One of the best ways to explore when you are travelling, whether it is in your home country or when you are abroad, is to have a set of your own wheels. Getting a car and being able to go wherever you want, whenever you want is the key to finding those out of the way places that aren’t in the guidebooks and that will give you the kinds of wonderful travel experiences you will take with you for the rest of your life.
Of course, it’s cheaper to take buses, trains, or planes. I know it’s easier to rent cars, but the truth of the matter is that you are stuck with restrictions when you don’t have your own vehicle. You can only go where they say you can go whether you want to go to the end of the road and down that rough cane path on the island of Kauai or go into the depths of sub-saharan Africa on an adventure from which your car may never return – you just can’t do that with a rental and the tour companies usually won’t take you there either.
In some cases you can rent cars from the locals, but honestly, investing in a second hand car is your best bet. Often, you can even sell it for a profit when you are done. If you are buying second hand cars in Australia or the USA, you can find dealers in nearly every city who will both sell you a car, and often, buy it back when you are done. If you are in the United States or much of the internet connected world, you can find used cars on Craigslist at the city nearest to where you are.
Here are the rules to remember though. The rules for driving vary from state to state, from province to province, from territory to territory, and from country to country. Make sure you are familiar with the rules of the country you are in. Do you need to stop completely? Do yellow lights mean the same thing? Learn before you go, not after you are stopped by the highway patrol.
Insurance is always a good idea and even if you want to risk it – you may be required by law to have a policy in the country you are in. Your home country auto insurance may not cover you wherever you may be.
Finally, do a thorough auto inspection before you head out to hit the open road. If you are going through the Rocky Mountains in winter, either have studded tires or tire chains, if you are doing mountain driving, make sure the 4wd works, and of course, know before you go about any leaks, mechanical issues, or repairs you may need on the road – and for goodness sake, don’t make the mistake I did and forget to have a jack to change your tire with. My spare was fine, but I had no jack to lift the car!
Getting a second hand car isn’t going to cost you as much as you think either, you can usually find one for less than $1000 if you take the time to look and the best part is that often, you can sell them for a profit at your destination.
Happy Road Tripping!