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delmario Oct 2nd, 2015 11:18 AM

Cross-country roadtrip in Oct/Nov. SUV or full-size?
Hi, folks.

New to the community. My wife and I are gearing up for a late fall roadtrip around country, starting in DC, driving to Boulder and then up to Idaho and Washington, back down through Oregon and California on the way to Arizona and Texas, and back up to DC from there (roughly 8k total over 1.5 months). We're leaving on October 18th (planning to return Nov.30th), so I'm wondering what kind of vehicle you'd recommend we rent. We're trying to decide between an SUV (2WD or 4WD?) or a full-sized car. We're going to hit the NW before it get too cold, and try to reach there by the end of the first week of November (2nd week at the latest). My wife still wants to take her BMW (328xi), but I'm trying to talk her out of it (maintenance/depreciation costs + possible weather). Would appreciate any help and/or insights you have to offer! Cheers!

emalloy Oct 2nd, 2015 12:01 PM

Well, many rental companies limit you to a 30 day period. I think that has something to do with the lease/rental deals they have, but you might find a company that will rent to you for the 45 days you are thinking of going. In any case, make sure it is a large enough company to have places to give you help if something goes wrong with the car along the route.

If you haven't driven a 4WD SUV, I can't see the advantage of renting one. There are some roads that do require either 4WD or chains during snow storms, but again if you haven't driven in snow with a 4WD then don't. Also some rental companies do not allow chains.

As to the costs of maintenance/depreciation, well you will need to change the oil on the rental and have you compared the costs of the rental to those costs?

I'm inclined to side with your wife. You'll be driving a car you know, and you should just check into a hotel/motel if the weather is so bad that you fear driving - which you should do with the rental in any case.

Of course, you might look more manly in a SUV, but............

Have a great trip in either case.

ElendilPickle Oct 2nd, 2015 12:12 PM

Sounds like a fun trip! A regular car should be fine, as it's unlikely you'd hit snow or ice that time of year.

Lee Ann

Gardyloo Oct 2nd, 2015 12:57 PM

I prefer SUVs for this kind of trip mainly because the visibility is so much better given the higher seating position than in a passenger car. The 2WD v. 4WD issue is less important to me; if you were planning to take roads where early snow is a possibility (e.g. high passes in the Rockies or maybe Mt. Rainier) then maybe the 4WD or AWD option might be better.

nytraveler Oct 2nd, 2015 04:11 PM

BMWs are truly dreadful in ice/sleet and snow which you are likely to hit at least some of in the mountains.

There is no way you could pay me to take a car like that cross country with a strong potential for winter weather. (I have a friend with the same car and he leaves it in the garage even in heavy rain - it just won't hold the road.)

clarkgriswold Oct 2nd, 2015 04:38 PM

Depends on what stuff you're traveling with and where and how many stops you're going to make. An SUV sort of exposes all your luggage and pegs you as tourists....if you're making three-hour stops to take hikes or whatever you may not want to leave a sitting-duck of a vehicle in a remote parking lot etc. A trunk is a little more secure if you can fit everything in there.

Also a car lies lower if you have to drive into a ditch to sit out a tornado.

gail Oct 3rd, 2015 01:14 AM

Unless cost is of no concern, I would take a car you own. It sounds like you are on no specific schedule, so if you hit bad weather, you can just hole up somewhere for a day or so. This from the perspective of someone who insists on an SUV in Boston winters - but I am an RN and have to be on the road in bad weather. Most of the country handles snow removal far more efficiently than DC.

Gretchen Oct 3rd, 2015 02:24 AM

Take your own car. Why on earth wouldn't you. Surely you have driven it in snow and sleet in DC at some point.
As mentioned, IF there is snow in the west, they are good about getting it off the highways. If you needed to stay put somewhere for an extra day, it would be a fun snow day.

I have to laugh a at the suggestion that you would change the oil on a rental car!!

Gardyloo Oct 3rd, 2015 06:20 AM

<i>My wife still wants to take her BMW (328xi), but I'm trying to talk her out of it (maintenance/depreciation costs + possible weather).</i>

Just looked over this line - surprised I missed it yesterday, since I used to own a 328xi. That's an AWD car and a superb car for a road trip like this.

Unlike my previous 2WD Bimmer, which was indeed a POS in the snow and ice, my 328xi was a champ. Not that I had to use it much; here in Seattle it snows rarely and our other car was a 4WD Escape, older and shabbier, so it was the preferred vehicle given it's the <i>other</i> drivers I worry about, having won my winter driving spurs after many years of living in Alaska.

A month and a half rental of a vehicle, be it a standard car or an SUV, is going to cost an arm and a leg. I find it hard to imagine the costs of using your wife's car would even come close, and as for depreciation, that will occur whether you're driving the car or not.

Plus, the threat of snowy or icy conditions at that time of year, given your route, is low enough that I'd discount the risk almost in its entirety. And if you DO encounter wintry conditions, well, with a month and a half, just sit it out for a day, or detour around it.

So I'm changing my vote. Take the Bimmer, load up with a lot of road music, and press the right pedal. Hard.

delmario Oct 6th, 2015 09:23 AM

You're all awesome! Thank you! Read this over with her and she gave me the eye and the "I told you so." We're going to take her car. Just a matter of planning out the route now. Have any of you driven from the eastcoast to Boulder before? If so, any suggestions for stops along the way? I'm told KC is a must. We're budgeting 4-5 days for that leg of our trip.

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