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Janr

Australia couple planning a 5 month trip

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Hi,

We are a couple from Australia in our 60's planning a 5 month trip around USA in May next year arriving in Los Angelos and leaving on 28th September from San Francisco.  We are looking for advice on the best way to buy a small camper that we can sell at the end.   I am looking for advice on insuring and licencing the vehicle.  We are thinking of going to Los Vagas, Grand Cannon, Arizona Texas New Orleans, Florida, Washington, New York Main and then heading bck west to San Francisco. 

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks

Jan and Al

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First, let me give you an early welcome! We are happy that you have chosen to join us here. I will suggest that you start by reading this page which was written by one of your countrymen who has done what you are thinking of, except that they kept the RV for several years, visiting several times. The biggest problem will be in selling the RV when the time comes to leave. Do you plan to return to Los Angelas to leave? Is there some special reason for arriving in Los Angelas and then departing from San Fransisco? A few more details in your plans might help us to give you better advice. 

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Check out the PPL folks who have consignment lots. Maybe you can buy off the lot and then sell upon your return. However, they are located in Texas.

Sounds like a great adventure, welcome!

Consider the Thousand Trails camping pass + Trails collection. This is very cost effective and would compliment other camping options. 

You're flying in and out of 2 of the most congested cities in the USA. Is that plan "set in stone?".

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Hi Jan and Al. Welcome to the SKP forum. It's a while since I've been on this site but I'm still happy to help if I can. Kirk W pointed me to your post.

We are Australians who have bought and sold 2 A Class motorhomes in the USA. Spent about 8 years in total touring the USA in the past 20+ years.

Keeping in mind that there is no 'right' or 'wrong' way of doing what you are planning. However a couple of comments if I may.

5 months may seem a 'long' time to spend in the USA but I can assure you that it will soon fly by. Buying, and selling, an RV will consume more of that time than it may be worth. Along with the issues of finding insurance and registration. I would strongly suggest you look at renting an RV for that amount of time. On the surface renting may seem expensive but what price is a month of your five months worrying about buying and selling?

Also be aware that California comes with some issues. If you still want to proceed with buying an RV I would strongly suggest flying in and out of Dallas and using the SKP facilities to help with your purchase. Look at the PPL site as well as Motorhomes of Texas south of Fort Worth. These folks deal with overseas folks all the time and can help with selling your RV.

Yell if you need more help or advise.

Bruce

 

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If you ONLY have 5 months, your itinerary is doable, but it will be hectic.  I realize Australia is a large country and you may have experience driving long distances.  IMO, Calif to Florida then north to NYC then back to Calif is a LOT of driving without a lot of time to relax.

You might be better served staying in the western US.  There is PLENTY to see and do from Calif to Colorado.  You could easily spend a month in Utah alone.  You could easily spend a month in northern Calif, too.

Whatever you decide, I hope you have a great trip and enjoy yourselves.

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Welcome Al and Jan, there are lots of Aussies doing what you are planning. We've helped a few buying a coach in Florida. Craigslist is our "Go To" for an RV search in LA that would be https://losangeles.craigslist.org/d/recreational-vehicles/search/rva.  

Of course the listings change day to day. They are mostly private sales so it is buyer beware. If you are keeping the vehicle registered in CA it will have to be safety inspected and probably "smogged" too (emmissions tested).BEWARE!! Don't buy anything that isn't inspected and smogged as repairs can be expensive. 

Another "Gotcha " in CA is an expired registration. If a vehicle isn't used and the owner doesn't keep the registration current YOU are liable for the back fees and the steep fines incurred when you g to register the vehicle.

Being a private sale it's buyer beware. No warranty.

You may want to consider approaching a dealer to see if they will give you a "Buy Back" deal. We did this in Europe 2 years ago and it worked pretty well. Dealers are not likely to have cheap vehicles in stock however as they want to make the bigger money on newer vehicles.

You might consider registering the vehicle in South Dakota where there are no inspections or smog requirements and they will do it all by mail. There are several mail forwarding companies that can help you there and also set you up with a mail box in that state. They can receive mail for you and forward it to wherever you are at like a hotel or campground.

