Road trips have become insanely popular in 2020 – understandably so. During a global pandemic, nobody wants to get on a cramped airplane and stay in all-inclusive resorts. People want to get away from other people! The easiest way to do that is by taking a road trip. You are traveling in your own car, you can visit places that are remote, and you are much more flexible when traveling with your own vehicle rather than flying or renting a car. If you are planning a short-term trip, buying a car may not be the most economic option, but if you are planning to travel for a few weeks or even months (many of us are now able to work remotely, after all!) you should looking into buying a car. I recommend looking into buying a car in the place you’d like to start your trip in – so, if you’re like me based in New York but you’d like to road trip around California and the Southwest, it would make more sense to buy a vehicle in California.
Car vs. RV
RV sales have seen a huge surge in the U.S. this year, with July 2020 being the best month for RV sales in 40 years, and some RV dealers reporting an increase of 170% compared to last year’s sales. It’s easy to see why RVs have become so popular: not only does your recreational vehicle transport you from place to place, but it also serves as your home, making you completely independent.
However, buying an RV is still considerably more expensive than buying a car, and not everyone is comfortable driving a huge vehicle around. Furthermore, most RVs are too big for city driving and for smaller country roads, which means that you’ll still have to own a car to explore in the place you park your RV. There are also lots of things to be learned when it comes to RV life, vehicle maintenance and the fees associated with RV ownership. In addition to nightly fees for RV resorts, you have to factor in more expensive insurance for an RV and the higher gas costs, for example. While a car averages 28 miles per gallon, RVs need considerably more gas and average only 6 to 10 miles per gallon. This article breaks down RV costs vs hotel costs.
Buying a car in California
Before you buy a car, there a number of things you need to research and to consider. First of all, you have to decide if you want to buy a new or a used car. What kind of car do you want to buy? How much money are you willing to spend? Do you need financing or are you able to pay for the car in cash? Luckily, there are plenty of auto loans in California available, if you don’t have enough savings for the car of your dreams. If you decide to buy your car with an auto loan, think about how much you’d like the monthly payment to be, and make sure the monthly payment is within your budget. Keep the overall price in mind – a monthly payment of $300 may seem low, but if you’re paying it for 72 months, it’s not much of a bargain.
Compare prices, shop around, see if you can find the model you’re looking to buy at another car dealer, and don’t be afraid to try to negotiate.
Also calculate insurance costs before buying the car – sports cars for example are very attractive, however, premiums for them are higher than for more conventional models. Insurance also depends on other things, like your age and your driving record, so use an insurance calculator to find out your monthly insurance costs before you purchase a car.
Another must-do before buying a car: test drive the car!
How to make a long road trip a success
Once you’ve bought your car, you’re ready to hit the road. Driving down the Pacific Coast Highway, you’ll feel a sense of freedom that you have never felt before! But to make sure long-term road trips are a success, here are a few tips:
- Prepare your car. Make sure your car is “road trip ready” – check the oil, tire pressure, and fill up the wiper fluid. Join a roadside rescue service. You’ll also want to invest in some small accessories that make a road trip much more comfortable: a USB charger cord for your phone and other USB-powered devices, re-usable cups, a cool bag, camping plates for picnics, a car seat cushion.
- Map out your daily route. I would not recommend to just start driving – always know where you’re going and have a place to stay booked. Nothing is more frustrating than arriving in your destination and realizing that all hotels are fully booked. This is especially important if you are visiting popular sights / landmarks / national parks / routes, like the PCH. Trust me: I’ve learned this the hard way.
- Plan rest stops along the way – especially on long drives. Download the Roadtrippers app, which shows you attractions along your route, from major landmarks to quirky roadside stops to fun photo opps.
- Remember to fill up the tank – and if you’re driving on roads less traveled, look up where the next gas station is. Apps like Gasbuddy will show you the cheapest gas stations on your route.
- Plan your driving time wisely. If your starting point is L.A., for example, you might want to leave either super early, to beat the commuter traffic, or around noon, when most people have finished their commute. Use GoogleMaps to map out your route, because Google has the most accurate traffic information and will find the most convenient detours for you, if there’s a major traffic jam.
- Download podcasts to entertain you on long drives, and make fun Spotify playlists for your road trip.
- Always have your favorite snacks in the car. You never know when you’ll find a store that carries all the products you love, especially in remote areas. Also make sure to have enough drinking water in the car – staying hydrated is important! And you never want to run out of water and food when you’re stuck in traffic or on a stretch of highway without any shops except tiny gas stations.