Aussies touring USA for 6 months

Old May 8th, 2013, 07:52 AM
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Join Date: May 2013
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Aussies touring USA for 6 months

Hello, we are in the research stage of planning a six month holiday travelling around USA. My research shows me we could potentially get a fairly decent camper trailer 24-26ft and a older ford f250 for around $12,000 to $13000. Craigslist advert indicate these would be mechanically sound. If anyone has any tips for this trip it would be hugely appreciated.
We plan to arrive in LA around late September/early October. Is there a cheaper place to buy a camper and F250 or is Craigslist the best option?
Thanks in advance
ladybump is offline  
Old May 8th, 2013, 08:25 AM
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1) Craig's List is NOT to be trusted. Many items are not as advertised and many are outright scams (often they have vehicles that have been written off due to major accidents or flood damage, bought at auction - and are sold at huge profit without mentioning they were write-offs).

2) I would never buy any used vehicle without having a mechanic I trusted examine it top to bottom - even from a dealer - never mind a random person you meet in a parking lot.

3) You might be able to buy vehicles fairly quickly - but it could take weeks or even months to sell them on to someone - so unless you are willing to eat their cost - this isn't really practical.

4) Not sure how you would handle insurance - since rates are based on the state/city that you live in as well as your driving record. Also how can you register these vehicles without an address?

Buying is a huge can of worms and not really practical. If you must haul this thing around with you rental is much more practical.
nytraveler is offline  
Old May 8th, 2013, 08:36 AM
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Before you think about buying a vehicle you need to get familiar with vehicle licensing and registration, and especially insurance, in the US. Like Australia, vehicles are registered and licensed by the states, not the central government, so you have 51 different sets of laws and regulations to choose from. (The 51st is the District of Columbia.)

To register a vehicle you have to have a permanent address in one of the states, which you won't. You'll need insurance, which may - depending on the details - require a drivers license that will show a residential address. If you do find insurance that will accept your Aussie license, you'll probably be assigned to the highest risk pool, i.e. the premiums will be horrific.

If you try to circumvent these rules, and God forbid you get into a shunt, you run the risk of having the insurance cancelled, putting you at grave risk for financial and/or legal consequences.

As to cost, again, as in Australia, the purchase price of the vehicle is far from the whole picture. There are local licensing and registration fees that are similar to those you'd find in Oz, and sales/use tax is levied by most states as well, comparable to the stamp tax paid in Australian states. So the Craigslist price isn't the ending point, it's the start point.

So you need to do the numbers. Purchase price plus registration plus licensing plus tax, less resale value at the end (for older vehicles you should probably allow a depreciation of at least 25% for this, maybe more since you're likely to convey a sense of urgency when you want to dispose of the vehicles and scram.)

Add the price of insurance and maintenance (you're talking about a near-certainty of repairs, too) and fuel. If you're buying a trailer, add an assumption of campground and hookup costs.

I have no idea what the bottom line would be, but I would set that against a couple of long-term rentals or leases of US vehicles, complete with maintenance warranties and no hassles. I would add to that some number representing the freedom from worry that you'd be ripped off, or that the vehicle doesn't make it to the street before something critical goes blooey, or that somebody starts sniffing around your address on the registration form.

Are there ways to get around these barriers? Probably - there are stories out there, especially over at the Thorn Tree, about people who've gotten away with what you're proposing. Good luck.

Alternatively, do you have friends or family in the US that could do the purchasing and licensing for you, add your names to their insurance policies (easily done) and who would supervise the disposal of the vehicles at the end? That would be by far the easiest approach - you just reimburse them.

Or, look into shipping a suitable Aussie vehicle to the US for the duration. Yes, the steering wheel will be on the "wrong" side, but thousands of Brits drive around Europe every year without getting in head-on shunts. It's legal in the US to have RHD foreign cars on the roads, no problem, and your registration and license issues would be moot. Shipping will probably be around A$3000 each way and obviously takes a fair amount of time, but again, the numbers might work. (I'd ask my current insurance company about how to keep coverage - they probably have a US correspondent company that would handle you.)