Our Aussie "Mates" registered theirs in Montana and the company they used helped them get the vehicle insured as well. If you want more info PM me and I'll get their contact information for you. 

5 months will be plenty of time to see what you want to see, you are probably going to be driving about 15,000 miles total.

There are lots of types of RV's from self contained to towed. Self contained have the disadvantage of needing to be disconnected every time you want to go sightseeing or shopping. Towed ones of course need a tow vehicle too. http://banbrv.blogspot.com/2014/11/you-can-get-there-from-here.html

Escapees have a group called the "Boomers", we ran across some Aussies at the Albuquerque Balloon Fest who were part of that group and were getting ready to sell their rig and go back to Aus. The boomers have a facebook page, maybe you could contact them thru that? (Sorry forgot their names!).

Anyway good luck, what you want to do is achievable.  Come and enjoy our great country, you'll love it,

BnB

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Thanks to everyone for the invaluable information.  I will check out the links and follow up on your leads.

We are arriving and leaving on a cruise ship as my husband can't fly long distances but can do up to 3 to 4 hours so sounds like we need to get out of California to buy.  Does anyone have any suggestions of a good hire company,  this may be an option for us to look into.   Another may be to buy a late model car with the view to resell and stay in motels and Airbnb but again I would have to resesrch accommodation prices.  Our itinerary is not set in stone, and although we do want to see as much as possible we definately want to be able to enjoy and not feel like we are rushing and continually driving.

Thanks again for taking the time to reply and I will be back for more advice😀

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There are several national RV rental companies that we see frequently. The two that I see most often would' be Cruise America and ElMonte RV Rental. Both of these are national companies that have provision for a renting them in one location and turning it back in in a different location, which could be a major advantage. They also rent the units with most of the necessary equipment, dishes, hoses, and such already in them to avoid the purchase of so much equipment and the disposal of it at the end of the trip.  If it were me I would start with one of these. Contact them and let them know that you are looking to rent one for several months as the rates quoted are a per day price and most rentals are only for a week or two but I know that long-term rentals are available and the daily rate would be less. 

Do you have any RV experience? I think that 5 months would be a long time to live in hotels/motels and this would give much more flexibility to your travel plans. 

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I would think one huge negative in your plan to purchase an RV and then try to sell it several months later, besides the obvious negative that it may not sell for several months, is that you are responsible for all repairs.  In addition, what if you experience a major repair that keeps you off the road for 2 or 3 weeks waiting for parts?

At least with a rental unit those worries are behind you.  I can understand picking up a car for 5 months of usage and then selling it, but if it were me I would turn to rental companies for the RV.

Good luck on your planning.

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You have some good ideas/options. Used cars are like a commodity...you can easily buy and sell. Problems would potentially be many fewer than with a used RV. I know most RVers frown upon hotel accommodations, but we traveled by car before getting into RVing and found it to be much less stress than traveling by RV. With an RV, you have constant maintenance and cleaning. Not a good way to spend your holidays in the US. The first year of RV ownership is clouded with maintenance issues and learning systems etc.

Maybe you could do a hybrid trip with part of it by car. Consider AMTRAK for transportation along the East Coast. Just this Fall, I flew to Boston from Minneapolis and traveled by AMTRAK to New York City and back to Minnesota. It was a very relaxing way to travel, and train brings you right into the center of the city for easy access to everything. 

If you go by car, the National Parks have great historic lodges (reserve now). Yellowstone, Grand Canyon(?), and Glacier.

Note that campgrounds can be very full in the summer months, the peak "camping" season in the US. This could add to the complexity of such a trip without careful plannng.

 

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We enjoy traveling by Amtrak trains. If you mostly want to visit major cities this is a great way to do it. If you book a sleeper, meals are included in the price. That way you get a room you can retreat to if you need some privacy for awhile. In the meantime you can grab a seat in the lounge car or sightseeing (often called dome) car. In the sightseeing cars speakers from places like national parks board for part of the trip to provide travelogues. In the dining car you will be seated with other travelers which is a great way to meet people from all around the world. Amtrak also has a hotel and car rental section that can help you find a good place to stay in various cities. Here's a link to the interactive route map to give you an idea of where you could go: https://www.amtrak.com/plan-your-trip.html  If you think this is something you might want to do, I'm willing to give you more tips.

