Okay, so, in March, (yes leaving all this a little late to plan but that's half the fun isn't it) me and a friend are leaving our rainy little little town in England, and Jetting off to NYC. as soon as we get there, we will be Staying with a friend in NYC, while going through AutoTrader and local ads to find a decent running car. once we have acquired said auto mobile we shall be hitting the roads, with the intention of doing between 200 and 600 miles a day, and spending a few days at each location, for the full duration of our 90 day visa waiver. Ending up In Salt Lake City, where we will pass ownership of the car on to one of my friends who will drive us to the airport for our journey home. my friend can then sell the car and send me the money at the later date, I'll probably allow him to keep a % of it for the trouble
We are looking at a route at the moment, its taking forever, Google maps isn't quite as user friendly as it makes out. But between me and my friend we have enough friends in the States we can stay with that we wont be needing to spend much time in hotels etc...
Now We have worked out the Rules for getting a USA valid Drivers Licence, in that we need to apply for a an international licence to use in conjunction with our current ones. BUT. we are currently clueless as to how insurance works. obviously we wont be able to set off until we have insurance, will there be any extended checks that will delay us since we are foreigners? and how does roadside assistance work? over here we have things like Green flag and the AA who do breakdown recovery, it costs an arm and a leg to use unless your a member, but membership is costly too if its unlikley to be used, im guessing that considering what we are up to we would need membership to a group like this? and how would we go about applying?
So after we have Car ownership, insurance and breakdown assistance covered... is there anything else we need to worry about before we can get going. In the UK we would have MOT and road tax to think about. what would the US versions of this be if any?
We are planning on doing this trip on minimal money, minimal luggage, minimal everything, whenever we hit the cities we should have (on current route) someone to stay with, but are there any laws or regulations on sleeping in the car/ camping out? are there any places we cant camp or sleep in the car?
Lastly, has anyone done anything like this before? what would you suggest packing for minimal ammounts. we were looking at a few spare changes of clothes, Spare wheel, Wheel changing kit, a bunch of wayfarer meals and some bottled water, and a couple of blankets.
And does anyone have any general advice before we set off on our epic journey.
Do you know anything about cars? What to check when you buy one? How does it start. Do the gauges work? Any play in the foot pedals? Listen to the engine idling and with your foot down on the accelerator.
Take it for a test drive. How does it run at different speeds (If the seller turns the radio on as you start off, the car is a lemon)? How does it stop if you brake slow and if you brake fast? How does it change gears? A visual check of all the hoses, and any connections, including the battery terminals.
Are ALL the tyres and lights working OK (brakes, full beam, indicators, etc)? Is it leaking oil or any other fluids? What is the mpg? Check the body work inside and out, and underneath. Press against it hard with one finger. Check it is not two cars made into one. Has it just had a respray, which may cover up anything?
If OK, check the horn, wireless, jack, spare tyre (wear and pressure) and such. If the car only has one set of keys, have another made in case you lock yourself out.
You can get car insurance in NYC. Your friend may be able to direct you to a good agency. If you plan on getting insurance in America, get a copy of your "no claims bonus" to take with you or you'll pay the top rate. Get some breakdown cover. Pick up a US atlas from a remainder book shop at home or in America. They are fairly cheap.
Remember the speed limit. If you see a motorcycle on the freeway (or tollway where you have to pay), slow down as it is possibly a speed cop. They also use unmarked cars and strictly speaking, if you get on at point A and off at point B, then they can work out how fast you were going by using the time on the ticket. If a cop pulls you up, hands on the steering wheel and don't do anything sudden that may cause him to shoot you. Watch out for speed cameras.
I did America a lot in the 70's and 80's and not much since but the price of accommodation has gone up and up and cheapo motels that were $20 a night are still cheapo but now cost $60 a night or more.
At 200 - 600 miles a day, you will soon run out of road. With 90 days you can cover a lot of territory. I did 500 miles a day for a few weeks and it is hard work.
