Monday, January 23, 2012

Around the USA - with, and without a car!

hi jamie,

my wife and i are english and live in the uk. we would like to travel the US for 6 months :). we are looking to spend 3 months travelling from miami to LA, then go to central america for 2 weeks (our visa only allows 3 months stay) and then continue tour along route 66 and finishing in new york. we are looking to travel april - oct 2012. I would like to buy a car in miami and sell it in new york - is this feasable? how easy is it to buy, insure and get plates for a used car. If this isn't such a great idea, what could you suggest?


John + Sue


Hi John & Sue --

Many thanks for writing in to Road Trip USA -- that is quite an adventure you are planning!

A couple things leap to my mind after reading your letter -- first is, are you sure you would be "re-admitted" to the USA, just because you've crossed the border? Immigration is a huge issue in recession-hit America, and the authorities are being very careful about people trying to "get around" their visa rules.

And as painful as immigration laws are, buying / selling and insuring cars is almost as big a nightmare -- especially if you have no "track record" of driving in the US. Like in the UK (where I have enjoyed living at times in the past 20-odd years..), you need proof of insurance to get registration / tax disc, without which you will live in fear of every policeman in Texas (and everywhere else).

That said, I drove around the US for 3 years with expired plates, and never had a hassle. So it really depends, as in the words of Dirty Harry: Do you feel lucky? I'm sure a scarily high percentage of people driving around the US have fake insurance, expired licenses, and worse.


To end on a brighter note, there are all sorts of ways to get around the USA that don't require owning a car -- we have at least one train (Amtrak), many cool cities have great public transport (SF, Seattle, NYC, Boston...).

And thanks to the Internet you can often link up with drivers heading in whatever direction you feel like going -- check out the "ride share" pages on , and many other specialist web sites, like

There are also "driveaway" companies, which give you a car to drive across the country; neat things about driveaways is that they love foreigners -- so long as you're over 25 and have a driving license.

Hope this helps -- and hope you have a great trip!

With best wishes,

Jamie Jensen
Road Trip USA


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