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West Coast USA car or no car

Travel Forums North America West Coast USA car or no car

1. Posted by natewhd (Full Member 35 posts) 10y Star this if you like it!

I have travelled a lot in the US, but never without a car. I am just returning from SA and have no car, but want to see the west coast.
I am hoping for reccomendations and suggestions

I have found car rental for 400 a month, and to me that seems cheaper than buses and trains.

Can you visit national parks etc.. with out a car in CA?

Are bus/train trips ridiculously long and with dificult schedules?

Am I going to have major parking hassles in big cities?

Is it possible to visit parks like the Redwoods, Yosemite, the Big Sur etc... without a car?

It seems ridiculous that after 10 months in foreign countries I have never even thought about a car, and now to visit my native country I cant think of how to do it without one.

Thanks in advance for any help

2. Posted by Wonkerer (Respected Member 592 posts) 10y Star this if you like it!

400 a month seems pretty reasonable and like a good deal with what you want to do, but yeah, you probably will have problems parking in big cities.

3. Posted by kevandshan (Full Member 142 posts) 10y Star this if you like it!

Yeah $400 month is good...but hope its not some old beat up wreck?
I'm sure that you can get buses to parks etc, but I wouldn't like to try it. Car is by far the best way to hassles.
As for parking, like any city it is painful, particularly San Francisco...expect to pay $20 near the wharf. But keep an eye out for department stores/ centres...some of them will validate your ticket and therefore get free parking (provided you purchase something!) L.A is probably not so bad...if you can get a spot, and San Diego is very reasonable (I think).
If going to nat parks...get yourself an annual pass, this allows mulitple entry for a year and works out cheaper than like 3 visits. You can get them from any park ranger office or via their website.
Yosemite and Yellowstone are very cool!!

4. Posted by brianog (Budding Member 9 posts) 10y Star this if you like it!

hi nate
me and the girlfriend travelling from ireland to san francisco at the end of january looking to hire a car long term or perhaps buy one we have been looking at rental companies but they are far too dear can you please tell me where you got yours for $400 a month and is there a website for the company
would be great if you could help
many thanks brian

5. Posted by Bogman (Budding Member 61 posts) 10y Star this if you like it!

I would definately go for the car. Public transport in the US is horrible and not worth the hassle. The car will give you ultimate freedom. Go for it.

6. Posted by pinkgirlie (Full Member 121 posts) 10y Star this if you like it!

Hi Nate,

Your car rental price sounds brilliant. My car hire from CA was $600 for 4 weeks, so to me that's an awesome deal! And that was the cheapest, we rang every company on the airport board.

I did the west coast with the (rather expensive) car and can't think of how I'd have managed without it. I also second the national park pass, if you plan to go to enough to make it worth it. We were at our 3rd national park by the time we realised we should have bought one, and buying one then was no longer worth it. Overall I think we would have saved about $60.

I have to admit I didn't look at train/bus schedules or prices. We wanted to see the national parks, Big Sur, LA, San Fran, Vegas, the Canyons and Monument Valley. A car just seemed the easiest way to do everything we wanted. Also, it meant we could take a tent, which saved us a small fortune in accommodation.

Car parking was expensive, although not compared to what I'm used to in the UK. San Fran was prob the most, we parked outside of the downtown area in Mission (which was actually really dodgy but it was the only accommodation we could get at that time) for $15 a day and caught the bus in. In LA we found accommodation with a car park so didn't have a problem. Most of the activities we did there, like seeing Universal Studios, had parking on site anyway.

Hope this helps with your decision.

Have a good time


7. Posted by Paskie06 (Budding Member 3 posts) 10y Star this if you like it!

I am also thinking the same thing, of driving but how does insurance and is my license valid over there i have held a Full U.K License for 3 years now.

8. Posted by outdooren (Full Member 86 posts) 10y Star this if you like it!

Car. You can post notes in youth hostels and give ppl rides between some destinations and this will help with expenses and be fun meeting new travelers.

9. Posted by jl98584 (Travel Guru 114 posts) 10y Star this if you like it!

Car. I was born and raised in CA, now live in WA - these states are just too big to see much if you try to stick to public transportation.

It's not all just bad politics, the USA is geographically very large - especially the western states. The big cities seem crowded of course, but there is still an awful lot of open space and a lot of space to cover. The lower population densities and wide open spaces make any sort of public transportation less cost effective then in Europe. Of course if you stick to the big cities, you can do pretty good with public transit, but you indicated a desire to see the coast and some parks.

I don't think you'll have too much trouble with parking - but it isn't cheap in the big cities and you may have to walk a bit. Most of the big cities have parking garages which are a problem for RV's, but cars should be fine. If you visit one of the big cities, you may find it easier (and cheaper?) to park your car in a central location and also use some public transit. Pretty much like the rest of the Country in that respect.

10. Posted by bludnik (Budding Member 3 posts) 10y Star this if you like it!

where did you find a rental car for 400 dollars per month? wow... sounds like a pretty awesome deal to me...

I'm looking to drive a bit around in the US myself, staying in the car, cheap motels and hostels... thought about buying a car and selling when i left, but this might be better... :)