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tsjibbe

How to get a car in the USA as a foreigner??

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Hey,

Me and my friend are planning to go to the USA for a roadtrip in Juli or August this year. But we found out it is pretty hard to get a car there when you are 19 years old. You can't hire a car unless you're 21.

Is there a other way to get a car? 

(We are planning to go for 1 month, so buying a car is proberly not worth the effort.)

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Cars can be found cheap as in top gear but will make you hate life on the road in them. Also you may need some proof of address in the US to get the vehicle insured. My reccomendation is to see if you can hire a car before you leave possibly through a travel agency...you may need an adult at home to vouch for the rental but try to do it beofre you land through home agencies also see if there is a rental company in the US that also rents cars in your home country. When you seem to have something arrangeed make sure you can get in touch with the agency office you will be picking up the vehicle from as the frontline staff at the agency desk might make the whole process unneccessarily start from scratch requiring the original name on the rental to be present with all supporting documentation thus scrubbing all your plans.

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thanx for these quick replies,

but a 'proof of address' can be a friend or acquaintance? Or do you really have to live there?

I already tried to arrange something at a local travel agency. But if I called them they said they could not arrange anything becuase I was under the age of 21.

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Originally posted by: tsjibbe

thanx for these quick replies,

but a 'proof of address' can be a friend or acquaintance? Or do you really have to live there?

I already tried to arrange something at a local travel agency. But if I called them they said they could not arrange anything becuase I was under the age of 21.quote>

You would proabably have to have a parent do it.

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There really isn't an easy answer. Insurance rates are substantially higher for drivers under 25, so no major rental company will rent a car to a person under 25, or even permit someone under 25 to drive one of their cars.

The only real way around this I could see would be to get a friend/relative/etc. who is at least 25 years old to rent a car for you and then hand you the keys. The caveat would be that said person would have to be able to go to the rental agency in person to pick up and drop off the car. It would be a violation of the contract for you to drive the car, but hey, the rental company doesn't need to know.

Another thing to watch out for is that in many cases, rental companies will also place restrictions on where you can take the car. So if you're planning to drive all over the country, expect to need to specifically ask to be able to do that and pay extra for the privilege. You can't just say "the rental company doesn't need to know" on this one, they'll know when they see the odometer reading.

Finding a cheap old car to buy would also be an option, I suppose, but not a good one considering a cheap old car isn't going to be reliable for roadtripping in.

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Originally posted by: Duke87

There really isn't an easy answer. Insurance rates are substantially higher for drivers under 25, so no major rental company will rent a car to a person under 25, or even permit someone under 25 to drive one of their cars.

The only real way around this I could see would be to get a friend/relative/etc. who is at least 25 years old to rent a car for you and then hand you the keys. The caveat would be that said person would have to be able to go to the rental agency in person to pick up and drop off the car. It would be a violation of the contract for you to drive the car, but hey, the rental company doesn't need to know.

Another thing to watch out for is that in many cases, rental companies will also place restrictions on where you can take the car. So if you're planning to drive all over the country, expect to need to specifically ask to be able to do that and pay extra for the privilege. You can't just say "the rental company doesn't need to know" on this one, they'll know when they see the odometer reading.

Finding a cheap old car to buy would also be an option, I suppose, but not a good one considering a cheap old car isn't going to be reliable for road tripping in.

quote>

although its  a scam for US Citizens who have their own insurance to buy the insurance offered by the rental agencies it would probably be in your best interests to do so. Just in case.

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I believe it is possible for an under 25 driver to be included in the rental agreement if there is an age eligible person willing to stake their credit card on it. If the car purchase looks better then see what you can do for insurance in the US as well but you might find that it will take more than a month in the US to sort out the paperwork just to get your license cleared to be insured.

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The U.S. is a big place, and driving rules change from state to state.  If you are driving a rental on a foreign licence and get picked up for a minor traffic offense, you can be arrested and dragged before a judge in some states, and be expected to pony up any fines in cash.

If I were you, I would explore other means of getting around.  Greyhound goes a lot of places, and you can sleep while going.  Folding bicycles are valid as baggage.

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Where are you looking to go? What are the major places you want to see? Post these items and we shall see what we know about particular routes and destinations.

