What to drive ATL-San Diego

I have a '97 Acura 3.5RL with 125K miles. I’ve maintained it well, but I will be moving from Atlant to San Diego in June and I’m not sure I want to chance driving it 2200 miles across country including thru the desert southwest. I was thinking about donating it and renting a vehicle. A cargo van might be good (because I will take two pets and some household goods), but it seems impossible to rent such a van one-way. I don’t want a box truck or something similar because I want the pets to be in the air-conditioned part of the vechicle. What do you suggest?

I made a cross country trip a few years ago in a 15ft one way rental truck from Penske. They were equipped with a small door (large enough for an adult to squeeze through) behind the passenger seats into the cargo area. It actually got pretty good gas mileage even with the AC on most of the time. Our dogs came and went as they pleased and my birds did just fine in the cargo area. I would sell the Acura and put the money towards the truck rental. Other companies may have this feature so look them up online and check them out. Atlanta/San Diego are both high traffic areas both in and out so the rental charge should be reasonable.

2,200 miles is really no big deal for a car. If the tires are good and the car is maintained up to date, it should be good to go. Bringing a car into CA is always a risk. CA has the most stringent smog testing and some cars from other states don’t pass.

If your car doesn’t pass the CA smog tests you’ll be stuck with either an expensive repair bill, or an unsaleable car. I’d consider selling the car because of the potential smog issues, not the cross country trip.

A 97 Acura RL with only 125,000 is just broken in. It’ll last another 125,000 miles. Just drive it.

If you don’t have enough trouble to rule out the trip, your car should be fine. Highway mileage is not as hard on a car as stop and go. You might want to change the coolant, transmission fluid and brake fluid before you leave. How long ago were the 3 changed? If it has been a few years for coolant and about 30,000 for brake and transmission fluid, it’s time. You first have to check to see if your car is 50-states legal. There is a label under your hood that should clearly say that it is or is not legal in Cali. Here’s some info:


Now, it also says on this page that you can bring in a new 49-states legal car if it was registered in your hole state. You might want to call the numbers at the bottom of the page for clarification. Here’s the info about registering a non-resident vehicle:


I have made some questionable trips given car standards, but the bottom thought in my mind is will this car run another 14 hours. I say to myself yes it will, the downside is maybe having to replace a fuel pump at 14 degrees in the napa parking lot, boy that gas gets cold, but life goes on.

I drove across the Mojave once in the summertime…I was 20 years old at the time…I have never had a reason good enough to do that again…I would plan to do the Phoenix to San Diego leg at night…

I did that once, no ac and the heat on to keep the 72 nova cool. Made it. I keep thinking about my ancestors in covered wagons, you thought you had it rough?

Those folks wanted to get to California very, very, badly…Their bones today litter the old wagon trails…You go so far, you can’t turn back…

What about the timing belt issue on this car? If it’s the original that means 15 years of age and it’s been on borrowed time.

I’m in agreement that you would be better off making that desert run at night. It was common back in the day to see people with water bags strapped to the front of their vehicles as a liguid emergency fund in case of an overheating engine.

I actually camped out in the Mojave in August and the tale about the desert getting cold at night didn’t come across as having much truth in it; unless 92 at 4 in the morning with no wind and 0% humidity is considered cold.

I remember pulling into Bakersfield at midnight…It was 100 degrees. I asked a local about the desert cooling off at night…He answered “It has, son, it was 122 here at noon…”