Hitchhiking is permitted in the USA

■ Buying a car in the USA

As an alternative to greyhound passes, air passes and hitchhiking, not to mention rental cars, buying your own car is a good idea for the USA. This can be a surprisingly cheap proposition once a number of bureaucratic obstacles have been avoided.

Car prices are usually cheaper on the east coast than on the west coast. There is a good chance of finding a travel vehicle in the youth hostels, youth and student hotels in the larger cities. On their notice boards there are always some cars for sale at short notice. On the west coast the prices are around 600 to 800 dollars, on the east coast from 300 to 600 dollars. These are usually US-American used cars, sometimes also camping buses that have already passed through the hands of several US visitors. Depending on the purchase price, the previous owners also had one or two repairs carried out.

The authors managed to get hold of a ten-year-old AMC station wagon at the New York YMCA for a whole 250 dollars, which was cheap to consume, offered two people enough sleeping space when it was too late to pitch the tent in the evening, and which took us 8,000 miles Brought coast to coast through the scorching sun of the Nevada desert and over a 3,600-foot pass in the Rocky Mountains National Park. It was only when we reached the Pacific after eight weeks that gear noises were noticeable: The power steering broke, and repair costs were likely to be around $ 400. But for the remaining few days it was also possible without power steering. The downfall: with the damage, the resale value had fallen rapidly. We finally had to give the car away in San Diego. After all: other tourists spend $ 250 in rental fees at Hertz and the like in a week.

Better than going to the vendors in the metropolises is to buy a Greyhound ticket for a two-hour bus trip out of New York City - or whatever the city is called, and into the provincial towns and villages of Upstate New York, Pennsylvania, or Illinois to look for a local mechanic and auto handyman. Since there is no TÜV in the USA, it is not uncommon for road cruisers to be found in the small garages on the roadside for 100 to 200 dollars. For a two-month trip at this price, the risk of something serious breaking on the car should be tolerable.

The most important piece of paper when buying a car and for subsequent new registrations is the "title", the certificate of ownership for the car. Buyer and seller sign it up. In some states of the USA it is necessary that the change of ownership is notarized. The seal of a lawyer is not absolutely necessary for this. The certificate can also be certified in some banks or even in drug stores. Some chemists are officially approved as "notary public". Your fee is one percent of the agreed purchase price.

The biggest hurdle for American car owners of German nationality is insurance. In the USA, taking out statutory insurance almost everywhere is only possible indirectly. As a rule, the insurance companies only conclude contracts for one year with a corresponding advance payment. This can burden the travel budget excessively. It takes a long search to find an insurance broker who is willing to pay monthly or quarterly. But then it is necessary to give him a local address and then to mumble something about a guest study as the purpose of the stay. It is not uncommon for the insurance broker to even ask for an American driver's license to be presented.

Normally an international driver's license issued in the FRG is sufficient for the USA (passport photo and a small fee, hardly any waiting time at the federal German driver's license office). An American driver's license is not a problem either: 20 multiple-choice questions. In contrast to the FRG, only one answer is always correct. 75 percent of the questions must be answered correctly. Questions about the approval time for studded tires in Missouri do not necessarily have to be known if one can at least convert from feet to meters for other questions and remember European traffic regulations. Then the practical test in the car, which the examinee must have brought with him as a matter of course. Anyone who strictly adheres to the letter of the law here as well, as was the case with the German driving test (Caution: do not drive into the middle of the intersection as a habitual driver when turning left, but only "if you safely cross the lane before the end of the green phase can "), he can hold his fleppe in his hand one hour after entering the inspection office.

If you want to get around all of these hurdles, there is only one insurance company: "American Underwriters". This company also concludes short-term insurance contracts with tourists. However, it is for this just the company's New York office. So in order to avoid long-term correspondence or expensive phone calls, you should visit this company in person in New York.

An indication of the cost of an insurance policy: about $ 120 for half a year. This also covers insurance coverage in Canada, but only in the rarest cases for Mexico. For the southern neighbor you have to take out additional insurance when crossing the border. Numerous business-minded brokers in the immediate vicinity of the border are there to help.

The fuel costs in the USA between 0.70 and one dollar for an American gallon (approx. 50 pfennigs per liter), in Canada approx. 0.45 Can-dollars (approx. 75 pfennigs) per liter. You can buy oil by the box at around 0.80 US dollars per quarter bottle (approx. 0.9 liters). It is always advisable to have a supply because most engines have a very high oil consumption.

Jürgen Bischoff / Ilona Kalmbach