Are you using a guide book? if so which guide book are you using?

I am inclined to know more to help anyone travel as best as I can but I shall restrain my questioning for now. 4.gif

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And when are you planning to go.  You need to be aware of the kinds of weather you'll run into.  The last time I travelled in the U.S. on my own, I went by bus.  But, of course that was before I got a job that took me there a lot.  in 1963 I went to visit my cousins outside of Dallas.  This was in the summer, and I can tell you that the Texas panhandle is very nice at that time of year.  Not overwhelmingly hot, and the nights are reasonable.  The ohly thing about dallas that was real hot was the general animosity for JFK.  They were stupid to go there, as the Kennedy's were hated universally in Dallas.

Other places I have been where I had time to use on my own in the states are mostly south western ones.  Phoenix, Tuscon, Las Vegas, L.A., Anaheim, Boston, New York, Atlantic City, Miami, Titusville, Silver Springs, Tampa, Minneapolis, Buffalo, Rochester and Seattle.  I haven't been south of the Canadian border in over 20 years now, but it always seemed to be a nice place.

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EyeofMobius: You aren't giving up soon, do you? 3.gif

We were planning to go to Calafornia/Nevada. The usual stuff like San Fransisco, LA , Las Vegas and perhaps the grand canyon. If you guys have some better ideas, please let me know 4.gif I'm not using a guidebook at the moment.

A Nonny Moose: I'm planning to go this summer, around juli or august. I know it can be pretty crowded at some places arround that time but these two month are the only option for me.

it's to bad there isn't a extensive railway system in the US. I've traveled trough half of Europe by train, but in the US you really need a car to travel arround to my knowlege

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Based on everything that has been said, I'm taking a guess that you live in Europe and English is not your native language.  Assuming this is correct, here are some things that you will need to take into account in planning your trip:

  • Lodging: Are you going to be sleeping in the car or will you be sleeping in a hotel?  If you're sleeping in a hotel, how are you paying?  Hotels will accept cash as payment for the room, but they typically require you to provide a credit card number to actually reserve a room in advance, and they may not accept your credit card(s).
  • Food: Cash is accepted everywhere, but credit cards again may not be accepted.
  • Fuel: Gas in the US is generally cheaper than it is in Europe.  In the US, most gas stations are set up so that you pay with a credit card before you pump the gas.  If you're paying with cash, you may be expected to provide money up front as a form of insurance against you simply pumping the gas and leaving without paying.  Needless to say, your credit cards may not be accepted.  Also, be aware that in some parts of the Southwest US, gas stations are few and very far between, so if you go venturing "off the beaten path," make sure you have enough fuel to get back.
  • Driver's License: Is your country's driver's license even valid for use in the states you wish to drive in?  The US federal government suggests that foreigners driving in the US obtain an International Driving Permit (IDP) before traveling to the US as the state you're driving in may not consider your country's license valid.  (Carry your country's driving license on you too, because an officer may wish to see both licenses if you are ever pulled over.)  Additionally, the US federal government does not issue an IDP; you have to obtain it from your home country.  Also, you might consider checking to see what each individual state's licensing regulations are; this varies from state to state and some states are more restrictive than others.
  • Foreign Consulate: Have you considered checking with your country's foreign consulate or some similar organization to see if they have any advice or information that can be beneficial to citizens traveling abroad in the US?

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No not giving up just keeping an avalanche of information behind the scenes to give you details you dont have to read through to find.

The California Nevada seems managable and many bus operations would run laps through those areas. You may wish to look for tour companies that cater to young adults with a hop on hop off deal so you do the tour circuit at your pace. Also see what bus companies have to offer. In North America Travel is very much individual automobile centered so regular bus services don't see anywhere near the competitive options as Europe; as a result you may be able to find a reliable deal on a string of tickets and routes.

I would recommend seeing the grand canyon as its an easy day tour from vegas and since you wont be able to gamble you'll probably get a good day out for the cost of a show in vegas. If you are hopping through the loop and like nature spots then Yosemite, Joshua Tree and the Giant Tree Forest are worth a visit. The California coast is really awesome especially the Northern stretches from Santa Cruz. I cant offer advice on Southern California since I haven't been able to justify going. San Fransisco is really nice and I am sure there is enough to kill a couple of days there.

