Monday, June 14, 2010

Rental Cars and the "Real America"

Hey Jamie,

I'm planning on a US road trip this summer, I reckon for three or four weeks, starting in the West (maybe San Fransisco) to somewhere Central/Eastish or further, an then getting a plane from wherever I am to NY for a weekend. I'm finding it proper tricky to find good advice about though!

Where would be the best place to start an end to get in the most of real America? I want to see as many big landscapes, beautiful spots and weird places as I can on as many two lane routes as possible. Also, what's going to be the best option… is it easier to buy a car for a month, or to hire one? What's the cheapest option of getting a car? Its all looking mega expensive.

Hope you can help, many thanks



Hey Rob --

Thanks for writing in to Road Trip USA -- and I know what you mean about car hire getting expensive. Because of the "Financial Crisis," I think a lot of companies bought fewer cars, so supply seems to be way down, while demand is starting to pick up, which means cars that used cost $99 a week now cost $99 a day!

That said, buying a car is even more complicated and expensive -- even if you manage to arrange the purchase and re-sale before you get over here.

One other option is an "Auto Driveaway", which can be actually pretty perfect if you want to do a cross-country drive. For these, you drive someone else's car, and they sometimes even buy the fuel.

Here's a website to check out (I think each Auto Driveaway office is independent, which makes it complicated...):

Now, onto the fun parts -- the real America is everywhere; you just need to follow your nose, and avoid anywhere that advertises itself (avoid Disneyland etc, though these are fun for what they are...)

For big landscapes and beauty, I strongly recommend Idaho and Montana -- absolutely amazing scenery, and hundreds of small, characterful "real" places. The route I cover along US-93 is ideal for this sort of two-lane cruising, and even though this goes north-south it's a great drive -- Stanley Idaho is a pace to aim for, and Missoula Montana is as "real" as they come, with great bars and bookshops (if these appeal...)

If the Driveaway deal doesn't work out, Seattle or SF could both be good starting points -- maybe you could do a loop trip, rather than a one-way, as it usually works out cheaper to return the car to the same place you rent it from. Then fly across the country, to NYC or DC or Boston or other cheap-ish gateway.

Lots of possibilities -- let me know how it shapes up for you.

Happy Trails,

Jamie Jensen
Road Trip USA


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