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Road trip New York City to San Francisco (NYC-SF) - May/June

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Road trip New York City to San Francisco (NYC-SF) - May/June

Hi Road Trip Experts,

My boyfriend & I are planning a road trip from NYC to SF late May/early June. We are both recent uni graduates and in our early thirties.

He lives in NYC and I live in SF so we are mainly interested in what's in between!

This is our first time doing a road trip and as excited as we are, we're also a little worried it could become too expensive for our student budgets!

I've been told that buying a car (in NY and selling it in SF) is the cheapest option when compared to renting a car or an RV.

Any thoughts on whether this is true and if so any tips on where to buy a decent used car in NYC?

Many many thanks,

M&A

western WA
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1. Re: Road trip New York City to San Francisco (NYC-SF) - May/June

So you have US addresses and current visas (so you can get a drivers license, if you haven't already)?

Some details about the US car insurance system: Only the titled owners of a car may be insured to drive it. You can both be on the title, but you'll each need your own policy. This will be $600 apiece. Insurance is required. Some drive without it, but you run the risk of ruining your lives if you cause an accident and someone is injured.

To make a cross country trip, you need a car that has been well maintained and has good tires. Even a trusted mechanic won't be able to tell when an old car's parts are going to fail. So you should allow around $6000 to buy the car at a minimum. Be careful of buying used cars right now, as there was a hurricane in NY/NJ last year that totaled many cars but left them visually undamaged. There is a service called Carfax that will tell you the car's history. Don't buy a car without it.

You'll need a week or so to sell the car at the end of the trip unless you price it very, very low.

So in the long run it could be a savings, but in the short run, you'll need something along the line of $7500. That's not including gas for the trip, or a few oil changes, or the odd $1000 repair en route.

Edited: 13 April 2013, 04:37
San Francisco...
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2. Re: Road trip New York City to San Francisco (NYC-SF) - May/June

Thanks so much for the great info.

I live in SF and he lives in NYC and we both have CA licenses. If it's cheaper for just one of us to have the insurance I guess he'll be the designated driver the whole trip!

As for buying secondhand cars I also have the same fear of getting a dodgy car and then have to waste time & lots of $$$ on the way. As long as we can buy a decent car, we hopefully won't have a problem selling it back in SF as a friend of ours has a car dealership.

Any suggestions on what type of car or SUV to buy, preferable something with a low mpg.

Thanks again for all the help,

Maryam

Edited: 13 April 2013, 05:21
Washington State
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3. Re: Road trip New York City to San Francisco (NYC-SF) - May/June

"late May / early June" sounds like a very short period of time. I don't think buying a car is the best option. Renting a car is probably the cheapest and easiest. Compare prices.

Ask your friend who owns a car dealership what type car is recommended. Why would you get an SUV? It seems like you'd want a vehicle that gets good gas mileage. Or are you trying to sleep in the car?

If you really just have a short period of time for this trip, I think you'd be happier flying to one destination, meeting up, renting a car, and driving to SF together.

Motels? Camping?

Specific places you'd like to visit on your drive? Wish list?

How many weeks will you be traveling?

San Francisco...
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4. Re: Road trip New York City to San Francisco (NYC-SF) - May/June

Hi,

Late May/Early June is the expected start of the trip (He lives in NYC & i'm flying there Late May). We were thinking of allocating 2 weeks for the trip but we can extend it more if we need to. (it's the gap before school & job hunting).

I definitely want a low mpg car but I thought maybe an SUV is more suitable for the cross country road trip but I don't know if that's a correct perception!

I would prefer motels unless it's an absolute must/unique experience to camp at certain places.

San Francisco...
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5. Re: Road trip New York City to San Francisco (NYC-SF) - May/June

As for places, I have been to NYC,DC,Boston,Philadelphia,Chicago,Miami,Houston,Phoenix,Seattle,LA,San Diego & Vegas so I would love to see more of the Midwest US on this trip however we can include some of the above cities as my boyfriend hasn't seen most of them. Oh and I would love to pass by Alabama if possible. (my bf was born there but hasn't seen it since they left 30 yrs ago!)

