Best way to travel around USA - hire car and tent or RV?

Travel Forums North America Best way to travel around USA - hire car and tent or RV?

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Last Post This thread is marked as being about North America
1. Posted by Tdenman (Budding Member 3 posts) 12y Star this if you like it!

Planning to spend 3 months in USA next summer with wife and 2 kids (9 & 7) and travel down west coast up through middle then down east coast. We are experienced campers in terms of tent etc...but is this safe in USA with kids, easy to do using either a hire car or buy a car, or hire an RV for the 3 months? Is it easy to buy a car rather than hire?

Any hints and tips would be greatly appreciated

2. Posted by dbarker (Budding Member 5 posts) 12y Star this if you like it!

I think it would be safe enough to go camping, but Americans don't seem great on travel camping. I would say small (ish) RV is the way to go. That way you have a stack of free places to park for the night. Plus you have the facilities - such as toilet, fridge, cooker - with you. You mention camping, so I guess, like me, you like free. You have, just for example, lots of free sites in National Forests, and, if you are stuck, most Walmarts welcome RV overnighters in their car parks. In around 2 years travelling North America I spent only about $100 total on camp site fees. Buy or rent? I bought, and was happy with the result. But it takes time to buy the right vehicle, then sell. In Australia a couple of years ago I bought an old RV for an 8 week holiday, and regretted it all the way through. For 3 months I think best is to spend some time researching the best deals on hiring. Some hire rates can be pretty high, so you will need to do serious research!
My own travels are on http://dbarker.perso.neuf.fr/

3. Posted by Daawgon (Travel Guru 2015 posts) 12y Star this if you like it!

You won't find many free campsites in summer unless you go to the boonies. American cities and suburban areas are highly restricted as to where you can park or camp, and many areas such as Yosemite will require advance reservations. The West Coast is RV heaven - especially here in Oregon. You just might want to fly from west to east to save time and $$$. I would rent an RV too.

4. Posted by vegasmike6 (Travel Guru 3582 posts) 12y 1 Star this if you like it!

Tom,
You have plenty of time to do your homework. I think you will find a 3 month RV rental will be more that you have budgeted for transport. When you combine the rental cost, mileage fees, fuel costs and drop off fee, it is no bargain. You also have to figure $20-25/nite when using RV parks. These have hook-ups, bathrooms, clubhouse, many have pools. Nice change from a Walmart parking lot. Figure appox. 12mpg for most RVs.

I usually recommend renting if you are here 2 months or less, buy if here more than 2 months. I suggest you crunch the numbers for renting a mid sized car as well. You will need unlimited mileage, ask about drop off fees, insurance. Now you will have a basic number for your trip across the US. You will need camping gear to stay in our National Parks, forests, state parks, forests. Motels when not camping. Figure around $70/night as an average. A mid sized car will get at least double an RV, 25mpg. Figure appox. how many miles you plan on driving and you will have your fuel estimate. Gasoline is now around $4/gallon nationwide. Only a fool would predict the cost a year from now. Once you have some numbers, compare renting a car vs RV.

I have helped many TP members buy vehicles for their trip around the US. This is usually for 2 people and they can sleep in a van if that is their choice. With 4, that changes that option. You can buy a van and 2 can sleep in it, but you will still need a tent and camping gear. Figure $4K to buy a decent van, lose $500 when selling. $125 to license it, another $150/month to insure it. Now you have some rough numbers and you can decide what is best for your family. Good luck with your planning.

[ Edit: Edited on 11-Jun-2012, at 21:45 by vegasmike6 ]

5. Posted by Tdenman (Budding Member 3 posts) 12y Star this if you like it!

Many thanks for the detailed advice.. Really useful to help plan the trip. I love the RV option for 3 months but wait and see how budget turns out. Thanks all

6. Posted by Amie L. (Inactive 45 posts) 12y Star this if you like it!

Maybe you can RV for a portion then fly to other side and rent a car and/or RV again. I am not a fan of buying a car unless you are mechanically inclined. There are some stretches in the states that are pretty bare bones so if you break down, you are literally in the middle of nowhere. And you don't want to break down in the desert either. Plus a break down/repair is unwanted stress. At least with a rental you are covered for repairs and it should come with roadside assistance as well.

I've tented along the cost to San Francisco and in Grand Canyon and it was super fun, apart from waking up kind of damp when you sleep near the ocean. If you are experiences campers and can book some spots ahead of time, there's are plenty of places to camp along the west coast. I am not sure about the east coast.

7. Posted by Melorious (Budding Member 22 posts) 12y Star this if you like it!

I looked into driving around and found that the cost of car hire is pretty high when you compare it to travel by train and coach. i know its not quite as liberating but i worked out you save a grand straight away. you could even take a foldable bike so you can ride in places too. and you'll have that extr grand to hire the car in places where youd struggle to reach ptherwise, have a look at Amtrak

8. Posted by johnsmithh (First Time Poster 1 posts) 6y Star this if you like it!

Very informative thread.

9. Posted by Bill Hall (Respected Member 21 posts) 6y Star this if you like it!

I'm from the states, and I own an RV. We alsto travel in Europe quite a bit. We have traveled extensively in the RV over the years. They're great, but gas mileage sucks, and they are NOT inexpensive to rent in the states. I think I would gravitate towards renting (or as you guys in Europe say, "hiring") a mini van or SUV.

I would buy decent camping gear. A good quality tent, propane two burner stove, some inexpensive pots and pans, a decent LED lantern and a few flash lights. If you're traveling during summer, mid quality sleeping bags will suffice. At the end of the trip, you can sell the stuff or even give it to someone. Tent camping fees are about half or less than RV fees. Many campgrounds in the states are quite nice and very safe. If I were tent camping I would try to stick to state parks and national forest campgrounds. Private campgrounds can be good or bad, and usually cost considerably more.

We've driven the Pacific coast highway. With the exception of the urban areas, there are quite a few campgrounds. They may or may not require reservations but that can be handled via decent planning and internet. If you want to explore an urban area (like San Francisco....a great place), stay in a hotel for a night or so. It would be a nice break from camping.

Another issue to consider with an RV is difficulty of parking and maneuvering in crowded and urban areas. A large part of the west coast and the northeast on the east coast can be kind of difficult with an RV, even for an experienced RV driver due to the density of people in these areas. I've driven a 33 foot motor home with a 20 foot race car hauler behind it thousands and thousands of miles, in heavy traffic, rush hours, etc. Even with my experience and ability, I have NO interest in navigating San Francisco, Los Angeles, NYC, Washington D.C., Boston, etc. in an RV. It limits your options.

Good luck. Good travels.

[ Edit: Edited on 08-Oct-2017, at 10:07 by Bill Hall ]

10. Posted by Borisborough (Moderator 1887 posts) 6y Star this if you like it!

Thorough reply, Bill but please bear in mind that this is a five year old thread that has reappeared because a first-time poster typed "very informative thread". My guess is that the original poster, Tdenman, has been to the Pacific Coast, toured, left, and probably visited the other six continents by now too. Whether Johnsmithh is genuinely interested or not remains to be seen.