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Old 07-03-2017, 04:13 PM
34 posts, read 15,285 times
Reputation: 132


In the end of July, we're going on a huge road trip accross the country from NYC down through the East Coast to FL, than heading to TX through the deep South, than crossing NM, CO and finishing off in UT. The plan was to rent a car for the trip, but the quotes I'm getting for the 3-week route are insane. The smallest budget car is 2500 USD without any extras, excluding fuel costs.

So I've started looking up NYC Craiglist and there are 2004-2006 Honda and Ford sedans in fine condition for 1500 USD... I'm thinking about picking up one for cash in the first day in NYC and dropping it off at a dealer before the last day in Salt Lake City for 750 - 1000 USD (I don't care about the loss, the goal is to spare the hassle of private selling).

I know there are potential drawbacks with a used car but I'm willing to risk it for a 3-week trip and of course I would demand a full mechanical check-up before making the deal.

The big question is what paperwork (registration, insurance) would I absolutely need for this 3-week trip? How much added cost would that mean? Would I need to sit in offices and stand in lines for the whole day, etc., etc? Or should I just make the privat deal and head on to the road without caring about all that hassle for such a short 21 day trip? Is there a risk of getting a fee from a random police man (I've heard that in the US police has no right to stop you if you didn't do any unlawful act)?

Do you think it's a realistic idea to buy a car for the trip? It's just a shame that renting a car in America is so pricey. It's actually twice as expensive as both of our international return flight tickets, isn't it comical?
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Old 07-03-2017, 08:06 PM
Location: New Mexico
6,550 posts, read 3,653,233 times
Reputation: 12306
Rent a car and avoid the headaches. I have a 2004 car that is keeping me busy with brakes, AC, CV joints, etc. Do you want to be stuck in East Jesus in August with a foreign car that won't run waiting for parts? Even an old domestic model will have problems on that length of journey. The registration, taxes and insurance will vary by state so I don't know the cost in NYC. I rented a car on my last trip for a few days and was glad I did. If it breaks down they owe you a car. Check your credit cards to see if they can get you insurance or other discounts. You will be driving 4,000 miles.
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Old 07-04-2017, 08:58 AM
Location: Colorado Springs
3,078 posts, read 2,111,256 times
Reputation: 3582
What constitutes fine condition? A 10+ year old car with up to 250,000 miles on them are not necessarily going to be up to par for a 3000 mile trip over three weeks without incident. At $1500, why do you think a seller will agree to your full mechanical check and repairs that may run up to an additional $1000? What is your mechanical aptitude and ability? If it throws a belt a hour away from the nearest tow truck, do you think you can figure out a way to limp it there?

Can this be done. Sure. As a matter of fact, there is a magazine group who does this exact sort of thing regularly, but they are died in the wool, hardcore car guys who know a lot about mechanics. Check out one of their adventures here:

If you do chose to do this, you will need to take the purchase documents/title/bill of sale to the local Dept of Motor Vehicles, transfer ownership, pay taxes, and get a license tag. This may also require a liability insurance policy at a minimum. Then hit the road, learn the intrinsic oddities of your vehicle, figure out how to work around them, enjoy the trip.
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Old 07-04-2017, 05:48 PM
Location: New Mexico
6,550 posts, read 3,653,233 times
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You might consider taking Amtrak south out of NYC to maybe Charlotte NC and paying a lot less for a rental car. Plus you won't have to drive the congested stretch south out of NYC.
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Old 07-04-2017, 06:47 PM
Location: I is where I is
2,097 posts, read 1,522,521 times
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Depending where you rent the car, it would be cheaper for 3 weeks to rent rather than what you're trying to possibly do.

