College Roadtrip


So, I’m hoping to roadtrip across the US and Canada this summer, and everything is in place?except the car. I don’t have access to my own car, and I’m under 21, so I can’t rent. (Rent-a-Wreck only allows you to take their cars 150 miles away.) Does anyone have any suggestions on how I can get a car? I’ve considered borrowing from a friend, but that’s unlikely. How feasible is it to buy a used car on one coast and sell it on the other? Or are there any other under-21 rental agencies? Or any other creative solutions?


Is it feasible for you to begin your trip in NY or Michigan? The minimum age to rent a car is 18 in these states. Additionally, I think Enterprise might rent to people over 18 in all locations. I think there’s an underage surcharge for renting if you’re under 25 and an even greater surcharge if you’re under 21 (it could be as much as $45/day according to some sites I saw).

Do you have someone who would trust you with their car? I once paid for my mother to rent a car while I was under 21 and drove her car on my trip. It was much cheaper for her to rent a car than me. It was only about 14 hours roundtrip for a week, but it might be an option in your case too.


Oh, and no matter what, if you’re taking a US rental car into Canada, you need to make sure that’s in your contract and carry a copy with you. I’d also double check that you have some kind of proof of insurance that’s valid in Canada, just in case you’re in an accident.


Honestly, I’d buy a cheap car from somebody who is graduating and resell it when you are done. Which way are you going? I only ask because East Coast cars are not that desirable on the West Coast, but West Coast cars should be easy to sell in the East. I’d go for a cheap $1500-$2000 car and not worry about the resale. But, I like adventure and have some ability to fix stuff on the fly if needed.


Is it just you or do you have friends traveling? If it’s just you, I’d find a sedan driven by an older person. They tend to take care of their cars better than younger folk. If there are 3 or more, I’d get a minivan. You will remember the experience with your old friends and the new ones you meet along the way. Just find a car or van that will meet your space needs. Mileage? Get something that has at least 80,000 miles on it. If you sell it with 7,000 more miles on it it will be about what you payed for it.


I’m not sure what kind of a trip you want, but here may be a better idea than a car. About 6 months out of college a friend of mine and I bought an old Dodge Tioga camper. It had some age and some miles on it, but most everything worked including stove/fridge/bath - hell even the 8-track still worked! (But this was in 1992 - we rigged it to run a cd player through the stereo). I think we paid about $4500 - actually took out a loan for it. We drove it around the states for about 2.5 months one summer.

Within a few months of returning we sold it for about $4,000, paid off the loan and we were done. (Though there are times I wish I still had it). This was a circuit trip rather than coast to coast - but if you really want a road trip it is a great way to go.

The only problem we had - which will only be worse now b/c of prices was gas mileage. I think the thing got 8mpg downhill with a tailwind - but it did have plenty of power for the Rockies.

The upside is that over the course of the 2.5 months we spent a grand total of about $50 for lodging - twice we rented campsites. The rest of the time we parked and slept wherever. We also spent almost nothing on food since we drove around with a kitchen. What we spent on gas we more than saved on lodging and eating out.

This kind of buy-sell trip should be easier these days. Find the ride - bring your laptop - choose your destination. A few days before you get there post the ride on craigslist - you may have it sold before you arrive.


Get ahead in life. Go nowhere and get to really know the place where you are already. I’m not even talking about money. Take some pictures of whatever interests you the most, so you will have something to remember and put it on a disk. Pretend that you’re into breakfast and write a story about the first time you were out to breakfast in your life and compare it to the ones you have while on Spring break. Keep it all on a disk so you can look it over when you’re fifty. Make it a goal to live until then and a lot longer. Don’t thank me when you’re fifty because I’ll be gone by then and darn happy about it too. Those aren’t the only things to do but it will seem like it when you look back on it, and you will look back. I guarantee it.


Buy a cheap motorcycle, the only way to travel in the summer. Pack light.