USA coast to coast: the myth of the drive-away

USA coast to coast: the myth of the drive-away

We heard that there is a very special and interesting car rental system in the U.S. namely the drive-away, literally «take the car and drive it away,» which would allow you to drive someone else’s car for free to move it from place to place in the U.S. …. if that were the case it would be really cool.

So I got busy searching the Internet for information about this curious travel solution. I don’t even remember how or who put the flea in my ear about this phantom «drive-away» but I must say that the matter had intrigued me a lot since we were fascinated by the idea of embarking on a legendary «coast to coast» trip, along the legendary route 66, maybe in a vintage car and even more so «for free»!

….forse not so vintage!
The drive-away, this car rental solution, actually does exist but it’s not quite as simple as it sounds or at any rate it always depends on each person’s idea of travel. After all, all that glitters is not gold, right?

So what is drive-away? Car owners pay a fee to a transportation company, the best known being Auto Driveaway, for their car to be picked up from point A and delivered to their designated destination at point B. So far everything would be perfect if the departure and delivery locations would also coincide with your travel itinerary but there are important details not to be overlooked:

  • The car is always free while you are responsible for the fuel, unless you are lucky enough to get an initial share of it included in the contract for free. In either case it would still seem to be a bargain…wait though…see also the next points!!!
  • You have to get the car to the exact point of destination as quickly as possible, so there is no time to waste on sightseeing excursions along the way…if you arrive later than the appointed days you get a penalty …
  • There’s also often a set mileage to meet, so sometimes you’re forced to drive 6 hours straight through monotonous highways. Even if you should be lucky enough to pass by some tourist attraction A-you don’t have much time to spare, B-you’re probably too exhausted to enjoy yourself;
  • You are therefore forced to avoid those winding or poorly flowing but often scenic roads in order to keep on schedule … and therein lies the beauty of a U.S. road trip;
  • You can’t book this service too far in advance, it’s more dictated by last-minute opportunities. If you have limited travel time then there is no reliability in drive-away; you just have to be in the right place at the right time. If, however, you are a daredevil and are often guided by chance in your travels, well, then you have nothing to lose but always keep a backup plan in mind so you don’t find yourself «stuck» somewhere;
  • You have to pay a deposit, usually about $300 or more, which is retained in case you don’t meet the predetermined time and mileage and/or a credit card is required, again as collateral;
  • This option is usually only valid for long distances, by long we mean not a Rome-Milan but New York-Los Angeles a difference of almost 4’000km…whatever.

Keeping all these points in mind, in any case we will try our luck at least for one leg of our U.S. trip, the one from New York to Miami or any other destination along this route as long as it saves us some $$$ instead of spending it on the train or by renting a car; we will see…


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