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Tourist buying a car in USA and travelling 2 months across

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21. Posted by tomr0b (Budding Member, 12 posts) 19 Jul '12 04:48

I know this is an old thread, but wanted to come back and say that the trip was a massive success. We bought a car in Chicago for $2000, registered it in a temporary address, drove it around the east coast and deep south on temporary plates then sold it for $1800, including repairs and taking into account the loss on the car we spent around $800 total for 3 months between 3 people. Was it easy? No, we ran into problems but got over them, iv'e documented the trip on the link below.

The reason I am posting this is because it took us months of working out whether such a trip is doable, so anybody thinking of doing the same now, the answer is yes, and I couldn't imagine doing America other way but by car.

-snip-

[ Edit: Sorry, no promos please. ]

22. Posted by willuk2usa (First Time Poster, 1 posts) 30 Jul '12 09:45

[quote=tomr0b]I know this is an old thread, but wanted to come back and say that the trip was a massive success.

tomr0b you have made my day. I've spent all day looking for help on buying a car in the US and all i have read are people telling that it's impossible but i came across this thread and it has almost saved my trip for me. Plus the fact that this thread is 2 years old and you wrote in it about 2 weeks ago which is really helpful. It's great to see that you and others on this thread have had successful trips which is extremely encouraging.

I'm going to be travelling with one mate and we're starting north east and working our way across & down. Now i'm not going to lie when it comes to cars i'm not the most knowledgeable but if you could set out the fundamental things that have to be sorted before we leave and once we've got there then i'd be really grateful. Any useful tips that we need to know about sorting insurance, licence plates and permanent addresses....so basically everything that everyone keeps saying that'll stop us from getting a car haha.

Cheers mate

23. Posted by surfrun (Budding Member, 7 posts) 31 Jul '12 18:14

Hey fellas,

Got an email with a new post on this thread and thought i'd let you know how I went buying a car in the states a couple of years ago.

I posted on this thread, may have even started it if I remember correctly, trying to get info about buying a car in the US. Had plenty of people saying you can't or it's too hard.

Anyway... did it, bought a car, travelled 16,000km through 19 states in it, no problem.

The hardest part was finding a good car. We were trying to keep costs to a minimum - but Willuk2USA if you have a bit of cash you'll be right. We budgeted $1-1.2k, end up spending 4 days in New York, venturing out to Queens each day searching for a car. After getting fed up with NY, we decided to rent a car and follow some girls down to DC, where we found a 1995 Dodge Caravan with 198,000 miles on it for $750, in a suburb some 40 minutes west of DC. Horn didn't work, had no spare, no aircon, but ran okay. We were over it and took the chance.

Went pretty good most of the time. Had a $350 repair very early on fixing wheel bearings and disc brake. Then half way through, burst our fuel line (just lucky we were 500m from a small mechanic who offered to fix it for free) and then at the end of the trip in LA blew 3 tyres in a week!

Anyway, in regards to all the other sh*t you have to worry about - apparently in the US if you sell a car, you're suppose to keep the number plates (they dont go with the car). The car we bought, the guy left them on, so we drove a few days with his plates. We then went to a DMV in Virgini. Rego is pretty cheap, about $80 including plates. I could register them to my address in Australia. Not sure if this is the same in all states, but just ask them, if not make up an address. For insurance, I think you're suppose to organise it before buying a car, which doesn't make much sense, but we called up GEICO and got insurance with them once we bought the car. Pretty expensive, about $110 a month, we just gave them an address of a hostel in LA we never went to. Don't think it matters.

You should be right with getting a car, I'm not majorly knowledgable when it comes to cars either, but if you're willing to spend closer to say $2k then you should be able to get something a bit more reliable.

A couple of tips: probably invest in a spare for $10 if you don't have one. We had to pay $160 for a new tire because we were in the middle of nowhere half way to Vegas.
Cops pull you over, let them know you're not from the states. They'll love it.
Alcohol blood limit 0.08 for driving - not sure if all states or not though.
Get a Dodge caravan and sleep in the car.
Going down the east coast? Daytona Beach is a bit of fun - drive the car on the beach. Florida Keys are unreal, get down to Key West. Get to 6th Street Austin Texas for a sick night out, or 5. Grand Canyon national park, i think has entrance fees. Just drive in at night and sleep in the car, avoid fees and wake up to sunrise - sick.

any more info let me know.

