a minimum. Experienced roadtrippers figure you can average about 53mph on the road once you factor in very quick meal stops, bathroom breaks, stretch stops, gas stops, and account for the fact that you will likely meet up with some slow-downs on the road either due to traffic or constructions. If you figure this at 53mph, you are looking at closer to 55 miles on the road (each way). And this still doesn't include any time for sightseeing/exploration.

    Again, are you up for this? And how would your child handle sitting this long each day?

    It can be done but it can be tiring, even if you can switch off drivers. Just sitting so long each day can wear you out. I'm not saying you can't do it, or shouldn't do it, but you really need to decide if this will be a fun adventure or a miserable experience for your family. You might enjoy reading my "The Art of the Speed Run" for advise on how to do these types of marathon drives safely.

    As for renting a vehicle....if there is some reason why your own vehicle won't work for you, rent something else. If not, why would you want to pay for a rental? As long as your Xterra runs well and is comfortable to ride in and is big enough to haul your stuff, take your own car. I see no advantage to renting a car unless you really don't like to drive it. The only caveat would be if you plan on selling it real soon, like right after your trip, and you're worried that the additional miles might decrease it's value. But if you're going to be keeping it for a few years, those extra miles really won't make that much difference. You might try going to or Input the information about your vehicle with current miles, and with about 7000 more miles to see what kind of difference it makes in your vehicle's value. I would say if the difference in value is more than the cost of renting another vehicle, then it would make sense to rent something. If it's less, you're not gaining anything. Unless, of course, you really don't like driving your car or it doesn't fit your needs for this trip. Hope that helps.

    Obviously, I totally disagree with Brad on this unless it truly pencils out. LOL Out of curiousity, I just ran a Kelly Bluebook on a 2003 Xterra with 34,000 miles and with 43,000 miles. Your value would drop only $750 with the extra mileage. If renting a vehicle will cost more than that, it doesn't pencil out, imho.

    Any of the major car rental companies would be fine to rent from. And it sounds like your insurance agent has already told you that you are covered. If so, why would you want to pay more for insurance you don't need?

  5. Default Actually

    After looking more closely at my trip schedule I have found that we actually have five days of driving each way and not just four. Would that be a bit better?

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin

    Default The dreaded "F" word

    Five days would help, but you'd still be looking at well over 500 miles of travel per day and 10-11 hours per day in a car. That's what you'd have to average every day, both directions, to make your trip work. That still doesn't give you hardly any time to do anything other than drive and is still very much a speed run in my book.

    Do you really want to spend 10 days of your 17 day vacation spending 10 hours a day in a car?

    While I don't usually recommend this, perhaps you'd be better off flying?

    Right now, you're not giving yourself time to do anything other than drive hard both to and from California. Gas alone on this trip will likely cost you about $1,000, plus if you're considering renting an SUV for the trip, I'd think flying might actually be a cheaper option.

    If you did fly, then you could actually get in some of the road trip experience by using the days you wouldn't be driving cross country to rent a car and spend more time exploring more areas of California.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Las Vegas, Nevada

    Default Insurance Tidbits

    Quote Originally Posted by jbo
    I already checked with my insurance and they said I would be covered the same as I am covered in my personal car (which is full coverage).
    John, I routinely reject all additional coverages when I rent a vehicle, since, I, too have full coverage and figure that my insurance company has the obligation to cover me no matter whose car I am driving, but there are two coverages that make some sense. One is not actual insurance -- it is the loss damage liability waiver and the second is the supplemental liabilty coverage. For a little more discusssion on this, look at this thread.

    As to the rental issue -- I would side this time with Midwest Michael and Arizona Brad -- When I know I will be doing a 5,000 to 6,000 mile trip, I generally rent a vehicle rather than add those miles to my personal vehicles. But if I am doing any off-highway exploring or driving on challenging roads, I usually take my trucks, because I know exactly how they will handle.


  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Washington state coast/Olympic Peninsula

    Default Just wondering why?

    Not trying to be argumentative here, but I'm wondering why so many of you rent cars? Especially if it doesn't pencil out, i.e. the cost of the rental is more than the drop in value on your own car?

    I don't get it. Unless you really hate your car, that is.

    Just wondering if someone could explain the logic to me. Maybe I am the one off-base here and I'd like to understand your positions better.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin

    Default More than resale...

    Let me first say that I always take my own car on roadtrips, and the only time I rent is when I've flown somewhere. I personally like my vehicle, and figure since I'm writing a check to pay for it every month, I might as well get all the use I can out of it.

    But I can see the advantages to renting a car for the trip.

    The cost of taking your car on a trip is far more than simply looking at the depreciation, there's also the cost of maintenance. Long Distance trips are far less stressful on your car than stop and go driving, but there are still plenty of expenses of maintaining your own car.

    Say for example, you take a 10k trip. You'll need two or three oil changes for the trip, which at $20 a pop, adds up to about $60. Then, you're also taking off about 20% of the life of your tires, which works out to a cost of 50-100 dollars, depending upon what kind of tires you have. There's also all the all the other things like sparkplugs, belts, etc that are designed to eventually wear out that will eventually have to be replaced sooner.

    Throw in that if your renting a car, you'll almost always have a nearly new car, if something goes wrong during the trip, its not really your problem (and its no fun trying to find an honest mechanic in an unfamiliar city), and you could potentially get a vehicle that better suits your trip than what you need on a day to day basis, I can see the argument for renting a car.

    But again, after weighing the options, I have always decided I prefer taking my own vehicle.

  10. #10
    RoadTripper Brad Guest

    Default Leases?

    I'm not well studied in this, but I'd venture a guess that one may be so many people are actually leasing their vehicles as it is. Many leases have a certain amount of milage that one can put on. One of the drawbacks of what in reality is a long term rental.

    That is just one reason I would venture to guess may be a cause of the large number of people renting a car for a roadtrip.

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