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  1. Default Advice on costs for first time roadtripper

    Hi Everyone,

    I am planning a roadtrip for mid-december to mid-january of 2011/2012, just about 30 days. The plan is to start in the bay area of California and head up to Vancouver. Then across the northern states to Toronto and down the east coast stopping at New York, New Haven, Boston, D.C. and back across the southern states hitting Florida,Fort Stewart Georgia, New Orleans Louisiana, Rowlett Texas, Arizona(Grand Canyon), and finally L.A. then back home to the bay area. I have to stop in those areas to check out graduate schools and visit relatives.

    I'm not sure exactly what car I'll be driving yet but assume it may be a S.U.V. I may end up renting a car for that month. I was thinking of saving up 4800 or 5000, but I'm worried that may not be enough if I end up renting a car and paying for gas.

    What is your advice on how much gas money I'll need to put aside? How much will it be to rent a car if I end up doing that? What kind of car should I rent? Am I being too ambitious for my first trip? Any general safety tips for a young woman driving on her own? Any routes I should avoid? Suggestions for sidetrips?

    Thanks for the help in advance! Any advice is greatly appreciated.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Rough Limits

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    It's impossible, of course, to give you any hard and fast costs on a trip that won't happen for another year, but we can give you some very rough estimates and an idea of what tradeoffs might be involved. first, on the car. At the 'low' end, with an economy or compact car, you'll be looking at somewhere around $800 for a month's rental, assuming you're 25 or older and return it to the same place you pick it up. If you're under 25 assume another $750, if you're going to return it somewhere else add $300, and if you're under 21 forget it. If you step 'up' to an SUV, the base rental will go up to around $1200. In my opinion that's a totally wasted $400. You won't be allowed to take the vehicle off road in any case, and all you get for your extra money is a harsher ride, less privacy, and the joy(?) of stopping more often for gas. I typically go up just one step from the econobox and get an intermediate sedan for the extra comfort without much of a price premium.

    Next is the gas. For planning purposes, you can assume around 25 mpg for a mid-sized sedan. You'll probably get better, but you can't count on it. I'd also plan on $4/gal for gas in the very near future. On a roughly 8,000 mile journey such as you're planning, that's around $1,250 for gas. If you went for the SUV and mileage dropped to 15 mpg, you'd be looking at $2,150 for gas. So, if you went whole hog and got an SUV and you're 22, say, then cost for the SUV and gas would be in the neighborhood of $4000 before you got so much as one meal or one night's lodging.

    As far as those latter two essentials go, I generally work from a rule-of-thumb figure of $100/day for a modest motel room and two restaurant meals a day. I generally grab whatever is quick and free at the motel 'continental' breakfast, stop for a mid-morning full up restaurant breakfast before 11:00 and then a light soup/salad/sandwich type dinner in late afternoon. That's about what $100 gets you. If you go bare bones and stay at the cheapest motels and eat entirely out of a cooler, you might get that down to $60-75/day. You can cut back further by camping, but even absolute minimal existence is going to require say $50/day. So depending on the lifestyle you choose, you're going to need $1,500-3,000 for your month on the road.

    So, is $5,000 enough for such an adventure? Yes, if you watch pretty much every penny and budget them well. But if you start giving in to the urge to go upscale and spend money on useless (at best) or counter productive (at worst) items like an SUV, then it simply won't stretch that far.


  3. Default

    Are you going by yourself? If you are then I see no reason why you should get an SUV. Try to rent the smallest most fuel efficent car you can. It will save you money on both the rental and on gas costs.

    These days if you rent a small car you can usually count on 30 mpg, although its probably best to just go with what AZbuck says and figure on 25 mpg just to be on the safe side. But most likely you will end up with something gets at least 30 mpg.

    Most of the time when I rent a car I get at least 30. I once got 40.

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