Goodluck!

24. Posted by vegasmike6 (Travel Guru, 3536 posts) 4 Aug '12 21:14

Just a few thoughts on 'surfrun' post.

Insurance:
All states require insurance in order to register a vehicle. They want the VIN number in order to know what vehicle you have and cost to repair or replace. Several large online insurance companies will insure your vehicle w/o seeing it. But you will need to provide photos if you take out collision/theft coverage.

Address in the US:
I have let TP members use my address when they buy a vehicle in Vegas. Both DMV & your insurance company will ask for an address. If you cannot find someone that will let you use their address, you can rent a mailbox forwarding service in most cities. Cost per month is not that much. Yes, you can use a hostel as well. However, you are depending on them to mail you the new title. Allow 3-6 weeks for DMV to mail the new title to address provided. Using a fake address will work as well if you are not planning on selling. Not many people will give you a fair price w/o a title.

Registration:
Laws do vary from state to state. Some states will not let you register a vehicle w/o having that states Drivers License. NV does not care. NY does. Check with DMV where you plan on buying. NV and most states require an address in that state.

National Parks allow drivers to enter after the fee station closes. Some check for entrance fees when you leave, most don't. Sleeping in your vehicle outside of campgrounds is prohibited. If you are clever, the rangers will not know. Low profile is the key.

Police:
The first sentence out of your mouth will reveal to most police that you are not US citizens. Your DL will confirm it. TP members have told me that many police will get them a break because they are visitors. Or not. I am still getting letters demanding payment from TP members that got tickets and never paid them! One of the negatives of letting members use my address.

Good luck to members planning on buying/driving while in the US.

[ Edit: Edited on 04-Aug-2012, at 21:24 by vegasmike6 ]

25. Posted by tomr0b (Budding Member, 12 posts) 14 Aug '12 04:50

Will,

You need to register to a permanent address, but I believe this has to be in the state you buy the car. We bought in Chicago and registered to a hostel. It didn't make a difference because there was no essential information sent to that address (that we knew of!).

We bought from a dealer, so they sorted us out with a few things, including temporary number plates. These were valid for 3 months so didn't need the real ones although they eventually came and we put them on when we sold it.

What you do need to sell the car is a title. Documentation that goes with the car. This was a nightmare, because it doesn't get issued days/weeks after. This was delivered to the dealer who forwarded it on to an address we were at on a later date.

This was a nightmare, purely because of the incompetence of the dealer, they kept saying it was sent when it wasn't. Wwe received it on our last day, the same day as the car was sold). People will be very reluctant to buy your car without it.

VegasMike is right when he says states vary, and I can go on Illinois (who where apparently suppose to be strict), but get on the state DMV web site to check. Although I honestly think that once you get there and you unleash an accent, they kind of get disarmed and you can get away with quite a bit!

Car:
With regards to the car, don't worry we didn't have much of a clue, although came in search of something Japanese and reliable. We saw the red american convertible, fell in love and these ideals went out of the window. To be fair the Pontiac Sunfire had very good fuel consumption compared to a lot of other American cars. Give yourself plenty of time, you will probably have to do a lot of walking and it can be tiresome, especially when you are so eager to get out of there. I would play to start off in a location that has a lot of dealerships/cars on craigslist.

When it comes to selling, again go to a populated area and stick it on craigslist. We tried selling to a dealer, he took one look at it, called us a rust bucket and said he wouldn't give us more than $400 for it. We sold it on craigslist in Austin, TX for $1600.

GPS:
I'm sure you've thought about it already but our TomTom GPS was a saviour. Buy one in USA because the maps would be very expensive to upgrade from UK. I'd stick with TomTom brand because it has good coverage and gives you the nearest motels, subway (cheapest healthy food about), parks, McDonalds (great for free wifi) and Waffle House (cracking breakfast). We sold this at the end to the dealer that turned down the car for $20 less than we paid.

