Realistic budget - road trip across America
Replies: 11 - Last Post: Jan 20, 2009 7:06 PM Last Post By: dutchpickle
Jan 18, 2009 7:05 AM
Realistic budget - road trip across AmericaCan anyone tell me what is a realistic budget for a road trip across America?
We're thinking of going for 2-3 months on our honeymoon. We're happy to camp where possible and stay in budget motels etc. Our main focus is to see the national parks on the West Coast (and go hiking) but thought we could perhaps start in Boston and end up in LA.
We want to buy a car when we first arrive and will have extra cash for this.
I've been looking online and found a website that suggests £40 per day each which equates (at todays rate) to about $120 per day for the two of us to cover accomodation, food, petrol, sightseeing etc.
It doesn't seem that much to me and was wondering whether in fact this is a realistic budget for the trip?
If anyone could offer any advice, it would be very much appreciated.
Jan 18, 2009 7:49 AM
1Welcome to the TT Most here will suggest the "car"Will be a expensive pain in the ass until you travel beyond larger cities of the North East...Cars offered there. will often have corrosion issues...You should have a set aside, reserve for recovery & repair if you guess wrong on a what will probably be a hasty purchase...Money, that will be there to continue your trip to Fiji..If all goes well.Your proposed budget for comfortable accommodation, Yes, will be short in the N.E. but should barely serve in the "provences"...As thos question come up about once a week,have a sift therugh the archives & FAQS...Most details are well covered within...carracar
Jan 18, 2009 9:08 AM
2My wife and I went to the US in 2005 on our honeymoon for 2 months much like you plan to do. Like you we camped and stayed in cheap Motels, which has it's own charm. The US is a super friendly country: People are helpful, most things are designed to be convenient and easy - as long as you have a car!
We spent about 100$ a day for the two of us including gas, food and lodging. But keep in mind that the gas prices then were much lower than today!
All in all we ended up paying just about 7000$ but that was only because we were lucky enough to sell our car at almost the same price that we bought it. If we should do the same trip again I would definately rent a car because it's just too anoying to go through the whole buying and selling process while you're on vacation.
It took us about 2-3 weeks to get a deal with the buyer, writing back and forth on email while being on the roan,and it wasn't until the last few days that we were certain he would buy it. If he had let us down we would have had to just leave the car behind.
It's just not easy to buy and sell cars in the US as a tourist. In most states it's even impossible to buy a car if you don't have a US citizenship and a US address.
With that said, I wish you all the best with your trip. The US is a fantastic country and I know you'll have a great trip!
Jan 18, 2009 9:28 AM
In some states you will need either a Social Security number or a letter from the SS people explaining why you are not eligible to have one. You may be told that you need a driving license issued by a US state to buy a car. That is not correct. After all, a blind person could buy a car and hire a driver.
Take a look at FAQ 214, "Should I Buy a Car for My Trip."
You may fond that you are better off using that extra money to rent a car in the Northeast, then fly to the west coast and rent another car.
FAQ 146* : "Tips on Renting a Car in the U.S. and Driving It Here"
As for budget motels. Take a look at Motel 6, a budget chain. You can see some prices on their home page and yo can look up other cities. Note that the price shown may not include local taxes. Motel 6 locations are often not convenient--they may be on the outskirts of large cities. Few are near National Parks.
Jan 18, 2009 12:16 PM
4Thanks for getting back to us. We can probably manage $150 per day so hopefully this will take care of any petrol fluctuations.
We're thinking that perhaps it would be best to hire a car, seems a lot easier than having to sort out the buying/selling part of having our own car.
How exciting! Can't wait to go! Did you visit many of the national parks? Any places you really recommend?
Jan 18, 2009 12:25 PM
5At 2-3 months, you're right on the cusp of buying vs. renting a car. Either way will be expensive. I think $150 a day (not including the rental/purchase cost of the car, but including the gas) is a good target. For gas prices, figure 13-14 cents a mile. Pace of travel, figure 175 miles a day on average, which will allow for staying in the same place for several days at a time. Because this website royally screwed up the profiles, I can no longer point people like you to "my insanely egotistical profile" as evidence of my qualifications to render advice. So here's the vastly truncated version: >150,000 miles of U.S. travel, all 50 states, all budget levels + 25 foreign countries. I've written roughly half the FAQ entries.
