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W

WingingIt

Messages
20
Location
Gloucester
Vehicle
Looking to buy
Hello! I've just joined (will post a shorter into in the intro forum next) and have a few questions for Cali owners. I'm sure many have already been asked repeatedly, so apologies in advance for that.

I am considering in the next few years, taking a 1-2 year sabbatical from work to spend travelling around North America. I've looked into renting a camper van there (too expensive for such a long period), or buying a camper van there (seems very complicated/close-to-impossible for a foreigner to buy and register a vehicle in the US or Canada), so have settled on buying a camper here, shipping it to North America, and back again at the end. This has the advantage of fuel efficiency (as European vehicles seem more economical), and that I can continue to use it for future trips when I get back if I want to.

I know everyone will tell me that I should buy a Sprinter van for living long-term, but it's only me travelling solo so I won't need loads of space. And I really like the idea of the vehicle being car-like to drive/park, as well as cheaper to ship than a full-size panel van. So Plan A was to get a Transporter-sized panel van and have it converted into a camper. However, three things have made me think about just buying a California Ocean. Firstly, the legendary lack of depreciation - if I decide to sell the van when I get back from my travels, maybe the Cali would have lost less money than a panel van conversion. Secondly, I think the driving element of the Cali appeals to me, with its very modern interior, powerful engines, and a lot of driving creature comforts like parking assist. Related to this, thirdly I think it would be a nice enough daily driver to use before my travels too, saving me money on having to run two vehicles.

Which leads to my many questions,

  1. Do the residuals drop off sharply when the mileage is higher than average? All the examples I've seen of amazing residuals are on Californias that have averaged 10,000 miles per year. Obviously, touring North America I will be doing far in excess of this.
  2. Any owners worried about whether the launch of the ID Buzz might affect residuals a lot if they do a great job with it and interest flocks from the California to that?
  3. I will no doubt be 'stealth camping' in urban/residential areas from time to time - how easy is the van to ventilate with the roof down and windows shades in place?
  4. If I park in a residential area, and just have a dim light on inside for reading, etc. are the built-in shades good enough to stop the interior looking 'lit up' from the outside?
  5. Does the built-in shade for the windscreen stop people from being able to look in?
  6. Related to ventilation, can you set the heater to blow cold air instead?
  7. I've read some threads where people say the lack of insulation, like you get in conversions, doesn't matter because the heater is so good. But what about in summer? Does the van get unbearably hot inside with the sun beating down on it?
  8. Do things like solar panel installs affect residuals? I guess you would have to drill holes in the exterior to run the wiring, which may put buyers off?
  9. Finally, anyone out there who either lives in a Cali or has travelled for multiple months at a time in one, have any advice for me? Does the Cali work for this, or should I stick with my Plan A of getting a custom conversion?
Thanks!
 
Velma's Dad

Velma's Dad

Top Poster
VIP Member
Messages
3,166
Location
Buckinghamshire
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T5 SE 180
A few attempted answers to get you started:

1. If mileage is astronomical, will affect resaleability but realistically how much are you going to be doing? Are you really going to be doing big distances every day?
2. Don't think ID Buzz will affect Cali resale too much in short term, they are different use-case vehicles. In longer term, ICE vs electric, who can say?
3. Ventilation by leaving side windows open is okay, and you can also get a gadget to let you lock tailgate slightly open (then also park up with rear against a wall etc for stealth if necessary).
4. Built-in shades are opaque but aren't 100% light-tight at edges, but a reading lamp won't really show.
5. Yes, in practice.
6. My interior heater only blows warm air, I think that is standard (ie no fan-only mode), and you can only run aircon with engine running, obvs. But a cheapo 12V USB fan run off the leisure battery is good for moving the air around a bit and uses hardly any power.
7. In summer van will get hot inside if you keep roof closed, you can mitigate that a bit with tactically-placed tarps etc.
8. Solar shouldn't harm residuals at all, no bodywork-drilling necessary as you can route cable through tailgate shut gap (search various threads on here about that, a lot of people have them and are very happy with them).

Hope that's a useful start. You'll get plenty of other more detailed comments I'm sure. Good luck with your planning.
 
B J G

B J G

Top Poster
Lifetime VIP Member
Messages
3,667
Location
Stamford
Vehicle
T6 Ocean 204 4Motion
some short answers to a few points
6 - Solar door window fans are available, cheap. Ebay or Amazon.

7. - They do get hot inside, External shading is best on windscreen, wind out awning will protect side door area. I haven't done one as yet but a simple material awning attached to the left rail and either pegged out or just down the van side should keep heat of the metal--fridge area.
Running the engine/air con at sunset pulls the heat out of the internal trim etc.