Linda Sand

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In the spirit of trying to help anyone planning such a trip from overseas...some "must sees".

Yellowstone National Park with time between East Gate and Cody, Wyoming.

Glacier National Park (Lake McDonald and historic lodge)

Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Medora Western North Dakota

Rapid City area, South Dakota, Wall Drug and Badlands National Monument.

North Shore of Lake Superior from Duluth MN to the Canadian border.

The "Driftless Zone" in SE Minnesota. Lanesboro, Root River Trail 

Amana Colonies, Iowa

Chicago

Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor Maine

Ogunquit, Maine

Boston, MA

Nantucket Island MA 

Jones Beach State Park, Long Island NY

New York City 

Jersey Shore NJ Sea Isle City, Avalon NJ

Cape Henlopen State Park, DE (Ferry from Cape May to DE)

Washington DC

Orlando FL Disney and Epcot

All of the above RV friendly. PM me if you want park recommendations.

(I do not know the West very well. )

The Riverwalk in San Antonio.

Amtrak is a viable option combined with rental car.

 

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Keeping in mind that there is no 'right' or 'wrong' way of seeing America. Just 'different' ways.

Back in 1996 we went to the USA and purchased our first RV. A 35ft gas A Class. Then a car to tow behind it. We sold those 6 years later. Then we returned in 2007 and purchased a 40ft DP. Plus a car to tow. In 2013 we sold the DP and car and purchased a pickup and traveled up until a few months ago using hotels. In the motorhomes we traveled from Mexico to Alaska and from east coast to west coast. Stayed in rest areas, truck stops, private rv parks and rv resorts. In the pickup we stayed in hotels. There are plus and minus to each mode of travel. I wont go into the for and against each way of travel here.

But let me make one thing very clear. I'm a numbers nut case. I live by spread sheets. From the very first day in 1996 until we sold our pickup this year I kept all the figures on costs. Purchase price. Registrations. Insurance. Fuel. Food. Repairs. And accommodation. Plus other figures. After a total of 8+ years of being on the road in the USA in the past 22 years I can tell you there is very very little difference in costs.

The difference becomes a choice between life style and seeing 'stuff'. If you want to relax and move slowly go for an RV. If you want to jam in as much as possible. Go for a car. Then you have to figure out between buying and renting. Bargains can be had. but remember the old saying, "you get what you pay for". Renting can be worry free. Buying can have its own issues. 5 months may seem a long time. Buying, registering and insuring can be a right PITA.

bruce

 

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Thats very interesting Bruce.  Thanks for the detailed info.  We are very tempted to see as much as we can as I am not sure if we will get back and would love so see all the highlights, but without feeling like we are in The Amazing Race.  Your info was very helpful.

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7 hours ago, ToddF said:

In the spirit of trying to help anyone planning such a trip from overseas...some "must sees".

Yellowstone National Park with time between East Gate and Cody, Wyoming.

Glacier National Park (Lake McDonald and historic lodge)

Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Medora Western North Dakota

Rapid City area, South Dakota, Wall Drug and Badlands National Monument.

North Shore of Lake Superior from Duluth MN to the Canadian border.

The "Driftless Zone" in SE Minnesota. Lanesboro, Root River Trail 

Amana Colonies, Iowa

Chicago

Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor Maine

Ogunquit, Maine

Boston, MA

Nantucket Island MA 

Jones Beach State Park, Long Island NY

New York City 

Jersey Shore NJ Sea Isle City, Avalon NJ

Cape Henlopen State Park, DE (Ferry from Cape May to DE)

Washington DC

Orlando FL Disney and Epcot

All of the above RV friendly. PM me if you want park recommendations.

(I do not know the West very well. )

The Riverwalk in San Antonio.

Amtrak is a viable option combined with rental car.

 

Thanks Todd, I have printed this off and will start looking at a route keeping these highlights in mind. .  To mix up a bit of train travel would be fun and probably more relaxing. 

