Rent a car for a month

I live in Moscow, Russia. I’m from Iowa and my two boys, aged 8 and 11, live in Albania. This summer, the boys and I are planning a trip from Des Moines, Iowa to Grassy Plains in northern British Columbia. Google maps says that it is over 2000 miles one-way. We are going to camp, and visit friends along the way. We are going to visit rivers, lakes, national parks, and laundromats. (Why can’t I add the plural of laundromat to my dictionary? Why isn’t it there in the first place?) We will be gone for about a month.

I investigated the idea of borrowing my Dad’s 2003 Buick La Sable and renting him a smaller car–he needs it a couple days a week to drive to his card game or to one of my sisters’ places. I would have to spend at least $200 to get a Blue Tooth system, or some such, so we can listen to podcasts from my iPod. He is apprehensive about the whole insurance thing–I don’t blame him.

I’m trying to stay away from spending huge amounts on insurance from the car rental company. Someone told me today that they would charge me an arm and a leg–I only have two of each.

Does anyone have any fresh ideas about how to do this trip inexpensively?

Look for Rent-a-Wreck, or a similar operation that rents older cars.
I have used Rent-a-Wreck, and I found their cars to actually be in decent condition, even if they were typically about 5 or 6 years old. Some of their cars have a few small battle scars on fenders and doors, but they are not “wrecks”!

Think about it…if you can get your Dad a 5 or 6 year old car from Rent-a-Wreck, he will be driving a newer car than he normally does! And, you will save a huge amount of money by going this route, as compared to renting a brand-new car for him to use on those twice-a-week local jaunts. Rent-a-Wreck sells optional insurance, just as the other guys do, but because their cars are worth much less, the insurance also costs less.

You may have trouble with insurance going out of state and into Canada with a rental. Might be better to use your Dad’s car and have a notorized permission slip along. Canada is getting pretty fussy now, not like the old days.

I’d be a little careful of laundromats though. They are not necessarily the neighborhood places they used to be so make sure they are staffed and only during daylight.

That is why I suggested that the OP get a car from Rent-a-Wreck for his father, and that way, the OP can drive Dad’s car on his road-trip vacation.

The closest Rent-a-Wreck to Des Moines is in Quincy, Illinois; a little over 200 miles away. But there might be another local rental company that can accomodate you. You could rent your wreck in a larger city and then drive to Des Moines. If you flew to Chicago and drove to Des Moines, for instance, you could rent the car in Chicago. Minneapolis might be a good alternative.

Sounds fun. I think it will work, but maybe exercise a few preventative cautions:

  • If the dad is going to be the one driving the rental car, then the dad should be the one to rent it from the rental company; i.e. the dad’s name should be on the paperwork as the renter. The son should simply reimburse the dad cash for the rental fee, not be part of the rental agreement.

  • The dad should consult his insurance company to make sure he’s fully covered under his own policy while driving the rental car. And that the son is covered under the dad’s insurance policy while driving the dad’s car both in the USA and Canada. And that Canada will allow the car, the son, and the 2 kids into the country. And know in advance what requirements the USA will impose when returning.

  • If the son wants to worry about something, at least while he’s in the USA part of the holiday, the son’s main concern should be health insurance for him and his 2 kids. A serious health problem or accident occuring to the son or the kids while in the USA could result in a financial castrostrophe. If a health or accident occurs, cross your fingers it occurs while in Canada.

Whichever car you take, make sure the insurance covers Canada. Canadian insurance normally covers driving in the continental USA.

Next, you need either a US passport (which I’m sure you have for everyone) or a special added card to your driver’s license.

Facilities in Canada are at least as good as in the USA. Most campsites with plug ins and running water, have laundromats.

Suggest a GPS which will have Canada and USA on it (cheap to buy), a cellphone and several credit cards. Your AAA membership is good in Canada, just call any CAA (Canadian Uatomobile Association) if you have a problem. You can buy the travel books from the AAA if you are not a member. They cost about $15 for the Western US and $15 for Western Canada and Alaska. They list evrey hotel, park and most campsites. The province of BC has lots of free info on campsites as soon as yoiu cross the border.

If you have survived Moscow and Albania, the Western USA and Canada will be like heaven. No need to bribe anyone, the food and water is safe, and everything actually works! I do suggest a travel accident insurance policy covering everyone. It’s the thing most people forget. They’ll treat you in Canada, but you have to pay up front unless your employer’s or your own insurance covers you.

When I lived overseas I had a comprehensive worldwide Lloyds of London policy for my wife and I covering everything including “extraction” from terror and war zones. It cost $3500US per year and was great insurance. My friend with the same coverage had to have a double bypass surgery in Malaysia. He did OK in the best hospital in the country. No questions asked.

The AAA has policies for the US and Canada costing about $280 per healthy person under 60 for 60days, $125 for 30 days. If you don’t have company insurance this is a good deal. My wife and I spent one month in Europe last year and it cost us $450 for the two of us, but excluded Albania and some other Eastern European countries. Don’t rely on your car insurance to cover you; you might suffer a bear attack at your campsite, or break a leg hiking.

Have a wonderful vacation.

Chicago is a long way from DesMoines, trust me. Minneapolis is 250 miles from DesMoines but you may be having to fly in there anyway. There is a rent a wreck in Minneapolis but not at the airport. Agree that usually the driver is limited to the one providing the credit card and extra for additional drivers. There are car rentals in DesMoines and you can get a better deal for a month. Another option is the car dealers that might just rent by the mile instead of by the day.

I do I do agree that health insurance should be looked. Travelers insurance is very cheap and we always buy it on this end. Don’t know how it would work from Moscow though.

“Chicago is a long way from DesMoines…”

Yes, but it is a huge city; highly accessible by air from just about anywhere. Minneapolis is not nearly as easy to get to. Kansas City is only 194 miles away from Des Moines, but it is also more difficult to get to on an international flight than Chicago.

Huh, lots of direct international flight to and from Minneapolis, but usually connect in Amsterdam.