Cheap Road Trips Thru "Drive-Away" Companies

Submitted by SharpMan Editorial Team on Tuesday 12th October 2010
In this article
  • What is the "Auto Drive-Away" industry?
  • What destinations can you visit?
  • Planning your Drive-Away experience.
Cheap Road Trips Thru "Drive-Away" Companies

Been workin’ too hard? Haven’t been working at all? Maybe it’s time for a vacation. If you’ve ever awakened and said to yourself "Hey…I feel like jumping into a car and seeing the country," this article is for you. Never had that thought? Read on anyway:

Many of us still have that urge to go on a road trip…to hit the open road and explore those places that have yet to be explored. Unfortunately, for many SharpMen, the last great road trip was back in college — with you and three other guys blazing the trails in your friend’s (borrowed) car, with nothing but the clothes on your back, a full cooler, and a can of Spam.

Let’s face it: you’ve moved on.

These days, you’re more likely to fly from point A to point B, visit a few interesting destinations, and ultimately miss the details. The fact is, there’s no travel substitute for a road trip when it comes to getting to know the landscape, people and culture of an area. If hitting the open road appeals to your sense of adventure, there’s an inexpensive way to go that does not require you to use your own car.

The Drive-Away Industry

People are constantly relocating from city to city. Sometimes they drive their car out with them, and other times they fly and arrange for their car to be moved by professional car transport companies. That’s where the Auto Drive-Away industry steps in. These companies are listed in the Yellow Pages under "Automobile Transporters and Drive-Away Companies" and are constantly looking for responsible people to drive their clients’ cars to locations all over the country. You pay for the gas used during your trip (although in some cases, the company may provide a gas allowance). For the most part, the car owner’s insurance policy will cover you during your trip, with the Drive-Away company’s policy providing secondary coverage. In return for a little gas money and time, you’ll receive a set of wheels for your road trip and one great story to tell when you return.

Getting Started

The process is pretty simple. First, decide on your destination and the approximate dates you would like to go. The more flexible you are, the better your chances are for getting what you want. Next, call several Auto Drive-Away companies and inquire about their need for freelance drivers. The following is a list of a few companies that utilize drivers:

You can also visit the Web site www.movecars.com to obtain more information on car moving companies.

The Details

You must have a valid driver’s license and, in most cases, you must be at least 21 years old. The Drive-Away company will require you to complete an application form with all of your contact and other pertinent information, to enable them to do a background check on your driving record. Most often, a few tickets won’t ding you — but more series reckless driving histories could be problematic.

You will also have to provide a cash deposit for the vehicle, usually in the amount of $300-$400. This money will be reimbursed to you once the vehicle reaches its final destination.

SharpMan Tip: Keep in mind that although some companies accept credit cards for this deposit, not all of them do. Additionally, when you arrive in the destination city, your deposit will most likely be returned to you in the form of a check. Make sure you do not count on this cash for immediate expenses, or you’ll be spending lots of time looking for a bank or check-cashing storefront upon arrival — and eating time away from your vacation.

Note that when a car becomes available, it’s assigned to a driver on a first-come, first-served basis. Therefore, it is best to call the companies daily, no more than one to one and a half weeks before your desired departure date, to see if a car to your desired destination is available.

SharpMan Tip: Before taking possession of the car you’ll be driving, it’s a good idea to do a thorough inspection in the presence of the vehicle’s owner. This way, you and the owner both agree on what the car looked like before you took it on a road trip. For the most fastidious of SharpMen, consider bringing along a Polaroid camera, taking pictures of the existing defects and having the owner sign the back of each shot. Why? Although the automobile owner is responsible for any repairs required due to mechanical problems, if you show up at your destination with the rear taillight dragging behind the car, you may be liable for the cost of these repairs.

Picking Your Route

Auto Drive-Away companies are located throughout the country, so if you live in a major city, chances are there is a company near you. Although it’s up to you to determine where in the country you’d like to drive, your ability to use a Drive-Away vehicle depends on whether the companies you contact have cars that also need to go to those places. For this reason, flexibility is key. Looking to visit your grandmother in Walla Walla, Washington? This will be a more difficult destination to coordinate. Seattle is a better bet. (Obviously, the cost of getting yourself from Seattle to Walla Walla is your own burden.) Other popular Drive-Away destinations include Boston, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, as well as a number of cities in Florida (i.e., Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Orlando, and Tampa).

Pit Stops

The Drive-Away company will determine the amount of time you will have to get to your destination. Although drivers are usually given ample driving time, there may not always be enough time to see all of your friends along the way or take side trips to see the "World’s Largest Ball of Foil." Do your homework. Determine how many hours you need to drive and how many hours you have to play with. In researching this article, SharpMan.com spoke with AutoDriveAway, and determined that they give their drivers ten days to drive from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida to Seattle, Washington — a nice cushion.

In some cases, you may be able to negotiate the delivery date, but the company’s flexibility will depend on the existing contract with the car owner. Most companies also allow you to take others with you on your trip, which makes Drive-Away travel that much more attractive for SharpMen in need of company or on a budget.

Getting Home

As you probably figured out, Drive-Away trips are one-way only. It’s up to you to get home. In some cases, you may be able to obtain another car to drive back to your departure city, but keep in mind that Drive-Away companies cannot guarantee that there will be a car available for your return trip. Your best bet is to call the local companies while in your destination city and inquire about a car for your return trip. Flying home is another viable option, especially if you can lock in a destination and a return fare, or gamble on getting last minute airfare deal.

Now, hit the road…

This article last updated on Tuesday 12th October 2010
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