I rented a mid-size SUV through Enterprise last month, for 3 weeks while visiting my family in Louisville,KY, and it only cost me a total of about $775, only about $250 a week. Plus you avoid the hassle & headache of everything to do with insurance, registration, etc...
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Old 07-05-2017, 09:22 PM
7,332 posts, read 4,438,206 times
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Tip: if you are coming from outside the U.S., do NOT book online. Call the local offices in your home country of a couple of U.S. rental agencies and ask what the "international" rate will be. For a lot of countries (not all), this will work out cheaper than renting online. Plus, you may be able to waive the hefty one way drop off fees this way.

If you can't find a deal that way, the advice to take a bus or train away from the airport and the NYC metro area is a good one. You may also find cheaper rates with "off brand" local "rent a wreck" type rental agencies, but they are unlikely to waive the final drop off fee. It is almost ALWAYS cheaper to rent away from the airport, in town.

I wouldn't bother with the hassle of buying a car -- it is likely to put a crimp in your travel plans, one way or another.

Regardless, don't forget to add in the cost of parking (many hotels here charge up to $40 a night), tolls, insurance, registration, and possible speeding/traffic tickets along way.

You may want to look into whether it might be cheaper to fly to a couple of the major metros on your itinerary and use public transport while in those cities.

Then, rent a car for excursions from those cities. For instance, if you are planning to visit the national parks in California-Utah-Arizona, fly into Phoenix or Las Vegas and rent a car there, returning at the same city. From Las Vegas, it's a very enjoyable drive to places like the Grand Canyon, Route 66, Zion National Park, Yosemite, Death Valley, etc.

Frankly, there is a lot of long boring driving in many parts of the U.S. so you might actually enjoy your trip more this way.

Last edited by RosieSD; 07-05-2017 at 09:32 PM..
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Old 07-05-2017, 09:35 PM
7,332 posts, read 4,438,206 times
Reputation: 8967
Just want to add: if you decide to proceed with buying a car, you will probably need to get an international driver's permit in order to get auto insurance.

And, trust me on this: you do NOT want to drive in the U.S. without auto insurance (or proper registration).

Definitely scope out the insurance and registration requirements before you go forward with your plan. That $1500 junker might end up being as much as a rental car when all is said and done.

Although it's geared to people who will be living/working in the U.S., this article will give you a good general overview of what will be involved with buying, registering, insuring, and driving a car in the U.S. during your visit:


I'd definitely do some additional research beyond that article, though.
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Old 07-06-2017, 10:51 AM
Location: "The Dirty Irv" Irving, TX
2,808 posts, read 1,297,032 times
Reputation: 3204
Used to work at Enterprise. Renting from the airport is much much more expensive. Many municipalities tax the heck out of Airport rentals. In DFW for example you are paying about 50% more in taxes and fees. Rent from a local branch. Sometimes they will wave drop off fees and what have you if you get a small upgrade or something.
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Old 07-06-2017, 01:57 PM
7,385 posts, read 13,224,704 times
Reputation: 8984
I've lived in several states and every time I switched my car and license over, there was always proof of residency required. I don't know how the OP is going to provide that. Unfortunately for the OP, it's an unrealistic plan. I had several friends that had a hard time unloading (selling) their out of state tagged cars, so I don't think it's going to be as easy as the OP wants it to be.
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Old 07-06-2017, 02:25 PM
9,028 posts, read 16,421,659 times
Reputation: 6814
Focus on finding a cheaper rental.

Your buying plan will be a hassle. There are taxes associated with selling it back, licensing, insurance, registration, potentially inspection/emissions and you may encounter a state that will make it difficult to register without residency - at a minimum it will be a lot more paperwork and time

Having no/expired registration is a very common reason to get pulled over and provides a good excuse for the police to check you out in general. There are also DUI checkpoints and general "I pulled you over for a fake reason because it is late, you don't look like you belong here, etc and I want to check you out"

If you don't have registration/insurance, the car can be impounded until you show proper documentation and then pay the impound fees.

Some good advice above about finding better rates. Definitely reiterate to avoid renting at any airport and it could be better to avoid renting in NYC. You don't need a car there, it is expensive and a bit of a hassle.
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