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10 hours ago, sandsys said:

We enjoy traveling by Amtrak trains. If you mostly want to visit major cities this is a great way to do it. If you book a sleeper, meals are included in the price. That way you get a room you can retreat to if you need some privacy for awhile. In the meantime you can grab a seat in the lounge car or sightseeing (often called dome) car. In the sightseeing cars speakers from places like national parks board for part of the trip to provide travelogues. In the dining car you will be seated with other travelers which is a great way to meet people from all around the world. Amtrak also has a hotel and car rental section that can help you find a good place to stay in various cities. Here's a link to the interactive route map to give you an idea of where you could go: https://www.amtrak.com/plan-your-trip.html  If you think this is something you might want to do, I'm willing to give you more tips.

Linda Sand

Thanks,  we would definately be interested in train travel and a sleeper would be a good option.  When I clicked the link it said the page was not available,  and when I tried to sign in our would not accept my ip address.  It must be for US citizens only. 

Any help would be appreciated. 

Thanks

Jan

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17 hours ago, ToddF said:

You have some good ideas/options. Used cars are like a commodity...you can easily buy and sell. Problems would potentially be many fewer than with a used RV. I know most RVers frown upon hotel accommodations, but we traveled by car before getting into RVing and found it to be much less stress than traveling by RV. With an RV, you have constant maintenance and cleaning. Not a good way to spend your holidays in the US. The first year of RV ownership is clouded with maintenance issues and learning systems etc.

Maybe you could do a hybrid trip with part of it by car. Consider AMTRAK for transportation along the East Coast. Just this Fall, I flew to Boston from Minneapolis and traveled by AMTRAK to New York City and back to Minnesota. It was a very relaxing way to travel, and train brings you right into the center of the city for easy access to everything. 

If you go by car, the National Parks have great historic lodges (reserve now). Yellowstone, Grand Canyon(?), and Glacier.

Note that campgrounds can be very full in the summer months, the peak "camping" season in the US. This could add to the complexity of such a trip without careful plannng.

 

Thanks Todd

It is sounding like the way to go and the easier option.  Is is ok just to arrive and get a motel/hotel?  When are the peak seasons/school holidays that we may need to think of pre booking.  We use Airbnb a lot here in Australia.

Thanks again xx

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18 hours ago, FL-JOE said:

I would think one huge negative in your plan to purchase an RV and then try to sell it several months later, besides the obvious negative that it may not sell for several months, is that you are responsible for all repairs.  In addition, what if you experience a major repair that keeps you off the road for 2 or 3 weeks waiting for parts?

At least with a rental unit those worries are behind you.  I can understand picking up a car for 5 months of usage and then selling it, but if it were me I would turn to rental companies for the RV.

Good luck on your planning.

Thanks ...lots of planning ahead x

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18 hours ago, Kirk W said:

There are several national RV rental companies that we see frequently. The two that I see most often would' be Cruise America and ElMonte RV Rental. Both of these are national companies that have provision for a renting them in one location and turning it back in in a different location, which could be a major advantage. They also rent the units with most of the necessary equipment, dishes, hoses, and such already in them to avoid the purchase of so much equipment and the disposal of it at the end of the trip.  If it were me I would start with one of these. Contact them and let them know that you are looking to rent one for several months as the rates quoted are a per day price and most rentals are only for a week or two but I know that long-term rentals are available and the daily rate would be less. 

Do you have any RV experience? I think that 5 months would be a long time to live in hotels/motels and this would give much more flexibility to your travel plans. 

Thanks Kirk.  Quotes to rent are about $20,000.  We would have to pay the extra for unlimited mileage.   I agree motels/hotels can be impersonal.  Maybe a few days to a week in a Airbnb apartment would help our a lodge in a National park.  Still very undecided but so helpful to get everyone's views to help with the decision.

 

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4 hours ago, Janr said:

Quotes to rent are about $20,000.

