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  1. Default Traveling 3 Months from MA to CA - Car Suggestions?

    Dear Everybody,

    This looks like a great resource! I'm excited to learn as much as I can from all of you.

    My friend and I are planning a 3 month road trip from our native MA to CA starting in July.

    We are planning moving in a vertical zig-zag as we move west and we've estimated we'll probably be racking up close to 15k miles.

    Do you have any suggestions for what type of used car would be most appropriate for this trip? We have a pretty limited budget and would like to cap the cost at 3500-4000 total for the car.

    One thing is, we're planning on dumping (literally, or selling) the car in San Francisco. So the car only needs to last us the duration of the trip.

    Obviously a bigger car would be ideal, as one that isn't too much of a gas guzzler. But reliability is definitely probably the priority. A serious problem would probably end the trip.

    Is buying a car with over 100k miles on it a terrible idea?

    A van or truck would be nice, but I'd love to hear any suggestion. Making this work would be a dream come true.

    Thanks so much!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Your Two Big Problems

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    First of all, your price range will seriously limit the type and reliability of any car you can buy. I would be a bit surprised if you can find any vehicle in that price range with under a hundred thousand miles on it and/or that will be up to a 15,000 mile cross-country RoadTrip without breaking down at least once. If you are lucky enough to find a car that seems to fit your budget and needs you will need to take it to a trusted mechanic before purchase. Be sure to tell him/her what (ab)use you plan to put the car through and ask them to thoroughly check it out and give you a recommendation. Your second problem is that you may not be able to sell a car that you bought in Massachusetts at the end of your trip. California has stricter emission standards than the rest of the nation so you will be left trying to sell a high mileage car that could require an additional significant outlay of money on the part of the buyer to bring it up to California standards. The fact is that cars are not, and should never be thought of, as disposable items.


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

    Default limits

    Finding a car in your price range is going to be a challenge, but certainly not impossible. What I would make sure is that in addition to your purchase price you have a significant fund to pay for any repairs that might come up. You're pretty much going to have to look for cars that have more than 100,000 miles and are close to 10 years old, and the fact is even the most reliable and best maintained cars have parts that simply wear out when they get to that age.

    While I won't recommend any specific models, I would probably be looking at minivans. It seems like you can find pretty good values in that category, plus you'll get some extra space which will be nice for such a long trip. Buying from a private party (craigslist/newspaper ads) will probably help you find a better deal too. Of course, it bears repeating that any car should be inspected by a mechanic before you actually pay money for it.

    Finally, the emissions issue is a very real one, especially for a car of that age/price range. One thing you should do before you buy is look on the underside of the hood and search for a sticker with emissions info. It will likely say either it meets federal standards, or it meets California standards - you'll want to make sure its California approved. That won't guarentee that it will pass a smog test but its a good first stop. Even if it was built to pass CA standards, as the car has aged, it may not meet those standards anymore and if that is the case, you will be responsible to make the repairs before it can be sold.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    Before deciding to buy a car, get some quotes on a long-term one way rental. At least that way you don't have to worry about maintenance and it will be a new or nearly new car.

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