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What car to buy for a 5000 mile US road tip, budget $3000?

Travel Forums North America What car to buy for a 5000 mile US road tip, budget $3000?

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1. Posted by tomr0b (Budding Member 12 posts) 5y

Embarking on a US/Canadian road trip between March and June 2011, we intend on buying a car between the 3 of us in Chicago and selling in Austin, TX. We've done alot of research in the practicalities and paper work of buying a car, and have given ourselves a week in Chicago to buy a vehicle.

Our budget is approx $3000 and our main criteria for the car is reliability and fuel economy. Whilst we are hoping for some kind of cash from the sale of the car, we are not banking on this in order to compensate for any repair/maintenance costs.

So taking into consideration what I have said it would be great to get some advice on the American used car market (which I hear is a nightmare) and what cars are deemed most reliable/cheapest to repair.(The Ford Taurus looks like a frontrunner atm. )

Another thing that is causing me some concern is the issue of parking in cities or the safety of leaving the car unattended if we opted not to take it in can anyone shed any light on how we can approach this?

cheers!

2. Posted by Daawgon (Travel Guru 1992 posts) 5y

I would stay away from any American car. I owned the '94 Mercury Sable (sister car to the Taurus) and would not recommend the Ford! You want an older Honda Accord that runs forever on little fuel, but I really don't know how much quality you'll find for 3K? I would not buy a car in the Chicago area because this is snow country (very hard on autos). I think your best bet would be in a place like Arizona or Oregon that has milder weather and cheaper prices.

Problem of parking in the cities is the high cost of street parking and limited time periods. Often you would be limited to an hour or 2 at a time, and the safest parking is metered. Often, city parking garages are cheaper than on-street metered parking, and you would not be ticketed if you ran over the time limits. Every city in the USA is a little different. NYC is the absolute worst - very expensive and crowded in Manhattan. Most of our toll roads are in the Northeast corridor, but we now have an increasing number of toll roads/bridges on the West Coast too. All interstate highways are free (they're just dead-boring and sleep-inducing!)

3. Posted by karazyal (Travel Guru 1587 posts) 5y

Quoting tomr0b

Embarking on a US/Canadian road trip between March and June 2011, we intend on buying a car between the 3 of us in Chicago and selling in Austin, TX. We've done alot of research in the practicalities and paper work of buying a car, and have given ourselves a week in Chicago to buy a vehicle.

Our budget is approx $3000 and our main criteria for the car is reliability and fuel economy. Whilst we are hoping for some kind of cash from the sale of the car, we are not banking on this in order to compensate for any repair/maintenance costs.

So taking into consideration what I have said it would be great to get some advice on the American used car market (which I hear is a nightmare) and what cars are deemed most reliable/cheapest to repair.(The Ford Taurus looks like a frontrunner atm. )

Another thing that is causing me some concern is the issue of parking in cities or the safety of leaving the car unattended if we opted not to take it in can anyone shed any light on how we can approach this?

cheers!

For $3000 you may get something that will last as long as you need or you may not. When you buy a car you may get a warranty but do you want to go back to the first place to get something fixed? Parking can be a problem. Even after hours in the city they may have street sweeping hours where you can not even leave the car overnight. If you buy from a dealership the car will usually require a safety inspection. But that doesn't mean the motor or some other problem may come up during your trip. You could spend a little money and have a professional mechanic check the car out and then make a decision. My preference would be a Toyota, Honda or Nissan.

You could also consider just using buses or trains to get to a major area and then rent a car for a short while then turn the car back in. There are some companies in the US that rent older used cars. Sometimes under the names "Rent a Wreck" or similar names.
http://www.rentawreck.com/

You do know that besides vehicle registration and vehicle inspection you also must have insurance. It would be a good idea to have an international drivers license if you are not US or Canadian citizens. If you are really young your insurance could be expensive.

Good luck.

4. Posted by tomr0b (Budding Member 12 posts) 5y

thank you both for the advice..few more questions if its ok

I would not buy a car in the Chicago area because this is snow country (very hard on autos)

Unfortunately we are starting in Chicago and going through Canada so we won't be able to avoid snow country.

If we opted to buy a manual would this make it more difficult to sell?

You do know that besides vehicle registration and vehicle inspection you also must have insurance.

Insurance is also compulsory in the UK also so already figured this cost in.

