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  1. Default Questions on getting started

    Hey there guys, my girlfriend and I are both 22-23 years old Australian citizens newly in the USA. We have been talking and saving for our great American adventure for quite some time and now find ourselves in Phoenix Arizona at her relatives house. This is our second day here and now it is down to figuring out what we need to do get this ball rolling. We are living on a real slim budget but have managed to find a few vans around there area for around $1500-$2200.
    Back home (Australia) we have a service called RACQ and of you are a member, for a small fee (i think) they will come out to you and have a look over the car you are interested in and tell you if it is worth sinking your money into. Does such a service like this exist in America? Also, in order to register a vehicle here you must have a permanent address to register it to. Would my girlfriends family's house count as that? (obviously we will be moving far away from phoenix as our travels take us north).
    Insurance. I have a clean driving record and my girlfriend only has one accident on hers (wasn't her fault,some one backed into her) Would any of this factor into us getting a farily cheap but still comprehensive insurance quote and if so what would be the ballpark figure?
    Thankyou all for yoour time, Josh.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Some Things That Matter

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    There are a number of discussions on these forums that list all the problems and costs involved in short term purchases of vehicles by foreign nationals in the US. Suffice it to say that it is neither cheap nor easy. But to answer your specific questions...

    The equivalent of the RACQ in the US is AAA, the American Automobile Association. They do maintain a list of recommended auto mechanics who could inspect your car, but they tend to be higher end (read costly) garages. You can get a basic road-worthiness inspection at almost any garage, so I would suggest you ask your girlfriend's family for a local recommendation. But to be blunt, I doubt that any van you can purchase for under $2,000 would be up to an extended RoadTrip.

    Having a local address will help in registering and licensing any vehicle you do purchase, but it must be the address of the owner. If you and your girlfriend both have Australian citizenship and Australian driver's licenses, then having a local address won't help all that much unless her family would want to take on the responsibility and liability of being the owners of record and then giving you free rein to do as you will with it.

    As for insurance, your record helps, but the biggest drawback you have is your age. Auto insurance for those under 25 is expensive for the simple reason that drivers of that age group have the most, and most expensive, accidents. That's how insurance works. You pool the risk and spread the cost. You're in a high-risk group, thus the higher cost. Again, you might be able to piggy-back on your girlfriend's family's insurance and get a multiple driver discount, but that would be a discount from the higher age-related rate, and if you then have an accident, it would cost her family for years to come in higher rates.

    In short, there are no easy or cheap answers. If your only use for this vehicle is a relatively short-term RoadTrip, then renting rather than buying is the cost effective option.


  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Las Vegas, Nevada

    Default read-through

    Here is a rather old thread about car insurance information -- but much of the information is still accurate,

    Purchasing a car (actually getting it registered and insured) when you are a non-resident is pretty difficult.


  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default Been there, done that.

    30 Months ago I bought a van, as I come to the US for many months every year. The van was $7000. An excellent vehicle in great shape with low mileage. The registration into my own name cost almost $1500. The insurance - there is only one company I know of who will insure non-residents - has been different each year. This year I paid $1300. When the van breaks down I am on my own. I am off the road until it is repaired. It has happened on a few occasions, at the cost of hundreds of $$$.

    When renting, you get an almost new vehicle. If something goes wrong, the rental company takes care of it.

    You are making the same mistake as I did, expecting the process to be similar to home. It is not! You cannot just walk up, as a non-resident, purchase a vehicle and hit the road. I'm not sure about Queensland, but in Vic the registration and all that is handled by the car dealer. In the US it is up to you. In many States proof of insurance is essential before you can register. You could have the vehicle for weeks, and still be waiting for the process to be completed. (I did it all from Melbourne before I came over, with the help of my friends on this site.)

    Many of the insurance companies I contacted had conditions which did not suit me.... besides being a non-resident. One stipulated that the vehicle could only be taken out of State for two months in the year. Another would not insure vehicles more than a certain age - can't remember how old. Another still would not allow the vehicle to cross the border into Canada. The insurance company I am with now is in Delaware and has many forms to fill in. (However, none of it has to do with my insurance history. They do want to know about any tickets or traffic violations.) The process takes several weeks each year. I get all the papers sent to me by email, then when I have completed them, get them notarised and return them. Not sure how you would do it when already in the States.

    All that said, go ask insurance brokers BEFORE YOU DO ANYTHING FURTHER and find out from them. Go see several in Phoenix. Go to the Department which registers vehicles, and speak with them. Ask all the questions you can think of. Find out the process.

    As for the service which the RACQ and RACV provide, it does not exist in the US, as far as I could find out. Get it checked out by a mechanic at the local dealership. [I bought a Ford from a Toyota dealership, so I got the local Ford dealership to check it out. I made a point of organising all this myself, by phone.]

    The questions which come to my mind are: Did you make enquiries before you came out? How long will you be using it? Have you discussed this with the family in Phoenix? Are they aware that they will be held responsible for your actions or accident? Are you aware that in the litigious USA this could mean disaster for them? Have you explored other options, such as Escape Vans?

    Lastly, you may like to check out this thread.


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