There is no subtle way of putting this but if you are not black, be careful of black areas. Increasingly, the same with Hispanic areas. For a start you are seen as probably a tourist, being in that area, so lots of money and not streetwise. Keep $50 or more in small notes in your pocket and hide the rest of the money where it won't easily be found. if someone wants to rob you, let them have it and they'll probably clear off. Such people may have a knife or gun.
I spent a lot of time on the road in America and never had any trouble but I may have just been lucky. Dress down, so you don't look like a tourist, and if you are not in your car, don't leave anything worth stealing in it. At petrol stations, you may have to give the attendant $20 - $40 first and take what fuel you want up to that value, and they'll give you change afterwards if there is any. Don't think of sleeping in the car overnight for a number of reasons. If the robbers don't get you, the police will. Or maybe the bears will.
A mobile phone for breakdowns is good. In America you can be tens of miles from anywhere, and in the desert when it is hot, you can die there if you break down. Try not to get too far off of the beaten track.
Okay, most of the advice above is good, although I think things as written make it sound as though there are dangerous people (and dangerous police) around every corner.
Most police over here are not planning to harrass you, but just want to mostly make sure you aren't planning to bother/rob the local citizens. If you pull over and park your car in a remote place and a cop comes by to question you, just tell them you were getting sleepy and thought it was better to pull over rather than continue driving and risk an accident. (Don't do this on a freeway or motorway, though--it's illegal to do so there.) The odds are, no one will think twice--but rather they will check out your drivers license and then tell you to continue on and get a hotel. They might even suggest a local park or campground if you ask them where to go to get a bit of rest before resuming your journey.
As far as breakdown insurance, the popular one here is AAA (automobile association of america). Be aware, however, that you can get coverage for towing as part of your regular insurance. In those cases, you call a towing company and then have them get an okay to cover the cost from the insurance company. Usually they can do this while you are still on the phone before they even come and pick you up. As far as insurance, the cheaper ones are Mercury, GEICO, and Progressive. Other good ones are State Farm and Farmers. Try to avoid Allstate--only because they are a hassle to deal with if you are in an accident.
Generally, you only have to have personal liability insurance for a car--but in reality you need comprehensive, collision, uninsured motorist and a minimal health coverage for people in your car. For a short 90 day period, you should be able to get all this for a couple of hundred dollars at the most if you can show you drove before in the UK and had no accidents (and if you are driving a cheaper car).
Enjoy your trip. I've been all over the US and there's a lot to see. I still spend about 2 out of every 3 vacations locally in the states--because it's cheap, but also because I really enjoy the main great places to visit (some for their scenic beauty and some for their metropolitan flair).
[ Edit: Edited on 30-May-2011, at 13:56 by Calcruzer ]
First thing you need to do is check with your friend in NYC. I have helped over 10 TP members buy cars and several have flown from NY to Vegas to buy. The cars under $3K were crap in NY and you need a NY drivers license to register a car in NY. Check. If you do, that will complicate your plan. One way around this problem is to have your friend buy the vehicle and insure it in his name. He then adds you as another driver. Have your friend check on this option with his insurance company.
I was told by TP members that you can buy a vehicle in New Jersey with your countries DL or an IDL. You might him check on that as well. That gives you an option if buying in NY does not work out. You will need a New Jersey address for this plan to work however.
I am going to send you some advice on driving across the US in a PM. Mike
Whats the go with international drivers permit? Is it necessary in USA if I have an Australian drivers license? Some people say you only need it if you have a license from a non english speaking country and some say you do need it or the police will give you grief if you dont? What's the consensus here?
Also, I noticed that you mentioned showing proof of your driving history will help reduce the premium? What forms of proof do they accept?
I have had Swedes, Danes, UK & Aussies use their home countries DL for insurance and registration. You don't need a IDL. Some just prefer to have it with them as well as their countries DL. If you are from a non English speaking country, an IDL would help if stopped by the police.
The Vegas insurance companies tell me that they cannot verify your driving record. That is why it will be more expensive than a US citizen to insure the same car.