US Road Trip. Help and Advice needed.
Ok. I'm new here and am after some help about a road trip through the US, and thought this would be the best place to come. I wasn't sure where to post this message, however chose this topic as our planned roadtrip will start in August.
Myself and two friends from England are planning on travelling through the US. You only get to live once and there is a lot of the world to see. However, we all want to travel through the USA and this will be our first big trip. There is a lot we want to see and as we will only have enough money to do this sort of trip once, we want to try to fit in as much as possible.
Our planned trip goes as follows. We are starting in Detroit (due to having a friend who lives there) at the start of August. From there we plan on travelling south through Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee and Mississipi to New Orleans. From there we plan to travel east through Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. Then it's up into Colorado and Wyoming and across to Salt Lake City. Then Vegas, LA and San Francisco before continuing north through Oregon to Washington. Then it's back east through Montana and Wyoming into South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin and finishing in Chicago (We then plan of flying from Chicago to Florida and from there taking Amtrak up the east coast to Boston - but that's for another forum!). This is an estimated 8500 miles taking 136 hours of driving.
Ok, so the advice. Are we taking on too much? Is this do-able? We are planning on getting a 6-month visa so we'd have up to that long to get it all done. We also realise it's going to be expensive (however for all that driving a website gave an estimate that it would only cost about $600 on gas, which sounds amazingly cheap!), but any rough estimate for price, or any examples you have of costs, even for a shorter trip would be a great rough guide we could use.
Then we have two problems. Firstly, a car. Ideally we plan on buying one, however being from the UK it seems it could be difficult but not impossible. Any advice on this issue would be great. We do have a friend from the US over here now, and although she is doing a great job in helping us out, with her being here it's hard for her to find out how we would go about doing it. We can use her address back in the US as a registered address, so that shouldn't be an issue. However, another possible problem is that we are all 23. We would be happy to rent a car, however this seems very expensive, but if it was cheaper than buying and insuring it is an option.
Sorry for the essay, and if you read it all through thanks very much! If you can give us any help on anything I have mentioned above it would be greatly appreciated.
Welcome to the RTA Forum!
A couple things to keep in mind, even in your point to point distances are 8500 miles, its almost a certainty that you'll drive far more than that driving around towns, to attractions, etc. We usually say add 20 percent, but considering that you'll be on the road for up to 6 months, I'd say you could easily drive another 5000 miles just with day to day driving.
I'm also not sure what you were using to calculate fuel costs (I suspect it was not RTA's fuel cost calculator on the left side of this page), but $600 is way too low. If you drive an average car and only drove 8500 miles, getting 25 miles per gallon, you'd have to have see gas prices remain at $1.75 for that to happen. Its very hard to say what gas prices will be next summer, but I would be using at least $3 for a guestimate. Your exact costs of course will also depend upon what car you end up using, but I think I'd be budgeting about $2000 for fuel. There really are way too many other factors to just give a number for your costs, how you will eat and sleep will play a roll, and of course, the car situation is a big question mark.
If you are going to be on the road for 6 months, then it does make sense to look at buying a car. Having said that, its not an easy or quick process, and you should plan on spending several days on both the front and back end of your trip trying to get everything sorted out. I would be contacting the Michigan DMV as soon as possible and see if they have any advice or recommendations as far as what it will take to buy a car and register it, you should also contact an insurance agent to see what it will take to get insurance without being a resident. I'd figure you'll probably want to spend at least $5000 to get a roadworthy car (which will still likely be over 5 years old with fairly high miles) and deal with taxes and insurance fees, etc. I also wouldn't plan to get much back when you are done. If you even get half of your money back, you're probably going to be doing pretty good.
As Michael says, you will need to re think your costs.
Just as an example, in 2007 I spent 6 months driving some 21000 miles across the USA. As I was visiting many friends and family members, my lodgings for almost 50% of the nights was with them. Fuel, food, lodgings, souvenirs (minimal) and entrance fees, as well as other necessaries which you cannot escape on a six month trip, came to around $8000. And that was doing it very very cheaply.
Since it was my son's 'spare' car, my car costs (not included above) were confined to getting it roadworthy to start $1500, a new radiator in Albuquerque $400, and regular oil changes, about $60 each 4000 miles.
Buying, registering and insuring a vehicle as a non-citizen is extremely difficult. After more than five years of research, I have still not found a way of purchasing my own vehicle. This year I am fortunate that a very dear friend will purchase a vehicle for me, in her name, and on her insurance. I have triple checked that, should I have a mishap, she will not be penalised. It helps that I have a lifetime 1 rating on my own insurance.
Take into consideration that if you have your own vehicle, and have an accident or break down (they do happen), you are stuck! With a rental or lease vehicle there is normally some arrangement such as a replacement vehicle.
See if this site is of any help to you. Their age limit is 21. They will not sell to non-residents either, but they do long term leases, although the insurance is limited. Make sure that your travel insurance covers you for the balance.
