Tourists Buying Cars In The USA and Later Selling Them

Darren Overby

Tourists Buying Cars In The USA and Later Selling Them

Today, Julia from Germany  sent us a message asking about the idea of buying a car at the beginning of her trip and then selling it at the end. This is a concept I used to see hostel travelers doing on a regular basis a number of years back. Hostel bulletin boards frequently had handwritten posters with cars for sale and travelers who wanted to buy cars. For some reason travelers don't seem to be doing this as much anymore. So kudos to Julia for reviving an old idea. Her email has prompted me to dust off an old information sheet we used  keep in the hostel guest information filing cabinet. A lot of that information went by the wayside when the Internet came about, but it's still there so if there's ever anything you need to know asked me and I'll dig out the old Microsoft Word file.

Buy a Car Now and Sell it Later


For backpackers that plan to spend two or more months in a country, buying a car and then selling it at the end of their holiday can sometimes be the cheapest route to independent travel.    Many a traveler has bought or sold cars here in this San Francisco hostel.

Now, you may be wondering how buying a car could possibly be cheaper than renting a car. Here again is another way in which your abundance of time is your greatest asset. Say the average cost of renting a car is $35 per day, then the cost for two months would be $2135.

Now instead, let's suppose you see a car for sale and the price is $1800. After carefully checking over the mechanical condition of the car you buy it. Then you pay approximately $500 more for insurance and registration costs. Therefore your initial outlay is $2300. At the end of your trip you sell the car. Even if you get as little as $1000 for the car you have saved $835 over renting a car.

Some backpackers we have seen, even manage to sell the car for more than they paid for it! How do they do it? They use the differences in economy between various regions of a country to their advantage. They buy the car where prices are low and sell it later in a region where the prices for cars are higher.

Buying a car is not without risks however. Firstly, if you buy a clunker of a car you could be in for more hassle than the benefit is worth. Secondly, you will need to plan time at the end of you trip to sell the car. Many a traveler has had to sell their car for next to nothing when their plane ticket says -- "it's time to go home". Thirdly, insurance can be difficult to arrange for travelers, particularly if you young. There may be other risks as well. Before deciding to buy a car you should personally investigate all aspects of your proposed car ownership.

However, for backpackers that know something about cars and can tell a clunker from a good running car. Buying a car and later selling it can be the best and cheapest way to independently see a the United States!  Our advice is to buy in middle America or in the South and sell in the San Francisco Bay Area.  

UPDATE:  Craigslist is where it's at in the USA when it comes to buying and selling used cars.  

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