Accommodation:
This isn't everyone's cup of tea, but we used a web site called Couch Surfing and it honestly made our trip. You save loads of money on hotels/motels and get excellent local knowledge. A lot of the time the hosts took us on nights out, fed us and showed us the area. Some experiences are better than others but as long as you're not overly bothered about sleeping on a floor sometimes (buy sleeping bags) its awesome.

We also purchased a small tent from Wallmart and did some camping in the Smokey mountains which is again cheap.

Any other questions just ask...
My link to my blog has been deleted but if you type 'travel pod tomr0b' into google it should come up.

failing all this..just wing it, honestly that's what we did for most of it. You get highs and lows but that's part of the fun. Get an iTrip for your mp3/ipod- fill it with american classics, can't remember how many times we played 'Born To Run'!

Good luck :)

26. Posted by 0Rob (First Time Poster, 1 posts) 16 Jan '13 20:46

Sorry to bring this thread back to life,

but i was very excited to hear about the success stories that you guys have had.

I to am Australian and will be spending 4 months driving around America in a few months time. I am looking at buying a car.

I understand it isnt exactly legal, to use a friends permanent adress. Did anyone come across any problems when they tried?

And how did you guys work out insurance?

27. Posted by elizabethdennis (Budding Member, 2 posts) 17 Jan '13 03:14

Quoting Daawgon

Don't forget that Liability Insurance is absolutely mandatory in all 50 states! (not exactly cheap)

I agree. It will be impractical to buy a car even if it is second hand if you will only be staying temporarily. It will be better if you look at other options rather than spending on a used car.

28. Posted by tomr0b (Budding Member, 12 posts) 17 Jan '13 09:13

Quoting elizabethdennis

Quoting Daawgon

Don't forget that Liability Insurance is absolutely mandatory in all 50 states! (not exactly cheap)

I agree. It will be impractical to buy a car even if it is second hand if you will only be staying temporarily. It will be better if you look at other options rather than spending on a used car.

I disagree. If you are in the country for 4 months it is far more practical to buy than rent purely based on cost. We Bought a car for $2300 spent around $300 total in repairs and $300 for 3 months liability insurance, then sold it for $1600. Total cost of around $1300 (split between 3 of us). Compare that with the $5000 (rent a wreck, rental of older cars) quote we had and it is far more sensible to buy!

My advice to anyone thinking about doing it is go for it, we read the negative attitudes towards doing it, but all by people that haven't tried. Just do your research on the best locations and go for it.

29. Posted by tomr0b (Budding Member, 12 posts) 17 Jan '13 09:17

Quoting 0Rob

Sorry to bring this thread back to life,

but i was very excited to hear about the success stories that you guys have had.

I to am Australian and will be spending 4 months driving around America in a few months time. I am looking at buying a car.

I understand it isnt exactly legal, to use a friends permanent adress. Did anyone come across any problems when they tried?

And how did you guys work out insurance?

Went for insurance with 'State Farm', they are a national country and covered all states. I think we took up a 12 month policy which we were allowed to cancel, which we did after our 3 months was up. There are loads of state farm shops around. Came to around $300 for 3 drivers.

30. Posted by surfrun (Budding Member, 7 posts) 17 Jan '13 21:08

Great to see people looking at doing road trips across the States!

I did it a couple of years back now (see first post).

If you're going for more than a few weeks, buy a car! Even if it is the same price as a rental, at least it's yours. And you don't have to worry if it gets stolen, damaged or you lose it ;).

As far as insurance goes, we went with GEICO. Was about $100 a month. And that was just public liability insurance. All you need - just don't crash. Just be sure to cancel it as soon as you're done.

Try get a van if you can. Dodge Caravans are great. Then you can take the seats out and sleep in it too if need be. Also east coast tends to be a bit cheaper for cars. Beware California has laws in place so you have to pass exhaust tests which may be hard for a cheap car.

When disposing of your car, chuck it on eBay a few weeks before you're set to finish. Then don't be too picky about how much you sell it for. For us it came down to the last day before we flew home - was almost going to leave it in LAX.

Don't listen to all the negativity from others about doing this. I had plenty of people pointing out what could go wrong. Just makes it all the more worth while.

Can't beat waking up in your own car for a sunrise over the Grand Canyon!

My advice: Just do it.

[ Edit: Deleted unnecessary profanity. ]

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