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TRAVELING BY CAR

This is usually done in one of two ways: buy a car and sell it at the end of the trip or contract with a drive-away company to deliver one of their cars.

PURCHASING A CAR

If you are thinking about buying a car, you should keep in mind the following facts: In most states you must buy liability insurance before you are allowed to register the car and the insurance may cost more than the car. This insurance protects other people against your negligence. Be certain you understand the paperwork. (There are companies that specialize in this service. See Alternative Transport for: ADVENTURES ON WHEELS, (800) 943-3579, web: www.wheels9.com or AUTOTEAM CAR RENTAL, (866) 438-8326, www.autoteam.com.)

The price of insurance varies by locality but expect about $800 per year. Usually you pay for only part of the year. Check the Yellow Pages in your area for insurance brokers under the category “Auto Insurance”. Sometimes the local American Automobile Association (AAA - www.aaa.com) has good deals on insurance. (They also have good maps.)

When you buy a car, you must be careful to keep in mind two different documents: The Title and The Registration. These are issued by the various state governments not by the U.S. Government. The Title says who legally owns the car. The Registration documents that the Title Holder has “registered” the car in his or her state of residence with the Department of Motor Vehicles (the DMV).

When buying a car, ask to see The Title. The name of the person selling the car should appear on the face of this document. There will also be a section to enter the name of the new buyer and the signature of the seller (usually on the reverse side). You should not buy a car if the owner does not have a “clean” Title – you won’t be able to register it and you won’t be able to re-sell it.

There are some variations on this scenario. What if the person selling the car has the Title but it is still in the name of the owner before them? If you are certain they really bought the car from the previous owner AND the previous owner did not fill in the details of the new Buyer, you may be able to use the Title. However, if the details for the interim purchaser were completed, you cannot simply change this. The DMV will call this an “Altered Title” and refuse to accept it. In this case, you will not be able to register the car or get a Title in your name – then you won’t be able to register the car or re-sell the car later.

Eventually you will be issued a new Title in your name by the state DMV that will permit you to sell the car. This new Title will be mailed to the address you put on the Application For New Title. Be certain of the address and that it’s clear. You must retrieve this document to sell the car.

After obtaining the car and the signed Title from the previous owner AND after having bought insurance, go to the DMV to register the car and apply for a new Title. This cost varies by state but expect the registration and new title application to cost $100 plus/minus $50. You will be issued a document proving that you registered the vehicle and will receive the number plates for the front and rear of the car. The registration is usually good for two years and the number plates can be turned in to the DMV for a partial refund if there is time left on the registration. A lot of people keep the number plates for souvenirs.

The time required to receive the new Title in the mail varies greatly from state to state. Fast paperwork states are Florida and California. Slow paperwork states are New York and New Jersey – expect months!

DRIVE-AWAY TRAVELLING

“Auto Drive-away” companies provide a service to car-owners who have a car in one location and want it moved cheaply to another location but do not want to drive it there! Moving a car on the back of a truck is very expensive. Many Drive-Away companies contract with the car owner for someone to drive their car to the destination. This might be a few hundred miles or a few thousand miles. The Drive-Away company provides you (the driver) with the car and usually a full tank of gas. You have a time allowance and a distance allowance in which to deliver the car in the same condition in which you received it. To get the names and telephone numbers of the Drive-Away companies where you are, look in the Yellow Pages under “Automobile Transporters” or “Automobile Drive-away”.

Here are a few things to remember: There may be an age requirement. The drive away company requires a deposit in the range of $250 to $400. In the event of an accident in which the car is damaged, you will probably forfeit this deposit. Some companies sell “Deposit Insurance” and you may want to take it.

When you take possession of the car you should fill out a form describing the condition of the car; any scratches, broken lights, equipment like jack and spare tire, etc. Take this document seriously, it needs to be completed in detail. If there is a question at the end of the trip, this form may make the difference in having your whole deposit returned.

A few hints: Unless you are in a hurry, do not take cars on very long trips – the time allowance doesn’t permit enough time to see many sights along the way. A better strategy is to take cars on shorter trips of four or five hundred miles with a four or five day allowance. Then end up in a city where you want to spend some time while you wait for the next car. The larger Drive-away companies have many branch offices and will help you arrange forward cars and carry the same deposit over.

Be flexible – go where fate takes you. When you request a car, ask for one going “south” or give an option of several cities in one general area. See where it ends up. You are much more likely to get a car quickly and it is an adventure.

And finally, about the deposit. It is seldom that this is withheld for any reason. It could be withheld, for instance, if the car is damaged as a result of your negligence. The deposit is often paid to you in the form of a check. Be certain, if you must take a check, that the company explains how to get cash for the check. The Drive-away company is used to dealing with people with U.S. bank accounts – they simply deposit the check. YOU MUST CASH THE CHECK IN THE COMMUNITY WHERE YOU RECEIVE IT! Usually the company will explain which bank will cash it and the hours that they are open. If you take this check to a different city, state etc. you will not be able to cash it. 

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