Buying a car/van in LA

Travel Forums North America Buying a car/van in LA

Last Post This thread is marked as being about Los Angeles
1. Posted by Chippychat (First Time Poster 1 posts) 1y Star this if you like it!

Hi everyone :)

I am about to embark on a big trip - hopefully the full 90 days on my tourist visa. I will fly into LAX from Scotland and from there I am on an adventure! It is becoming increasing apparent that I will need a car to get around and that accommodation will add up although will try to couch surf when possible šŸ˜Ž it may be a bit of dream but the idea of buying a van that I could deck out a bit to sleep in from time to time as well as having transport is very appealing. Iā€™m a carpenter so the conversion isnt too daunting - just not sure where to look for a van/car in LA - maybe from a traveller who is finishing up their time in that states? Or from someone local - any advice much appreciated :)

2. Posted by leics2 (Travel Guru 6437 posts) 1y 1 Star this if you like it!

Over the years this question has come up several times in various forms. Many people are attracted by the idea of buying a car/van and travelling round the US. As far as I recall, none of the people who posted the question came back to tell us how they got on.

It's not buying a vehicle in the US that's the stumbling block for UK visitors (and probably other visitors too): it's the registration and insurance requirements which cause non-citizens real difficulties.

You need a permanent US address to register the vehicle in your name.

Your own vehicle insurance won't cover you and I'm not aware of any UK insurance companies that would do so (if any do exist I'm sure the premium will be absolutely massive!) and I'm not aware of any US insurers who cover a non-citizen non-resident without a permanent address driving his/her own vehicle.

Perhaps a US member will come along with suggestions for insurers....

[ Edit: Edited on 7 Oct 2022, 07:14 GMT by leics2 ]

3. Posted by AndyF (Moderator 2966 posts) 1y 2 Star this if you like it!

I wonder how much of your trip would be devoted to finding, buying, insuring, converting, reinsuring, then later selling the van.

4. Posted by karazyal (Travel Guru 5655 posts) 1y Star this if you like it!

I don't think it is a good idea to sleep in a van anywhere on LA streets!

(If you could legally own a van.)

5. Posted by greatgrandmaR (Travel Guru 2651 posts) 1y Star this if you like it!

There was a place in San Francisco where you could rent a camper/van - about the size of an old VW bus. The cooking part was in the back so you would stand outside and cook on the back deck. I don't know your age, but you will have a problem even renting something here if you aren't at least 25. And for us, gas is getting expensive (compared to what it was)

I think MattCrazy from the old VT did a trip where he was going to camp and couch surf and he did the trip, but I don't remember all the details - just that he was in San Diego for some of the time.

Boat people (that is people that live on their own boats) have a mail fowarding service which gives them a permanent address - I think some people from Canada use it but i'm not sure about that. When we took our boat down to Florida for the winter we thought about buying a Conch Cruiser (an old car which runs but looks as if it won't) and then sell it when we left. However, the sales price does not include sales tax or tag and title fees and at that time someone buying a car in Florida for the first time had to pay $500 extra. Renting a car was only $155 to 175/week. So we rented a car one week a month and the rest of the time, Bob rode his bike or we walked or took taxis.

6. Posted by 55vineyard (Full Member 188 posts) 1y Star this if you like it!

LA County has laws against sleeping in your car on the street, it is only allowed in certain areas like rest stops. Most Walmarts (we don't have that many in LA) have long since prohibited free overnight parking due to our HUGE homeless problem (it is probably the #1 issue in the Mayor election next month) and associated crime.
There are some homeless living in their cars and sometimes the police will roust them and other times not. But if a homeowner or someone complains they WILL roust you.
The other issue already mentioned is getting insurance (you have no US driving record) and registration (must have a US address to mail the license plates).

7. Posted by Beausoleil (Travel Guru 2083 posts) 1y Star this if you like it!

Not a good idea, especially in California. Rent a small car and use that. Sixt has a Yaris for around $3000 for your 90 day period. Check all the rental web sites and find the best deal and go with that.

Good luck and enjoy your trip. We loved Scotland.

8. Posted by karazyal (Travel Guru 5655 posts) 1y Star this if you like it!

If you rent a car anywhere it might be a good idea to photograph any problems with the car. Scratches, dents and anything you don't want to get charged for. Share this info with the rental agency when getting the car.

Have a good phone number for car problems that may come up while in your care.

If using a GPS use your eyeballs when the GPS says it's okay to use the bridge or whatever!

Good luck.

[ Edit: Edited on 13 Oct 2022, 22:37 GMT by karazyal ]

9. Posted by 55vineyard (Full Member 188 posts) 1y Star this if you like it!

Good idea to take pictures. When we rented cars in Mexico we always did this as well as mark up the drawing of the car they gave you.
Pity that US rental car companies are in such a pitiful state these days, but I live here and have not rented a car in ages. My mechanic has about
six or more loaner cars.