If you do decide to get a guide book don't just go on recomendations. Take the time to compare each publisher's entries on a few things to see which one makes the most sense in its descriptions. So many people live by the Lonely Planet guides without even glancing at the others and so they are not all satisfied. I use a particular series of guides for when I am in europe and since I took the time to find the one that suited me best I have seldom been dissapointed. Also on the note of guide books don't walk the streets with it wide open as this throws a big flag up for people to identify you as a tourist. If you have freinds who have been to where ou want to travel they are going to be your best advice since they will know you better than any agent or guide.

If you have successfully navigated Europe then the US should be pretty easy minus the ease of mobility. Hope this stuff helps some.

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Originally posted by: Duke87

Be warned that if you're going to Las Vegas in July or August you are likely to be dealing with temperatures in excess of 40 degrees.

quote>

but all the hotels are air conditioned as are most rental  cars.

If you do The Grand Canyon from Vegas the  tours are the way to go.

they take you and bring you back for a reasonable price with stops at some of  the major scenic Vistas.

depends of which tour you take as well.

I think depending on the card you can let the issuer know your traveling to the US and they may send you a card that would work here for a few weeks. You would need to do the same for your cell phone BTW.

For cash you should look up if its better to exchange in europe or  wait till you get here. I doubt many places in CA, NV or AZ take Euros, mabey the casinos.

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South western United States in the high summer can be interesting, but it will be very hot in the daytime and quite cool in the night time.  You would be wise to bring some reasonably warm clothing for the nights in places like Las Vegas, and most of Arizona. 

I spent July and August one year in Phoenix, and I assure you that you don't want to go exploring in the desert without extra water and fuel.  I have been in circumstances where you were not allowed out of the plant where I was working because you wouldn't make it to your car in the sun-drenched parking lot where the temperature was around 120ºF (54C) and the temperature inside your car, if you could touch the door, would be 150.  The other thing in that desert is flash floods off the surrounding mountains.  If there is a thunderstorm in the desert, it doesn't rain because it evaporates before it gets to the ground, but there are lightening bolts that are so large you would think that anything you've seen before is a dead area.

If you get stranded out there, you have a very good chance of dying miles from anywhere.  Distance in Nevada and Arizona tend to be long between places where any accommodation can be had.  Population is quite sparse, and the Sonora Desert is no place to be lost.

I should expect that Euros would be acceptable and exchangeable in Las Vegas, but very likely nowhere else.  You would be well advised to carry letters of credit on a big American bank.  Foreign credit cards may or may not be acceptable.  You should have a chat with your banker.

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Well yes, English is not my native language (as you probably can see 3.gif), and as a matter of fact I live in the Netherlands. Getting a creditcard is not the biggest problem. Just one talk with my local banker and it's done.

But the real problem isgetting arround. Is visting a national park mch easier by car or can you get the same experience when you do some sort of daytrip? Because it looks to me that without a car you aren't realy free to go everywhere but you're bound to the busroutes.

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Originally posted by: tsjibbe

Well yes, English is not my native language (as you probably can see ), and as a matter of fact I live in the Netherlands. Getting a creditcard is not the biggest problem. Just one talk with my local banker and it's done.

But the real problem isgetting arround. Is visting a national park mch easier by car or can you get the same experience when you do some sort of daytrip? Because it looks to me that without a car you aren't realy free to go everywhere but you're bound to the busroutes.quote>

that is true you dont get to see the seldom visted part which for some would make thier trip.

for me nature is best experienced with out a crowd, but  the grand canyon and Yosemite summer is thier peak crowds.

 

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For the grand canyon, you can book into Bright Angel Lodge for a few days (at least you could at one time).  It is on the lloor of the Canyon beside the Colorado river.  If you are in any kind of shape, you can engage a guide and go anywhere in the area.  If you are less and 100 kilos, you can book a mule trip to the rim.

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I thought zipcar might have been an idea. They have an application process that includes people with foreign licenses. But they have an age limit of 21.

