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  1. Default Roadtrip At Seventeen?

    Greetings all. This is my first post here and I've glad to be a part of this community.

    To start off, I am seventeen and living in New York state. I've had my license for a few months and I feel very comfortable with my driving skills. Without doubt I am inexperienced as drivers which have been driving for twenty plus years, but I used to race go-karts (yes, quite different, but still noteworthy) and I have good car/mechanical knowledge and thus I am quite confident behind the wheel. Therefore, I would not consider myself the average seventeen year old driver.

    Anyways, I have always wanted to take a summer road trip all of my life and now that this is my first summer with a license I think I would like to indulge into it. I do not have a car of my own, but I regularly drive my mom's 2003 Ford Taurus. Again, I'm comfortable driving the car. However, my idea of a road trip is simply "cruising" on the open road in a convertible listening to music and just having a grand time. So, I started looking at car rental options. However, my age is quite a hindrance to this. I could take my mother's Taurus, but that would leave her personally without a car for a few days (which would be quite the hassle), but I'm in favor of something more sporty, and I would love a convertible.

    I do not yet have a route plan in mind except either out west or along the Eastern coast, but I first need to figure out my car situation. It may also be helpful that I am planning to take one or two of my friends along on the trip of similar ages to myself.

    If you have any suggestions or advice, please let me know. Thank-you.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default The Sad Truth

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    In survey after survey, something like 80-90% of people rate themselves as "better than average" drivers. Now it is statistically impossible for them all to be correct. The fact is that with "a few month" of experience you simply can not know how to rate your own driving skills. (Hang in there, there's a 'but' coming.) Insurance and car rental companies do have the equivalent of millennia of experience with teenage drivers, which is why they charge an arm and a leg for coverage or will not rent to them. But you do have one chance to take this trip and that is to talk your mom into lending you her Taurus.

    For starters, read over this article and discuss it with her. In particular, pay attention to the points regarding you showing responsibility. At the very least you should be prepared to pay the cost of her getting a rental car to use while you are out gallivanting in hers. You should also be prepared to make your first RoadTrips short ones, say a day or two, until you build up some experience and instill confidence in your mom.

    While I know it feels like you've waited your whole life for this opportunity, in fact you have your whole life ahead of you, and at this point you should be looking to build the planning, driving, navigation, scheduling, budgeting and decision making skills that will stand you in good stead for a lifetime.


  3. #3
    RoadTripper Brad Guest

    Default From personal experience

    I have to agree with Buck on a lot of things. However, I do have some insight that few others on this board have. I'm only 21, not too far from 17. I've taken road trips that young myself in recent years, so things are pretty much the same now as they were back in 2002-2003.

    My first road trip was intracounty. I remained inside of the county I resided in (Chelan County, Washington), and me and some friends went to a state park and camped for the weekend. Total distance from home was approximately 55 miles. Being a way from home and on the road for this long helped lay the foundation of trust with the vehicle. Keep in mind my parents and I were very cool about things, and my father was a auto mechanic for over 18 years so us boys all grew up around grease, oil, and cars. From very young we were taught the physical and mechanical limitations of an automobile, and earned a great respect for them.

    My second road trip was over 200 miles away in Idaho, on a camping trip with the local chapter of the Society for Creative Anachronism. I was traveling completely alone, no cell phone, no CB radio, just me, my debit card and some cash, and the route plotted from Wenatchee, Washington to Athol, Idaho. It was supposed to be a full two day trip, however bad weather at the War caused us to cut it short and drive back (below freezing temperatures and snow when no one was prepared for them).

    That trip sealed the ability to go on long road trips. My next one was traveling with my 14 year old brother from Washington to Arizona when I moved from Wenatchee to Phoenix, one year later.

    The point to my story is that right now, you have the opportunity to lay the groundwork for a big trip once your in a better condition. If you can, see if you can go on a solo trip for the day to a city about an hour or two away. Being as that it sounds like you would be driving the family's one car, some sort of roadside assistance plan would be advisable, such as AAA or others. This way, if you do break down, you have a better chance of getting help or at least getting the car home.

