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  1. #1

    Default Roadtrippin' the West Coast with my girlfriend (and hopefully a van) Summer 2019

    Hey guys,

    my girlfriend and I (27 and 29 from Germany) are planning a roadtrip along the West Coast in August 2019 for 3-4 weeks. We haven't really come up with a "schedule" yet, since we're not really that interested in seeing any specific sights/cities/etc., we just wanted to hit the road and go for it, basically. We'd probably like to start (and end) in LA, Seattle, Portland or Vancouver (or other cities you might suggest), rent a van and then head north/south, maybe go a little landwards here and there etc.

    As you can see, we basically don't have any experience with this kinda stuff, so I figured I should ask some experts first before we
    do anything stupid haha. Basic questions for now are:

    * Where can we get a reaaaally basic (and cheap) van for two people? A bed and a stove would be nice, but they're no must for we could buy an air mattress and a gas stove I guess. All the rentals I could find were at least 3500$ for 3-4 weeks, most of them with significant additional costs. But those were fully equipped camping vehicles, mostly. As mentioned, a van would do - are there any roadtripping forums where we can get a used one from other roadtrippers or something like that?

    * Would buying a cheap van and then trying to sell it after the trip be an option? My girlfriend did that in Austrialia.

    * Considering the time and costs, do y'all think that getting a rental car and staying at hostels could come cheaper after all? M'lady insists on 2-bed rooms though.

    * How many destinations are realistic in that time and what distance can be realistically covered in a day driving?

    Thank you so much for your help and suggestions! I hope I'm not too infuriatingly naive here ;)

    Regards, Max

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


    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    Purchasing a van really is a non-starter for a trip like this. Unlike Australia, It is quite difficult for a non-resident visitor to purchase, license, and insure a vehicle in the US. It also generally isn't cost effective for a trip that's only a month long.

    That means renting, and for that, doing a loop trip where you start and finish in the same spot will generally save you quite a bit of money.

    There are not many places that rent camper vans in the US - escape is one of the few options, but I suspect that's what you were looking at when seeing a $3000+ quote.

    Beyond that, if you really want a van, looking to rent a minivan from a regular rental car company is probably your only/best option. You should be able to do that for about $1000 a month. However, keep in mind, you still need to think about campground fees, and if you're planning to focus a lot of your time on cities, safe and legal parking overnight is going to be an issue.

    Renting a regular car and staying in cheap hotels, hostels, and airbnb type places probably will be the cheapest route, and if you're thinking of focusing most of your time on cities, then it's probably the best option. You could additionally look at getting a cheap tent to do some camping when exploring non-urban areas.

  3. #3


    On renting a standard rental car agency minivan, or van, be prepared for seats that do not fold up, recess into the floor, and have uneven floors (e.g., my Honda minivan 2015 model has 3 sloped sections--call it a 3-level floor--nonetheless you can still fit a 4x8 sheet of plywood in this model, but many other minivans you can not. Bottom line, you won't be sure what model of minivan you'll get until arriving to the rental agency/counter.

    On the plus side, rentlng a minivan/SUV type vehicle is great for camping, if you were to purchase a tent, tent pads, sleeping bags or blankets, propane camp stove, cooler and such. Much easier than a car for loading/unloading your gear.

    Seattle is a good place to start. Easy to line up a hotel at the airport to adjust to time zone change (about 9 hrs difference) by exploring Seattle for a couple of days. There is a light rail/subway from the airport area into downtown Seattle. I have also found it much less expensive to rent a car in the north Seattle area (near the light rail terminus) than at the airport.

    Traffic is horrendous in LA, Portland and Seattle, so you want to arrive and depart those cities outside rush hours (in LA that means something like 530am-930am and 230pm-7pm). Still can be dicey!

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