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Well, after a good search over the internet we've found a car rental company (E-Z RENT-A-CAR) who will rent us a car in L.A. If you know something you'll have to see when visiting California please let me know 3.gif We also need some some hotels/hostels/ other places to sleep in LA and perhaps in some other cities. Perhaps someone has some tips like Nonnymosse had for the grand canyon.

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Good for you.  If you are in LA, you are not very far from DisneyLand (the original).  You might find it worthwhile to pop up there for a day or two at Anaheim. 

If you are interested in big ports, hop down to San Diego.  It has a big Navy Base.  Be sure that you are allowed to do so before you take any pictures.

If you are allowed to take your car out of state, you are also within driving range of Las Vegas.  You can enjoy the sights and sounds, but keep your hands in your pockets and stay away from the one-armed bandits.  You can lose your shirt there if you get bitten by the gambling bug.

When in Vegas, you are not far from the Hoover Dam.  Worth a look at it, and Lake Mead.  If you continue to Arizona and the Black Canyon Highway you come to the sourth rim of the Grand Canyon.

A word about driving in desert country: 

  1. Take at least two litres of water each person, and at least a five gallon can of gas.  You don't want to get stuck in the desert without either. 
  2. Do not leave your car idling in very hot conditions to keep it cool.  You'll blow the rad or the condenser.
  3. Get yourselves some good, comfortable desert boots.  If you go walking in the desert, or even at a gas station, the varmints can sting you and make you quite ill.  Desert scorpions are usually not out in the daytime, but don't kick over a rock.  If you are stung, get medical help immediately.
  4. Carry a cell phone.  You never know when it will save your life.
  5. Have a good set of current maps.

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San Diago also has one of the best Zoo's in the world. Iv always wanted to visit the San Diago Zoo just never been there.

Dont forget to try IN and Out Burger in LA too.

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You're probably a bit old for Disneyland.  I suggest Universal Studios instead.

Our Moose friend is right; avoid gambling while you are in Las Vegas but, since you are underage, most casinos will kick you off the gaming floor.  Still, you can take the monorail and check out the architecture of the buildings.  They have some interesting ones there. 

The Grand Canyon is certainly worth seeing.   as is Hoover Dam while you're in the area.

If you get north of the Grand Canyon, Lake Powell is good.

Driving in the desert is serious business.   You might want to do some of the longer stretches at night.   Your car will appreciate the break from the heat and you'll see more stars than you usually do.  If you approach from the right angle, Las Vegas glows on the horizon for a couple of hours before you arrive there.  (You think it's close but it's really not.)

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Aw, c'mon Meg.  There is something for everyone at DisneyLand.  It is not just for kids.  If nothing else, you get to say you've been there.  I was there when I attended a convention in Anaheim, and it was well worth it.  Of course, I like roller coasters.  When I was there, Space Mountain was new.  You know how long ago that was.

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Originally posted by: ROFLyoshi

Sounds like Nonny's having a bout of nostalgia

I'm not from America, but if you're into sport I would reccomend seeing a baseball game.quote>

he would have lots  to chose from in LA. the Anahiem Angels, LA Dodgers( and can visit Scenic Compton 2.gif, Oakland A's or roll down to SD to see the Padres

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As for lodging, you might check to see if there are any Microtel motels where you are staying.  Past experience with them has always positive; they provide a clean, comfortable place to sleep at a reasonable price.

With regards to the desert driving, always treat it with the respect it deserves.  It can be a wonderful experience if enjoyed properly, but if something were to go wrong and you didn't have a viable backup plan, it could very likely result in your death.  The advice by Meg and our moose friend are all good, with one caveat: never rely on a cell phone for an emergency situation in the desert (or any other isolated place in the US).  Cell phones are very good to have and will likely bail you out of 99% of any problems you could potentially have, but there are significant dead zones in the Southwestern US that have absolutely no cell coverage whatsoever.  (Emphasis just to get the point across.)  If something left you stranded in an area where there was no cell coverage and all you had for emergency contact was your cell phone, you would very likely die.  However, there is a solution. Personal Locator Beacons (PLBs) are specifically designed for emergency situations where you are stranded without contact with normal emergency services like 911.  Do your research on which one to buy and where to buy it from, and you might even find a dealer that will let you return it for your money back if you don't use it.  (Also, don't forget to buy the batteries for it.)

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