 

I really believe that it could easily cost you that much and more to buy, register & insure, equip, and all the other things you would have to do to use a reasonably new motorized RV in the US and then sell it at the end of your trip. In addition, you would probably spend a month of your visit just getting ready and then selling it when you leave. Have you shopped for an RV in the US? You can expect to spend at least $50,000 to buy an RV that you can reasonably rely on for 5 months of travel and it would have no dishes, hoses, or any of the many things that are needed to live in it. If you buy for $50,000, it would not be surprising to spend several thousand more to equip it and then recover $40,000 or less at the end of the trip. And that doesn't consider what it might cost you in time and money if the purchased RV should have a major breakdown!

I don't know if you have ever visited the USA but having spent a month in AU I can tell you that the USA is about the same size as AU but we have 5 to 10 times as many miles of major highways and many times the scenic places to visit. Our national parks are much different than yours with many developed areas and huge crowds of tourists. In order to see the major attractions in the USA you will need to travel thousands of miles. RV accommodations are far more developed here and available in most places that you are likely to visit but not so many places to just stop along the road as you might expect to find. Let me suggest that you contact Bruce from that earlier post to discuss your plans as I am sure that he can give you far better advice than any of us, because he has done this. Bruce can also give you a good feel for the costs of things here as compared to your home.

Edited by Kirk W

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I just punched in a 3 month quote for Cruise America...wow! I can see why OP would prefer to buy for a 5 month stay.

As Kirk points out, there are many camping options. Crowds are the issue during the peak summer months. We travel after Labor Day into December, things never fill up during these months. But Yellowstone and that part of the US are already closing down by end of Sept.

There are many good motel/hotel chains. We like the consistency, online reservation systems, free hot breakfasts at some, amenities like pool, TV, AC, lobbies etc. Convenient locations. Competitive prices. New York and Boston are 2 of my favorite cities but very expensive for hotel. Have camped outside City and taken train in. And stayed in town at hotel. Both options are fun.

I think a hybrid trip with a month or two RV rental ,AirBNB, Hotel-Motel-Lodge, car rental, Amtrak would be a blast and cost a bit less than 5 month RV only.

Mix it up!😁

 

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10 hours ago, Janr said:

Thanks,  we would definately be interested in train travel and a sleeper would be a good option.  When I clicked the link it said the page was not available,  and when I tried to sign in our would not accept my ip address.  It must be for US citizens only. 

Does amtrak.com work for you? I know Amtrak does some trips combined with VIA in Canada but I no nothing about accessing any of that from anywhere else. Amtrak's customer service number is 1 (800) 872-7245

 

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Everyone has their own ideas of what will suit their needs and wants. Only you can make those choices.

Here's a few more comments that may help!

Buying an RV for 'just' 5 months will be a real pain. And expensive. Renting is a great choice but it also gets expensive. Keeping in mind that the USA is light years ahead of Australia with their RV parks. But even with thousands of RV parks there will still be places you can't go to or see in an RV. (Try parking your RV in Washington DC or driving around some of the national parks).

Buying anything will require an address in the USA. Then there is the registration and insurance. Insurance costs will be a real shock to the average Australian. Be warned.

As silly as it may seem my brain tells me that renting is still the easiest. Remember it's a holiday and not a challenge to see how fast you can grow gray hairs.

May I suggest? Rent a car for 5 months. We regularly rent a car for $50.00 a day when we first get to the USA. (Renting at airports is more expensive). A long term rental may be cheaper. That's $7500.00 for 5 months. Then join the Choice Hotel Group. Easy just go online and start a free account. Almost every town has a Choice hotel. (We always used their middle of the line hotels such as Comfort Inn or Comfort Inn Suites). US hotels are way way way better than 90% of Australian hotels. By using your Choice membership you will get points. That will give you a free night approximately every 6-7 days. In 6 years of of using their hotels we averaged $100.00 a night. So you now have approximately $22500.00 in car and hotel costs. $150.00 a day. Not bad for a once in a lifetime experience.

Remember that with a car you can poke into every corner of the USA. Downtown areas and national parks. But as I said. Only you know what sort of an adventure you want. Do you want to fight with a used RV? Worry about campgrounds? Get the smelling salts out when you get your insurance quote? Or do you want to get up in the morning and walk out the door and not look back at the unmade bed or the bathroom?

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

bruce

Yes I know this is an RV forum. But even though we loved RVing it isn't the best solution for everyone and every circumstance.

 

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