Parking can be a problem. Even after hours in the city they may have street sweeping hours where you can not even leave the car overnight.

Would it be safe and doable if we left a car in a suburb where there was free parking and caught public transport into the city?

5. Posted by ianMG1975 (First Time Poster 1 posts) 5y

Depends on how many people are going. I would say buy and older Honda with low miles if possible.

6. Posted by karazyal (Travel Guru 1587 posts) 5y

There are some suburbs that I wouldn't park a locked Sherman Tank in unguarded! In the US if you see small groups of men, late at night, early in the a.m. just hanging around store fronts or corners - perhaps with hoods up and sunglasses on - avoid them! Don't ask for directions or anything! You won't hear this from any official website! Err on the side of caution! If you need directions or help late at night go to a police station, fire station or maybe an all night supermarket with lot of lighting, especially in the "inner city" areas!

If you thought about staying in the "big city" and leaving your car in the outskirts don't do it. Consider staying in a hotel in the outskirts where the hotels are cheaper and the parking may be cheap or free and commute from there. Many places have commuter parking lots where you can take cheap transportation into the city and leave the car in some relative safety.

Depending on the price of your hotel and where it is located there are some places in the city where free parking comes with the room. Some cities have parking lots where you pay a fee and have gate keepers. Lots of motels out West with free parking.

As far as trying to unload a standard shift car - not as easy today as it was 20-30 years ago! If you get a used car with a stick in it the clutch may be all shot the heck anyway. Most American young men can't drive a standard! They may think they can, they may tell everyone around them that they can but they can't! I sold cars for 3 years a long time ago and too many young American men are weenies! (Not everyone but definitely more than 40 years ago!) Our military had to downgrade physical fitness training in boot camp because it was to hard! In a farm area you might be able to get rid of a stick shift car. Or you might be lucky and get a buyer who is over 45 years old interested.

Happy motoring.

7. Posted by emilyemily (Budding Member 82 posts) 5y

Best place to find a cheap car in the states is Craigslist. There should be a chapter for Chicago. It's basically just an online classifieds and is super popular.. you can find pretty much whatever car you decide to get :) Good luck!

[ Edit: Fixed broken link. ]

8. Posted by Daawgon (Travel Guru 1992 posts) 5y

Do you have a local USA address where you can receive mail, inspect the car for emissions and register the car, as well as have it insured. Without that address, nothing is possible. Every state will have different laws, regulations and taxes on top of the purchase price. If you do purchase blind on Craigslist, please spend an extra $100. to have a mechanic check it out before you hand over the cash.

These days, residents and police are very suspicious of older cars left unattended for any length of time. As another person stated, you will probably want to find a motel in the burbs (such as Motel 6 or the like) that gives you a cheap rate + free parking. Eating is also cheaper in the outlying areas due to the endless strips of fast food chains that are often missing in the city.

On top of all this, the chances that you would be able to sell that car in a few days is unreasonable - better plan on abandonment or donation! You might try the local junk yards to sell for parts.

[ Edit: Edited on 17-Oct-2010, at 22:16 by Daawgon ]

9. Posted by tomr0b (Budding Member 12 posts) 5y

Do you have a local USA address where you can receive mail, inspect the car for emissions and register the car, as well as have it insured. Without that address, nothing is possible

Daawgon, our address will be a Hostel in Chicago. Reading other peoples experiences we are not expecting it to be easy but I don't think it will be impossible, we hope :) Will be sure to use shell out the $100 to get a mechanic to look over it.

Iv'e looked into some options for the parking problem, found these two web sites that gives parking rates and people renting out their drives for reasonable rates. May be useful for someone else looking at this thread.

Parkopedia
http://en.parkopedia.com/

Park at my House
http://www.parkatmyhouse.com

10. Posted by JoyC (Full Member 99 posts) 5y

Do not get a Ford! You can buy a Ford pretty cheaply, but that's simply because they are rubbish. It may sound a bit crazy, but I would recommend a Buick. You can easily buy a late model low mileage Buick for around $3000. They are not great on gas mileage, but not too bad either.

The primary reason I recommend looking for a Buick is because they are generally owned by elderly people who take very good care of them. When, for whatever reason, the elderly person no longer needs a car, their families often sell the Buick pretty cheaply on Craigslist or AutoTrader.com. Buicks tend to be reliable, especially for an American car, and they are great for road trips. You'll have plenty of room and a nice, smooth ride.