I've been to a lot of the national parks. My favorites are the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, and the view of the Grand Tetons from the deck of the Granary restaurant and bar at the Spring Creek Ranch in Jackson, Wyoming. No joke on the Grand Teton view. It is spectacular. While you're there, might as well go to Yellowstone. It's right next door. Beyond that, read the FAQs I listed below, and get yourself a guidebook. There's too much to fit into this posting.
118: "Links to Willysnout’s Epic U.S. Roadtrip circa 2005"
129: "The Grand Canyon"
135: "Big Sur Diary, 2006"
139: "U.S. 395 Through Eastern CA and the Sierras"
144: "Foreigners: The Minimum Acceptable Tip in the U.S. Is 15%"
145: "Tourist’s Boston and Environs"
150: "Willysnout's Biased Guide to Seattle"
153: "What About Those ‘Driveaway’ Cars?"
154: "Speeding and Traffic Cops in America"
156: "Washington State’s Amazing Olympic Peninsula"
168: "Currency Conversion: ATMs Are Cheapest and Most Convenient"
170: "Nutrax’s San Francisco: This Is Why We Travel"
176: "Napa & Sonoma Wine Country"
182: "Willysnout’s Pacific Coast Drive From Seattle to San Diego"
186: "Renting A Campervan in the U.S."
194: "Addendum to Post 188 on Campervans"
204: "Mansions and Grand Houses of America"
209: "Seattle to Las Vegas in 4 or 5 Days"
210: "Grand Tour: California, Vegas, Grand Canyon, Zion and Bryce"
211: "A Long Weekend in San Francisco"
212: "A Manhattan Site Not in Most Guidebooks"
236: "The U.S. Highway System"
241: "An East Coast Tour: Montreal to Miami and Back"
242: "What’s the Cheapest Way? What’s the Best Way?"
243: "Budget Accommodation In The United States"
245: "Driving To/From L.A. From the North? Take CA Hwy. 1, Not U.S. 101"
250: "America’s Ocean Beaches and Coastlines"
Note: Within some FAQ entries, there'll be references to other posts. Be aware that post numbers might be wrong, owing to the TT moderators having removed a few postings, screwing up the numbering. In many cases, just subtract 2 and you'll be fine.
Jan 18, 2009 1:39 PM
6I don't know what your budget is for a car. You could possibly rent one for $30 a day pick it up on the east coast and drop it on the west, that includes taxes, but not insurance, but if you have insurance in your country you may be able to use it here for a rental. You should ask them specifically and maybe consider upping your coverage temporarily to cover a rental car in the US. If you get insurance from the rental company, it will be expensive (mayeb $12-15 a day for full coverage), but many times your own insurance WILL cover you for a rental and you don't have to pay for the rental company's insurance. Bring proof.
The website carrentals.com had $22 a day for east to west coast for a random three months I picked April till July, but that didn't include tax, it would be about $33 with tax.
There is a company called Rent-a-wreck which rents not brand new cars, but I think you would have to talk to them to see if you could get a car in the east and drop it in the west, or the other way around. They have different prices for if you want to go out of town too.
Jan 19, 2009 6:26 AM
Jan 19, 2009 11:58 AM
Jan 19, 2009 2:33 PM
9Well. It only costs $50 to drive from Ashland, OR to Portland, OR, and there are essentially campgrounds, cheap or free, any ten miles you look. My own budget, not including gas, looks something like $5 dollars a day, but I cook on a camp stove and camp a lot.
Jan 19, 2009 2:34 PM
Jan 20, 2009 7:06 PM
11I'd go with the "rent a car" option.
1) new car - less troubles
2) can be very cheap if you book on the internet - even by the month
3) you can find super deals in out of the way places like Michigan - it would even be worth organizing your air ticket to the best place to rent
you might have to change out vehicles every month so the car can be serviced - drive away with a different model for a change
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