One thing that came up several times recently while discussing potential travel plans with potential travel buddies was the topic of buying a car. A friend of mine would love to go on a U.S. road trip with me – but not just any road trip, a road trip of epic proportions like this one recently featured in the Washington Post, with 50 stops in all 48 Lower States. A road trip like this would take us at least three months, and we were talking about buying a used car for it rather than paying exorbitant rental fees plus insurance. I’ve often seen used cars on sale for less than $2,000, which would be pretty much the same you’d pay for a rental for that amount of time – and you can sell the car afterwards if you treat it with care.
Another place where buying a car instead of renting one is popular is Australia. My friends recently returned from a 1-year adventure road tripping all around Australia, for which they had bought a used camper van. Buying a camper van for a road trip is a common thing to do for travelers who are planning to tour the country extensively – and it makes total sense, just think about all the money you can save by sleeping in the van! My friends were able to sell the van afterwards which made their trip even cheaper.
There are some things to consider when investing money in a used car that is supposed to drive thousands of miles. The same goes for a rental car by the way – if you’re planning an epic road trip through Australia in a rental car, you want to make sure you treat it exceptionally well to avoid breakdowns and unforeseen repairs. Lonely Planet has an excellent guide to buying a used camper van in Australia – from where you can find used cars to things to consider when buying a car and which features to pay attention to. GumTree also has a great guide on buying a camper van for your Aussie road trip, which is worth checking out.
To avoid additional costs for unnecessary repairs, make sure to follow my five top tips to prevent breakdowns or the car stop working:
1) Check Your Timing Belt
This is probably the most important thing you can do, especially if you’re traveling in an older car and especially if you have only just bought it. The damage that can be done to a car when a timing belt breaks is often fatal, or at the very least cripplingly expensive. Vehicle manufacturers have different rules on when a timing belt should be changed. On some cars it can be as soon as 40,000 miles, but the average is around 60,000 miles. If you don’t know for sure that the belt has been changed you can save yourself a lot of money by taking the car into a garage and have it checked.
2) Get Regular Servicing
There are good reasons for having your car serviced on a regular basis as clogged up air and oil filters can affect the smooth running of any car. The air filter is designed to stop contaminants and debris being sucked into the engine and, if this gets clogged, it affects the fuel to air ratio and your car will start to run badly or may lose power. Dirty oil will also compromise the efficient running of the car, as the oil picks up contaminants such as carbon and metal particles when it travels around the engine. A clogged oil filter will eventually not be able to clean the oil, so regular oil and filter replacement is the least you can do to keep the car running smoothly. Since you’ll be driving the car a lot, a regular checkup is absolutely essential.
3) Watch out for Rust
The easiest way to keep the car looking pristine is to wash it regularly. Road grime, salt and grit cause corrosion, so be sure to wash these away on a regular basis and check around the bodywork for minor chips and scratches at the same time. Get these repaired straight away before they have a chance to oxidise and worsen as there’s nothing worse than a rusty looking vehicle, and you won’t get much money for it when it comes time to sell!
4) Invest In A Code Reader
There are a number of simple to use On-Board Diagnostic tools on the market now. Some of them even allow you to do health checks on your car. For example, a warning light on the dashboard can mean any number of problems, whereas a code reader can help you make sense of what the problem is and can help avoid a problem becoming worse by alerting you to what it is.
5) Check Your Fluid Levels
You can avoid many problems by doing this yourself and your car’s handbook will show how to do this. Check that the oil level doesn’t get too low and top it up if needed but, at the same time, check the brake fluid, steering fluid levels and the water level in the radiator expansion tank as well. When traveling long distances and using the car every day, I’d recommend checking your fluid levels once a week.