And here's another fun way to road trip the US, though you need to be flexible with both time and destinations. I did this on my first two visits, and drove some two dozen cars (totally 41500 miles) to destinations of which I had never heard, causing me to see things which I would never have planned to see. Ideal for the adventurous!
Lifey who also wishes she could just buy a car
Thank you both for your responses.
Midwest Michael, we will readjust our budget and mileage to err on the side of caution as it is better to have too much than too little. However, I think buying a car is going to be too much trouble.
Therefore, as Lifemagician has pointed out, leasing a car from adventures on wheels seems like a decent option. To have a car from them with insurance for 6 months is about $5000 which split three ways isn't too bad, and is something we will seriously look into. Have you (or anyone else) used this company?
Also, autodriveaway is another possible option, however, the freedom is the main reason we are looking at getting a car. Have we still got a lot of freedom and time to do things, or is it very rigid in times and mileage in getting from one place to the other? What was your experience like?
The first car I drove was a HUGE learning curve. I got to understand why people give up after just one car. However, I sat down and analysed the whole trip and determined what I would do different in the future. From there it ran smoothly.
There are restrictions on both time and mileage, though I found them to be generous. (Always keep the owner of the car in mind.)
On my visit to an Autodriveaway office, I would find out what cars there were to be moved, and where they were going. I always opted for a car which was going to a destination where the company has an office, as it is your responsibility to make your own way there. My first car I took from LA to Boise, and then found I had to find my own way to either Seattle or Salt Lake City. That was the only time I made that mistake.
I found that most owners would take me to my lodgings, or the nearest public transport. But then, I was a solo senior female traveller. Still, if you are nice and polite, and not too demanding, you'll find that most are so happy to see their car, they'll help out.
Next I got maps from the AAA (take your local automobile club membership with you) and studied them, to see what there was en route, e.g. Mt Rushmore and Yellowstone, when I took a car from Washington DC to Seattle. I would then plot where there were hostels (my prefered accommodation), to determine my route. This trip was an allowance of 10 days, so I drove longer distances on 'driving' days, to spend some time at my chosen venues. This did not stop me from stopping for little gems along the way, but I focused on just two major things each trip.
Of all the cars I drove, only once was the mileage checked at the end, that was by a repossesion company. But even if you go over the mileage, it is a minimal cost per mile which is deducted from your deposit. Most owners are only too pleased to see their car, and don't care if it is a few miles over. Only twice did I exceed the allowance. Neither owner cared.
In Seattle I met a couple of young ladies who had also been looking to relocate cars, and envied me. Their problem was, that they were wanting to go to SF, and could not find a car which was going there, the only car available was going to Dallas. On questioning them further, I learned that they wanted to go to SF, then to Las Vegas, then to the Grand Canyon. I suggested that they take the car to Dallas, via LV and GC, and then, when in Dallas, see if they could get a car which would take them back to the west coast. That is what I mean by being flexible.
Next morning they were off!
I should also add, that no matter what scruffy clothes I wore along the road, when I attended the company office and delivering the car, I always made sure that I was dressed in my best clothes.
Any other questions, feel free to ask. I am at present working on putting my experience relocating cars, into a book.
Lifey who loved the unpredictability of it all
I have been planning a road trip for a while now, and the basic plan is to drive around the USA for a period of 4 months - driving around 10,000 miles. We intend to spend between $2,500 to $5,000 on a car. What car would you recommend for a trip like this? There will be 3 of us, so we would like enough space to fit us in, whilst the higher mpg the better as that would keep the fuel cost down.
Any ideas, recommendations or your own experience is welcome and much needed.
Last edited by Midwest Michael; 03-04-2009 at 06:48 AM.
Reason: Merged - Please don't create multiple threads about the same trip
With that budget, there aren't a lot of choices. Keep in mind that on top of the purchase price will be taxes, title, registration and most likely inspection fees.
Plus, cars that fit three people and all their gear while still getting decent fuel mileage are very hard to come by. However, I did once rent a Buick Park Avenue that returned 30 mpg on an extended trip. You might be able to pick one up in that price range.
I think you'll want to be on the upper end of your budget to get anything that's really roadworthy enough for a trip that will be of this size. In any case, you're going to need a reserve fund to cover potential repair costs - and the less you spend on the car, the more likely you'll need to tap into that fund.
I'm not going to recommend any specific models, but I think I would be looking at minivans for your trip. They will have enough space for your group, get gas mileage thats not much worse than a sedan, and be uncool enough that your money will go a little farther. Just doing a quick search in the detroit area, $4000-5000 will get you something 5-10 years old (lots of choices in the 99-02 range) with around 100,000-150,000 miles. If you start looking at vans under $4000, you're going to mostly find cars more than 10 years old, mostly from mid-90s models.