Anyway, more homework is needed.
Gardyloo is online now  
Old May 8th, 2013, 08:38 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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I've bought and sold many items (including vehicles) on Craigslist. I've never had a problem, BUT there are scammers out there. If you are fairly knowlegeable about trucks and campers, you will probably be ok. It might be a good idea to have things checked out with a mechanic however. this web site has mechanic recommendations :
I don't know the legal and insurance issues involved. Just as a FYI, urban Los Angeles is not the most desirable area of California, I wouldn't plan on too much time there. The San Francisco area however is wonderful, as is much of California.
zootsi is offline  
Old May 8th, 2013, 09:10 AM
Join Date: Dec 2012
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Before you buy your airline tickets, make sure that you understand you will need a B1/2 tourism visa, and you are allowed a stay of 180 days. It's very specific. It's not 6 months. There may be a difference.

One can extend a B1/2 visa, but it costs money, requires an interview, takes time, and you need to show financial and other information to document why you need more time as a tourist. It's not something you do overnight.
explanation is offline  
Old May 8th, 2013, 09:11 AM
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The other issue is what to do if you can't sell it before you have to leave. Are you willing to potentially lose all the money you have invested in the rig, or sell it for scrap metal?
explanation is offline  
Old May 8th, 2013, 09:17 AM
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$12,000 or $13,000 for BOTH a camper and a truck?
Buying from an individual seller without warranty?
Trusting the vehicles are safe to drive across a foreign country?

Sorry-- no way I'd ever do that.
Tabernash2 is offline  
Old May 8th, 2013, 10:39 AM
Join Date: Aug 2005
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I am guessing one reason that you are looking at this route is to save money. If I am correct, then I think that you would be happier to do a month max with a rental car and tent on our West Coast and at some of our key National Parks.

I am thinking that by shopping at Target or Walmart, you could probably get a tent, gas stove, sleeping pads and sleeping bags for about $300ish. Then add a few pans and kitchen utensils from Goodwill (our secondhand stores) for $25-50 TOTAL.

When done touring your highlights out West, donate your tent and supplies back to Goodwill and turn in the car. Then fly to an Eastern Seaboard city, go with your cheapest rates (DC, New York, Boston, Philly). To save money while touring there, you stay in a cheaper hotel and rely on mass transit--no car at all. Most cities have a suburb nearby that you can stay in outside of the central core. You'll have to check out each state's board. For example, many people visiting DC stay over the river in Virginia, and some of these that I saw offered a kitchenette.

You may not be able to stay six months, but 180 days is still pretty good.

Some Reasons for my suggestion: You will pay far less in gasoline to drive a rental car all over the West than a motorhome and you will make better time driving through some of our vast expanses and on hilly, or mountainous roads. Also, at most parks, you will pay lower fees for a tent spot than a full-hook-up so that is another savings. You will spend days driving through states that really don't have the glam factor of a quick visit, getting from Yellowstone or Utah or the Grand Canyon all the way to New York or Boston or DC. And once arriving in the East your motorhome is a huge liaibility. Hard to drive and nowhere to park it near the cities you want to see.

5alive is offline  
Old May 8th, 2013, 10:41 AM
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By the way my list of camping gear was not all-inclusive. In my list I was mentally adding things like a tarp for under the tent, a couple of camp chairs etc... If you want one, I can put it together for you.
5alive is offline  
Old May 8th, 2013, 11:54 AM
Join Date: May 2013
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Wish you all the best for the trip. There is so much to see and do. You should have a great time.

