This installment of an ongoing feature explains how to use a driveaway service for affordable travel and provides a source for information about European bike tours.
Jane and Gary Ferguson have registered with a driveaway service as a way of obtaining a vehicle for free when they want to visit a particular city.
PHOTO: MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
The following affordable travel ideas were submitted by readers.
Nowadays, most folks have more adventure in their souls than money in their pockets. But—if that problem sounds all too familiar—don't despair: Jane and Gary Ferguson have satisfied their wanderlust many times by utilizing the various driveaway companies, or firms which relocate cars for people who've moved ... and the Fergusons' method can work for you!
"As you might expect," writes Gary, "there are certain parts of the country (the sunbelt, for instance) that are common relocating sites. If you head for those areas, you'll probably have no problem getting a driveaway. A person looking to pilot a vehicle to Buffalo, New York in winter, on the other hand, may have to have some patience.
"The following list of procedures and requirements is used by the AAACON DriveAway Service (with whom we've been quite satisfied), but you'll find that most such businesses operate in about the same way.
"To begin with, you'll probably have to be at least 21 years old to get a car. If you pass that requirement, the next step is to pick up a copy of the Yellow Pages for the nearest major city. The drive-away outfits are usually listed under 'Automobiles—Transporters' or 'Automobiles—Drive-Away Companies'. Call the firms listed and let them know where you want to go and when.
"Remember, most of the time you'll have to give a good-sized metropolis as your destination, even though it may not be exactly where you want to end up. Each company will have a list of the places where their cars are to be delivered during the following week or so, and can tell you right away whether you're in luck. If no vehicles are destined to go where you'd hoped to be, you can either leave your name and phone number in case something comes up, or simply change your destination. Folks who are trying to get from Phoenix to Chicago, for instance, may decide that transport to St. Louis or Louisville is better than nothing.
"Once you've made a connection, your next step is to head down to the company's office to fill out an application. If you're traveling with a companion, both of you will have to apply. (Most companies won't turn a car over to a 'team' of more than two people, so don't expect to make your trip a group affair.) You'll also have to supply two references (local people, whenever possible), and you might be fingerprinted. In most cases, you'll have to leave a $100 deposit (it'll be returned to you by the car's owner upon delivery). Other than trip expenses, this 'security money' should be your only cash outlay.
"The tank will be filled for you before leaving, and you're expected to deliver it topped off, too. The better companies handle only fairly late-model cars in good condition, and—if the autos are gas-guzzlers—you might get a fuel allowance. (We can generally take a 2,000-mile trip for around $100 in gas costs.) Drive-away firms usually allow you 15% additional mileage over the amount needed to get to your destination, and will expect you to cover 400 to 500 miles per day. However, you'll probably be asked not to travel between 10:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m., since driving during those hours may not be covered by the firm's insurance. You should also know that personal baggage is about all you'll be allowed to carry . . . furniture, bicycles, and such won't be permitted.
"If you run into car trouble, you'll often be expected to cover the first $25 in repairs, but that will also be refunded upon delivery. (Keep the receipts!) In cases where the estimated costs will be higher, call the owner collect and ask that the money be wired to you. And if you incur motel bills, etc. while waiting for repairs, the owner will nearly always (although he or she doesn't have to) reimburse you for reasonable expenses.
"Before you leave, an inspection sheet will be filled out, noting all scratches, dents, and marks on the vehicle's exterior and interior. Be sure to check this over thoroughly yourself, so there will be no damage disputes at the other end. Should you get into an accident, the company's insurance will cover you . .. but don't expect to get another drive-away for a while."
People who have contemplated seeing Europe by bicycle can feed their fantasies and get some very practical pointers on nofrill foreign travel (as well as on planned bike excursions) by subscribing to The Palenque Traveler. Produced by Bike Europe, Inc., the information-packed newsletter is published a number of times in the spring and winter months, and the subscription price is currently $2.50, though we've been told that's likely to go up soon.