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  1. Default Road trip planning: I have two questions... HELP PLEASE!

    Im planning a summer roadtrip for next year and many questions pop into my mind.
    The thing is I'm not an american citizen, I'm spanish and I'm trying to gather all the info I need from the internet. My questions are:

    1) Can or cant I buy a car in the US without being resident? Im planning on buying a used car... Will there be lots of paperwork? How complicated can that be? what do I need?

    2) Im planning on a camping and cheap motels mix to spend my nights... but I've read some things about camping permits, do I need them? According to what I've read on the web I believe I need camping permits to camp in national parks... but not for camping sites... Am I right?
    If I need permits to camp in national parks, How can I get them? How much will it cost me?

    I'll really appreciate any advice guys... help me out here please! =)

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


    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    Sorry, but the simple answer is that no, you can't purchase a car without being a resident of the US. There just is no way that you can get all the license, registration, and insurance items taken care of while traveling as a tourist. We have many people ask about this, and several people who have tried for years, but no one has ever been successful.

    For camping, the thing you really need to know is that you can't just set up camp anywhere. Everywhere in the US is owned by somebody, and you can't just set up camp without knowing where it is legal. Within National Parks, camping is generally only allow at designated campsites. Those sites cost money, and you typically pay right at the enterance to the campground. Fees will vary, but $20 a night is a good average number.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Two Answers

    Bienvenido al bordo RoadTrip América foros!

    Unfortunately, we have had many requests for this information, but we've never had a report of anyone successfully negotiating the legalities of registering, licensing, and insuring a car in the United States as a foreign national. We have had a recent report which indicates that this might be easier in Canada, but we don't yet know how that will work out.

    And there is one exception to the general rule that Michael cites of camping being allowed only in designated campsites. In many National Forests and some National Parks, you are allowed to set up camp in relatively back country under a distributed or dispersed camping program. You will have to check with each forest/park as to whether and where this is allowed within their boundaries.


  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    In order to buy and register a car here, you generally must be on a student or work visa, not a tourist visa, and have a verifiable US physical address, such as an apartment. The only self-drive option available to tourists are car rentals, which are very easy as long as you are at least 21 and have an International Driving Permit in addition to your home license.

  5. Default

    Thanks a lot for your help here...

    Ok... I cant buy a car without being resident. But what if I can get someone to buy one for me? I have many friends with student visas and also some relatives that are legal residents of the US... I have the spanish drivers licence, I assume I'll still need an international driving permit right? Or can I drive as a tourist with my home license?

    Thanks for the camping info... I gess I'll have to check with each park and forest.

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


    Its still really not that simple.

    If you get someone else to buy a car for you there are still some legal issues which could be problematic. First of all, you would have to be added to their insurance and since you have no US driving record, that could be quite expensive. If you are under 25 that will also push rates up quite significantly.

    Second, if you were to get into an accident driving "their" car, you could be creating a very big mess for your friends. First, their insurance rates will go up for several years because of your crash. Also, if there are injuries or any other damage that isn't covered by or is beyond the limits of the insurance, they could be held financially and legally liable for those damages. (For example, If you have a $100,000 insurance policy, and after an accident, the other person sued for a million dollars, your friend/relative could be ordered to pay the remaining $900,000). Essentially, both you and your friend/relative really need to understand the seriousness of doing something like this, and not just assume everything will be ok as long as you get a car to drive.

    Your spanish license is legal to use for driving in the US, but if it is not in English, then getting an international drivers license (which serves as a translation) would be a good idea.

  7. Default

    I never thought it would be so complicated.
    I guess I'll have to rent...

    Thanks a lot for your help again.

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