    The other thing I can recommend is start taking a keen interest in the upkeep of the car. Check the tires, oil, lights, etc., offer to take the car in for routine oil changes (if you're working, I'd also recommend footing the bill, shows a real responsible attitude toward a vehicle). The next, save up for a car.

    I'd like to expand a bit on that last note... when I say save up for a car, I mean just that, A car. A convertible or a sports car, while cool, would really set you back, and here's why. 1) You're going immediately for sporty, fast, potentially expensive cars, something your parents will pick up on. 2) Teens, sports cars, and insurance companies never belong in the same room together, much less on the same insurance policy. Lets just say it could be more of a financial nightmare than you want to deal with right now. My personal recommendation, look for a good car, one that is old but runs well, has four doors, and is a conventional sedan. Taking a conservative approach here will score extra points.

    My first car was a Chevrolet Lumina 4-door sedan. Some people thought it was wimpy, but the car had one heck of a 3.1 Litre V6 that could leave most of my peers in the dust. Not to mention on social nights, I had 4 comfortable seats each with their own door, and so taking 1 car was an option.

    So, just remember: build up to a larger road trip, and don't look for what looks cool in a car, just what will run at the end of the day, and as I said, in my opinion keeping a conservative approach on car shopping will prove to be a win, in multiple aspects.


  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Keithville, LA

    Default Roadtripping Teenagers

    I'm 28, so not exactly 17 still but young enough to remember my first roadtrip very well. I had only been driving solo for a couple of months when my poor little Kia Sephia was literally run down in the middle of the road by a Ford F150. Before that I too thought I was a good driver and invincible and I was driving my parents' car. It was a major hassle to get all of that straightened out. You can't rent a car until you're 21 and very few places will even do it then. I strongly recommend taking some shorter 1 day trips to get used to being on the road and to learn your strengths and weaknesses. I really do think that presented with the same circumstances today that I would be able to avoid the accident. I just wasn't experienced enough. Also, a permanently messed up back and neck are a good yet painful reminder to be cautious.

    I drove back and forth from college (5 hour drive from Keithville to New Orleans) many times before I felt comfortable enough to take a "real" roadtrip. My first "real" trip involved a stop at relatives house the first night and I stayed within the confines of Louisiana. After that I was comfortable and ran off to New Mexico.

    First Car - I got a used Ford Taurus with a huge engine for my first car. It was a wonderful roadtripping car. I liked it so much that I'm now on my second Taurus. I definitely wouldn't get a convertible or other sports car for my first car. You haven't been out on the road enough to learn that you aren't "bullet proof and invisible" (quoting Daddy Huff) and as Arizona Brad pointed out it increases the parental concerns and the insurance companies will have a field day with your premiums.


  5. Default

    I appreciate the input I've been receiving. Althought I'm sure I do overthink on my driving abilities, I know that I'm not that experienced and I'm still very, very new to the road; I may have initially come across wrong but it is true that I've only been driving for a few months solo.

    Although I would really love to get a new car this summer before my senior year at school, I'm not sure if such an arrangement would take place before I wanted to take a road trip. So, I believe I may borrow my mom's taurus (my father has his own vehicle) and either talk with a relative to borrow their vehicle for a day (tacky?) or even rent a car for my mom for a day to suffice for her personal transportation.

    Secondly, I am thinking of initally taking a short day or half-day trip to a local shopping mall to solidify my road skills and abilities and to gain the trust of my friends as me being the driver and the trust of my parents and of myself.

    Then, perhaps we can move up to a longer road trip by the end of the summer. That wouldn't be pushing it, now would it?

    Again, I've appreciated everyone's suggestions and input. I've learned to listen to more experienced people no matter what the subject because they simply know more than I do; as my parents always say, they've "been there, done that."

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Washington state coast/Olympic Peninsula

    Default Wow!

    You're a rare youth who listens to us older folks with more experience. I'm impressed. This alone tells me you're ready for a roadtrip!

    I think your plan to start with short trips and build up to a longer one is perfect. Good luck with that and let us know how we can help you plan your trip for later this summer.

    Best wishes!