That being said, you want to avoid the things that could make the trip a chore--or worse. Like many of the other posters, I'd find it hard to get enthused about a purchase of a well(?) used truck/camper combo. Just as in Australia, there are plenty of wide-open spaces in this country, and a breakdown in the middle of nowhere means much more than a delay in the itinerary, no matter how handy you are with a wrench. And if you are starting in LA and plan to see anything other than the Pacific coastline, you'll see plenty of wide-open spaces.

If you're thinking of the camper because you want to stay at campsites around the country, there are a number of companies that do longer-term rentals of motorhomes. You get a unit that has been maintained, and assistance if you have a problem en route. Many of those campsites also offer relatively low-cost permanent tents and/or cabins, which may make the camper less necessary.

You might also want to think about different ways to approach some "travel" portions of your trip. By the time you get here, some of the higher elevations of the major western mountain ranges may already present hazardous traveling conditions. By December (sometimes earlier!) the entire northern half of the country is subject to occasional snowstorms, some of them severe enough to disrupt travel for more than a day or two. That weather can last into early spring. So for a good portion of your stay, having at least a general geographic plan is essential.

A couple of quick suggestions:

If you are thinking of getting to the northern/northeastern parts of the country, do it as soon as you get here. Fall is beautiful from the Great Lakes to New England. Consider taking Amtrak's California Zephyr from San Francisco to Chicago--you'll see unbelievable scenery through the Rockies and across the Great Plains...and you won't have to cope with windy, snowy mountain passes. Then rent a vehicle of your choice (a motorhome?) and see the northeast.

As the weather starts to turn colder, you'll have some decisions to make. Some people love winter landscapes (particularly around Christmas), others want to avoid them. Just know that you'll have (probably) less than two months after your arrival before the snows arrive up north.

Are you limited to September-March? If not, a March-September trip gives you much more latitude to move around at will without taking the weather so much into account. Your trip will feel more leisurely, and you'll just end up seeing more.

Under any circumstances, have a wonderful stay.
BillEGA is offline  
Old May 8th, 2013, 04:14 PM
Join Date: Nov 2010
Posts: 10,480
CruiseAmerica is the largest and best known camper van rental in the US.
Your insurance is included in the rental fees.
Don't try to purchase a vehicle and then try to resell it.
Your other option would be to take a train or plane out of Los Angeles depending on where you wanted to go first.
I agree that your first month or two should be in the northern part of the US before it snows.
tomfuller is online now  
Old May 8th, 2013, 05:06 PM
Join Date: Jun 2012
Posts: 15
What about a combination of flying from point to point, buying a 45 day pass on Amtrak to cross the large midsection of the country (about $800 for an adult I think, but that price doesn't include a sleeping compartment and those are very pricey), using a rental car, and renting a motorhome. Or better yet, become good friends with Americans and someone probably will lend you their car to use!
If you stay in one locale for a while, you can stay in a furnished home relatively inexpensively by renting through the VRBO (Vacation Rentals By Owner) website-you can rent for a day, a week or a month or more.
Why do you want to start in LA? If this is only because you can get a lower airfare by flying into and out of that city, I can understand, but otherwise I would not go there at all. I am from that area, so I speak from experience.
letusgo is offline  
Old May 8th, 2013, 05:19 PM
Join Date: Oct 2003
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I'm with tomfuller on the camper thing: rent, don't buy. Far fewer headaches. If the camper breaks down, for some reason, you have someone else to take responsibility and get you a replacement camper quickly.

However, you may want to reconsider the entire idea of renting a camper trailer. The rental and insurance fees are not cheap. All that money could be better spent, IMHO. You could use VRBO, airbnb, priceline for better prices on lodging.

On transportation, there are cheap flights if you book far in advance.

Same thing for a bus system that runs both coasts: Megabus. you can get a one way ticket from San Francisco to Los Angeles for $1 if you book way in advance.

Train: not so much in savings unless you are a senior.

First question first: how many of you are there? two? Four? Six? Eight? Is this the reason you're thinking of a camper, because there are many of you?
easytraveler is offline  
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