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  1. #1

    Default Summer '08 roadtrip. Advice on buying a car...

    Good afternoon to you all!! New member and my first post so please be gentle! Must say this site is a bloody Godsend. I've been reading through alot of posts and they've helped me greatly with how i'd like to attack my trip so thanks already.
    Me and a friend , 26 and 24, are planning on a summer roadtrip starting in San Fran mid July and finishing in New York late August, all in all roughly 6 weeks. I have friends in San Fran, Minnesota, and New York so plan on invading them for a bit of the trip saving costs (though they are, so far, unaware of our arrangement!) and the rest of the time campgrounds and the car will be where we kip. I have a rough idea of sites i'd like to fit in but i'm still in the early stages of planning. Roughly... down the westcoast, Gran Canyon, then back north to hit the northern route, Yellowstone, Mount Rushmore, Niagra, New York... but before I consider planning out an official route my main concern is transport. I've looked at rental costs and it doesn't come cheap, so i've almost ruled out that option. I've made a couple of roadtrips before around France and previously from San Diego-Vancouver an both times in large convesion van style transport which was ideal to sleep in and for me made the trip, but both times the car was owned by friends and so wasn't a problem. I just showed up and lived the dream... no worries! My dilema so far is how easy is it to just buy a car and away you go. I've read a few posts and it sounds like its just your luck really. The plan is to hit San Fran an spend a couple of days searching first. I've hit Craigslist up and there always seems to be a few bargain conversion vans in the $2000-$4000 bracket which is wot we'd look at. A slight gamble I know. My main question though, after all that ramble, is when you buy the car, what proceedure must you then take, i.e, registering your vehicle, taxing, is it easy to insure being a "tourist", or as a tourist am I unable to buy a vehicle due to having no citizenship etc etc... all that official stuff that I have no clue about. Any help would be massively appreciated. Thanks again.

    Last edited by Matt_UK; 01-03-2008 at 08:51 AM.

  2. #2

    Default Car rental

    Hi Matt,

    I'll leave it to others to discuss the idea of buying/selling but I wouldn't hold out much hope on this. Even if you were lucky enough to be able to buy a suitable van with a day or two of arriving on the west coast and then - more crucially - finding a willing buyer at the other end, you're going to encounter all sorts of challenges in terms of tax / insurance / breakdown cover etc.

    I don't know where you've tried so far but I've just done a quick calculation on the Alamo site and you could get a good RUV (even a 7 person people carrier) for the six weeks you're talking about, including the unavoidable one-way drop-off fee, for under $2800. Book it now before the pound falls against the dollar and you're getting it for just £1400, or little more than £100 each a week.

    Just two riders though:

    1) I haven't checked their small print but I'd be surprised if any rental company would be delighted if you admitted you were thinking of sleeping in it.

    2) That price is for a single, named driver over 25. Adding your under-25-year-old mate would increase your costs by $1125 ($25 a day).

    Don't let any of this put you off though - its worth it!

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

    Default popular subject lately

    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    We've really had a ton of questions from Europeans asking about buying cars in the last few week. Its something that could probably be done but it is not a simple, or cheap process.

    For a period of 6 weeks, you'll almost certainly be better off renting a car. First of all, I would have serious doubts about the cross country abilities of any conversion van you could purchase for $2-4000. They might be bargins, or they might just be old rusty lemons that people are looking to get rid of. There's also the aspect that the costs for buying a car, including taxes, license, insurance, loss when you go to resell, etc, will likely exceed those of simply renting a car. Not to mention, that if you buy a cheap car, you'd be responsible for any repair costs, while you'd only have to pay for gas in a rental.

    If you were going to be on the road for several months, or you were at an age where renting wasn't an option, then I might explore purchasing a car, but I don't think it will make sense for this trip.

    I wouldn't be worried about sleeping in it, if that's what you choose to do. I personally don't like the option myself, and would rather buy a tent and some sleeping bags for $100, but I can't imagine that there would be anything that would prohibit you from sleeping in your rental car.

  4. #4


    Thanks for your replies. Made alot of sense. I think i'm coming round to the idea of renting rather than buying. I'd rather explore in a decent runner in good condition than a "old rusty lemon"! I looked on the alamo site and the prices were alot less than what I was quoted the first time. I was searching for small rv's first. Think they're much more expensive? The minivan is much cheaper. And selling it on when i'm done was a concern of mine so this way seems far less stressful. Thanks again for all your help. I stand corrected!

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin

    Default RV's much more

    Yeah, if you were looking at RVs, even small RVs, then the prices you'd be quoted would certainly be much higher than even a van or suv.

    Basically rental car companies make most of their money off of people who take short trips around town and build their rates around those people. They can offer things like unlimited mileage, because very few people take them up on it. RV rentals assume you are going to be taking it all over the country, racking up big miles, and charge you as such.

  6. #6

    Default $$$$

    Could anyone shed any light why it is that when I look at quotes for minivans, the quote drastically increases in price at different pick up locations, albeit for the same vehicle?? One location i'll be quoted at around $3000 and then at another location (airports mainly) the price rises to around $8000 big ones? Is this the norm or does it mean I should book the cheapest price as soon as to avoid missing out???

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

    Default book early, book often

    If there is a method to the madness of car rental agencies and their pricing structure, I haven't found it. What you are finding with changing prices doesn't surprise me at all. Prices can change drastically between rental agencies, pick up and drop off locations, and even the time and date that you make your reservation.

    If you find a price that you like, its usually best to lock it in. One nice thing is that places often don't require a deposit to hold the reservation, so if you find a better deal later on down the line, its not too hard to cancel one reservation and make a new one at the better price.

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