Skip Navigation

America - Buying a car

Travel Forums North America America - Buying a car

1. Posted by ShaunUK (Budding Member 23 posts) 11y

I'm going to America / Canada on 1st September. We're planning to do a road trip across the states, East Coast to West Coast.

I've looked into car hire but it's really expensive, I've looked into Drive Aways but they never give you enough time. Ten days to cross the whole of America isn't going to give you a lot of time to do any sight seeing, barely enough time to even sleep.

Someone at work said that they did it 10 years ago and just bought a cheap car off someone and sold it on at their destination.

How doable is this? Does anyone have any experience of this or any advice? What do I need to watch out for? How easy will it be to pick up a car?

2. Posted by samsara_ (Travel Guru 5353 posts) 11y

A girl I knew in college did that with some of her friends Shaun. They picked up a car for $2,000 (ish) somewhere on the East Coast and drove across the country, finishing up in Seattle.

They ended up giving the car away to some backpackers there! She said it was definitely worth it!!

If you're planning to drive across the country, that's what I would do. ;)

3. Posted by ShaunUK (Budding Member 23 posts) 11y

2 grand is a lot more than I would want to pay, especially if I was going to give the card away. Could rent a car for much less than that.

Were your friends loaded or something?

My friend said he picked one up for a couple of hundred dollars.

4. Posted by samsara_ (Travel Guru 5353 posts) 11y

Well, I'm not sure of how much money they had. That girl was just in my class at college, not really a friend.

Maybe she was loaded I dont know. I think maybe they felt it was worth it because they spent a year using the car.

Maybe someone else can be more help....

5. Posted by beerman (Respected Member 1631 posts) 11y

Well, just remember Shaun, you get what you pay for. A couple hundred dollars may seem like a good deal at the time, but will the car be reliable? You don't really want to be stuck in the middle of nowhere (and trust me, there are plenty of those in the US) with a car that has crapped out on you. It is possible to find a good deal though.

I would wait until you got here, use as much public transport as you could (planes, trains, busses, etc.), then check into used car lots. Don't just buy something at your first stop...it'll pay to look around and bargain. And gas prices are averaging US$2.70/gal. You'll save a lot with a better mileage car, but most of the used economy cars have been run into the ground already. And as far as giving the car away, don't forget the legal issues involved. If you haven't properly signed over title, etc., and the car is used in a crime, you could be liable, or at least held up until things got sorted out.

My best advice...... shop around for a good rental economy car. Check all the major rental companies (Avis, Hertz, National, etc) and Expedia, Orbitz, for more car deals. They will be reliable cars that you don't have to worry about.

Good luck, and Happy Travels here in NA

6. Posted by areinstein (Travel Guru 2788 posts) 11y

Boy beerman, you covered EVERYTHING! I was going to say, buying a car in the US isnt as easy as it may appear. I personally wouldnt buy a car for $2000 or even $3000 and drive it across the country...if I did, I would be very very worried about the car breaking down. Also when you buy a car, you must register it in a specific state, you have to wait for the title (it gets mailed somewhere, but you need an specific address) for you to be able to sell it. Title has to be handed over to the new buyer. Cars MUST be insured in the US, at the very least, the minimum required by the state where you register the car. At time of registration you must also pay sales tax, a percentage of the sales price. Typically, anywhere between 5 to 8% (could be more or could be less). Here in Florida is 6%.

Anyway, it isnt as simple as it sounds. You may be able to get away with not doing any of that, as long as you dont get stopped by the police and asked for documentation. You know what they say, you are only guilty if you are caught .

If I were you, like beerman said, I would totally 100% rent a car to drive accross the country. Get one with unlimited mileage and all you have to worry about is gas prices. If you start the trip on a cheap state (like Florida, Georgia) then the rental can be as low as $14.95 a day. If you rent it from New York, Washington or Boston, it may be around $45 or so a day. My favorite rental company is Alamo...it has always been the cheapest for me. Good luck!

7. Posted by DirkvdM (Budding Member 14 posts) 11y

I bought a car there with the same idea. In the end I didn't manage to sell the car and it was a real gas-guzzler. But still it worked out reasonably cheap considering the places I've been to. You have to keep in mind that public transportation in the US is rare and almost non-existent if you want to go anywhere outside the major cities (which is most all of the US!). Of course it depends on what you want to see/do, but if you want to visit any national parks and such a private car is almost essential.
I did it the other way around; I bought a car in Arizona, went up to Canada, then down to Yellowstone and on to the East coast. Buying a car in Arizona is a good idea because they rust less there. Selling a car works better if you're not in an Amish area, as I found out.

8. Posted by Isadora (Travel Guru 13926 posts) 11y

Quoting DirkvdM

Selling a car works better if you're not in an Amish area, as I found out.

Unless your car is black and pulled by a horse...