Oregon Coast
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6. Re: Road trip New York City to San Francisco (NYC-SF) - May/June

Hi, you want a car with *high* MPG - the more "miles per gallon" the better

:-)

The problem with buying a used car on the east coast is snow and ice. No, you won't run into snow and ice, but they salt the roads. When salt meets metal, metal rusts. Eventually, the salt corrodes the metal. Thus, a car a few years old (let's say 6-10) will have that many winters being exposed to corrosive salt. Not good.

Your friend will have a hard time selling a used car that has rust on it.

You should spend some time comparing car rental prices. If you were planning on spending several months a purchase might make more sense, but for only two weeks it's a lot of hassle and might very well turn out costing you a lot more $$.

Whichever way you decide, go for a smallish car that gets good MPG, not an SUV. An SUV is a needless expense for your trip.

Windermere, United...
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7. Re: Road trip New York City to San Francisco (NYC-SF) - May/June

I've only done one quick search so I'm sure you can get it much cheaper but a two week rental car with drop of fees and two drivers just came up at $900. I'm sure this is much cheaper than buying a car and certainly less stressful.

Wednesbury, UK
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8. Re: Road trip New York City to San Francisco (NYC-SF) - May/June

Hi.

2 weeks is not a lot of time for a cross country country trip, especially one that would see you heading south first towards Alabama. If you can stretch it to 3 or better still 4 weeks then things start to look a lot better.

The most direct routes will see you pass by some great scenery with a small diversion to the north or south through South Dakota and Wyoming or Colorado and Utah, and PA, Ohio etc. and Chicago before then.

If you head for Alabama, well a quick drive past the Blue Ridge Mountains, into Alabama (where, its a big State)then ct back to general route66, I-40 route across the southern US, maybe Grand Canyon and Vegas,

then on to SF with a couple of options, but its going to be quick in two weeks and you'll see a lot of Interstate.

If it is two weeks only, my suggestion would be, 13 nights

1. On route to Chicago, around Cleveland ( Ask TE when he posts!).

2-3 Chicago.

4. Sioux Falls.

5-6. Black Hills, Mt Rushmore etc.

7. To Cody.

8-10. Yellowstone.

11. Twin falls or Elko.

12-13 Yosemite ( if Tioga Road is open) or Tahoe.

14. To SF.

or.

1. On route to Chicago, around Cleveland ( Ask TE when he posts!).

2-3 Chicago.

4. Omaha.

5-7. Rocky Mountain NP north of Denver.

8. To Moab Utah.

9-10. Moab for Arches NP and Canyonlands NP

11. To Ely. NV.

12-13 Yosemite ( if Tioga Road is open) or Tahoe.

14. To SF.

or if Alabama is a must and guessing Birmingham or Montgomery.

1. NYC to DC (or Philly).

2. DC.

3. DC to Asheville( long day).

4. Asheville and Smokies.

5. Asheville to Montgomery.

6. Montgomery to Little Rock ( another long day).

7. Little Rock to Oklahoma City.

8. OKC to Amarillo.

9. Amarillo to Albuquerque or Santa Fe.

10. Santa Fe to Grand Canyon NP.

11. Grand Canyon to Vegas.

12. Vegas to Mammoth Lakes through Death Valley ( if Tioga Road is open).

13. To Yosemite.

14. To SF.

or if Tioga Road is Closed.

12.Vegas to Cambria, via Bakersfield ( another big day).

13. Cambria to Monterey up Hwy 1, Big Sur.

14. To SF.

Those last two plans especially are very fast, lots and lots of driving, not much stopping and seeing, and I don't really like either. You can see why more time would be a great improvement.

For such a short trip rental has to be the more sensible approach, even with the one-way fee.

Edited: 13 April 2013, 08:08
western WA
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9. Re: Road trip New York City to San Francisco (NYC-SF) - May/June

You only have two weeks? Seriously Not Enough Time.

Pick your #1 goal destination. Is it Alabama? Both of you fly to Atlanta and make a greater Southeast trip, either round trip or one way, to include some great spots in this part of the country.

Maybe it is a loop including Chicago and the Great Lakes, including a swing down to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Ohio.

Maybe a loop of the southwestern National Parks.

Pick one. Rent a car. Fly home, or to your separate domiciles.

Wednesbury, UK
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10. Re: Road trip New York City to San Francisco (NYC-SF) - May/June

In principal, I can't disagree with Ainwa.

A more focus plan will maximise your experience and time to really see things rather than just driving past or through them, and I posted the route outlines to illustrate the point, rather than encourage you to do one of them.