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Right On

    You are setting out on exactly the right foot to make RoadTripping an enjoyable lifelong pursuit, and are showing remarkable maturity in the process. For a very first effort at a trip more or less on your own, let me suggest the following. Ask your mom if there's somewhere within a half day's drive or less that she would like to see. Then take the lead and plan a trip there for the two of you. Map out a route, figure out how long it will take, where you'll stop, and how much it will cost; and then treat your mom to a "Sunday Drive" to her chosen destination. By 'treat your mom' I mean that you do the driving and you pay for the gas, meals, and any entrance fees. This way she gets to see what you can accomplish and you get the benefit of her expertise should you need it. I think this would be of much more use to you, and much more reassuring to your mom than a trip to a mall with your friends.

    It certainly wouldn't be too tacky to see if you can arrange car coverage for your mom with relatives, but in the end it's up to you to cover the expenses incurred and any inconveniences caused by you trip(s). So far you seem to be on the right track. I may have to remember farther back than Laura or Brad to my first forays out on the road alone, but I still remember them fondly, and if done right, yours will lead to a lifetime of wonderful trips.


  8. #8
    RoadTripper Brad Guest

    Default Great Idea Buck!

    The idea of taking mom or both parents out for a "Sunday Drive" is actually a very good one. Again, one of the steps in my roadtrip process that sort of melted into day-to-day activities. For example, my folks would not allow me to drive over any of the mountain passes in the area (and really, to go anywhere from Wenatchee, you had to cross one) until I showed I could do it. On a routine trip between Wenatchee and Seattle, I had to drive both directions. While I didn't pay for everything, US 2 over Stevens Pass carries the nickname "Cascade route of Death", among others, due to a high casualty rate. My father's idea was that if I could successfully navigate US 2 safely and not cause my mother to have a heart attack on the narrow roads, then I was cleared for solo over any mountain passes. Three weeks later, I drove solo over Blewitt Pass between Wenatchee and Ellensburg for a school related conference, at the age of 17.

    Just remember, when you do go out with your folks, pay a lot more attention to things, obey all laws, etc., and always signal even if your parents don't on day-to-day driving.


  9. Default

    My first road trip was to Ames, IA from the Northwest Suburbs of Chicago - about 300 miles. I was 18 or 19 and had just bought my first car (79 Chevy Malibu). My dad made me drive to Rockford (1.5 hours) and back one day to get used to driving on the highway - I was ready for the Ames trip! Sounds like you are already planning a day trip to build your skill and understanding of the highway - very good thing to do.

    Some things you should think about are tricks to keep yourself focused, whether it be music, opening the windows, singing out loud, counting out the mile markers, whatever. Also be aware of the unwritten rules of the road - keep to the right unless you are passing, always check for cars coming up fast in the left lane if you DO move over to pass a slower driver in the right lane. Don't drive next to big trucks. (and on a side note - if an 18-wheeler passes you, after the truck's rear end clears the front end of your car, flash your lights twice at the truck - that is a way of letting the truck know he is clear to move back into the right lane. Most truckers will blink their lights at you, which is enough of a reward for me to be courteous to those on the road working for a living).
    And try caravaning - that is what I call it when you fall in with 1 or more other drivers that are going about the same speed as you. Stay in the same spot in comparison to the other car, if you are behind him let him pass first and then follow him, if you are in the lead maintain a constant speed and watch out for him. Sticking with a caravan can help break up the monotony.
    And lastly, keep a journal of your trip - even if it just where you stop for gas, the mileage, how many gallons, etc - I found just notes like that from a trip back in 96 and it brought me right back to the whole trip.

  10. Default

    I have taken all of these wonderful suggestions into account and decided the following:

    First, I am going to acquaint myself and my mom with my driving skills by taking a small day trip with just her to a shopping mall or something of the like. Then perhaps I will take a similar trip by myself. And finally, I am planning a small road trip of roughly 45 miles to a local state park to camp out for the night (or two) with a couple of my buddies.

    I think this is a perfect plan because it will show my parents I am responsible and trustworthy and allow myself some more driving experience (I've been driving for roughly 6 months by myself now). Also, the road trip to the local state park sounds like a good plan because not only is it cheap, but it will be fun and close to home in case something comes arise.

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