8. - Solar panels would be a must have. Professional supplier/installer on this Forum would be my route for that.
Should be a plus point when reselling if left on.
 
L

Lightning

Messages
1,664
Location
Bristol
Vehicle
T6 Ocean 204
Hello! I've just joined (will post a shorter into in the intro forum next) and have a few questions for Cali owners. I'm sure many have already been asked repeatedly, so apologies in advance for that.

I am considering in the next few years, taking a 1-2 year sabbatical from work to spend travelling around North America. I've looked into renting a camper van there (too expensive for such a long period), or buying a camper van there (seems very complicated/close-to-impossible for a foreigner to buy and register a vehicle in the US or Canada), so have settled on buying a camper here, shipping it to North America, and back again at the end. This has the advantage of fuel efficiency (as European vehicles seem more economical), and that I can continue to use it for future trips when I get back if I want to.

I know everyone will tell me that I should buy a Sprinter van for living long-term, but it's only me travelling solo so I won't need loads of space. And I really like the idea of the vehicle being car-like to drive/park, as well as cheaper to ship than a full-size panel van. So Plan A was to get a Transporter-sized panel van and have it converted into a camper. However, three things have made me think about just buying a California Ocean. Firstly, the legendary lack of depreciation - if I decide to sell the van when I get back from my travels, maybe the Cali would have lost less money than a panel van conversion. Secondly, I think the driving element of the Cali appeals to me, with its very modern interior, powerful engines, and a lot of driving creature comforts like parking assist. Related to this, thirdly I think it would be a nice enough daily driver to use before my travels too, saving me money on having to run two vehicles.

Which leads to my many questions,

  1. Do the residuals drop off sharply when the mileage is higher than average? All the examples I've seen of amazing residuals are on Californias that have averaged 10,000 miles per year. Obviously, touring North America I will be doing far in excess of this.
  2. Any owners worried about whether the launch of the ID Buzz might affect residuals a lot if they do a great job with it and interest flocks from the California to that?
  3. I will no doubt be 'stealth camping' in urban/residential areas from time to time - how easy is the van to ventilate with the roof down and windows shades in place?
  4. If I park in a residential area, and just have a dim light on inside for reading, etc. are the built-in shades good enough to stop the interior looking 'lit up' from the outside?
  5. Does the built-in shade for the windscreen stop people from being able to look in?
  6. Related to ventilation, can you set the heater to blow cold air instead?
  7. I've read some threads where people say the lack of insulation, like you get in conversions, doesn't matter because the heater is so good. But what about in summer? Does the van get unbearably hot inside with the sun beating down on it?
  8. Do things like solar panel installs affect residuals? I guess you would have to drill holes in the exterior to run the wiring, which may put buyers off?
  9. Finally, anyone out there who either lives in a Cali or has travelled for multiple months at a time in one, have any advice for me? Does the Cali work for this, or should I stick with my Plan A of getting a custom conversion?
Thanks!
I have lived in my Cali for most of this year. It works very well, however the larger the van the more comfortable you will be. In the states a small van is less beneficial than in the U.K. The biggest compromises in the the Cali are no permanent standing room, which gets a little annoying, and no permanently made up bed. Residuals are great, but a self converted sprinter would to your own requirements could be amazing, although a lot of work. Have a look at the Indie Projects on youtube, they moved from a T4 to a Sprinter.

No vans used for living in are completely stealthy, there are always give aways like the solar, they are always obvious to anybody with any awareness of van dwelling.

Whatever you choose you will love it, it’s a very free and relaxing lifestyle, so don’t worry about it too much and just pick one.

Make sure you take your hobbies on the road with you or find some you can do on the road. Get all the personal hygiene and ablutions stuff nailed as well. It’s easy once you’ve got a method your comfortable with.
 
L

Lightning

Messages
1,664
Location
Bristol
Vehicle
T6 Ocean 204
I have lived in my Cali for most of this year. It works very well, however the larger the van the more comfortable you will be. In the states a small van is less beneficial than in the U.K. The biggest compromises in the the Cali are no permanent standing room, which gets a little annoying, and no permanently made up bed. Residuals are great, but a self converted sprinter would to your own requirements could be amazing, although a lot of work. Have a look at the Indie Projects on youtube, they moved from a T4 to a Sprinter.

No vans used for living in are completely stealthy, there are always give aways like the solar, they are always obvious to anybody with any awareness of van dwelling.

Whatever you choose you will love it, it’s a very free and relaxing lifestyle, so don’t worry about it too much and just pick one.

Make sure you take your hobbies on the road with you or find some you can do on the road. Get all the personal hygiene and ablutions stuff nailed as well. It’s easy once you’ve got a method your comfortable with.
One more thing, you probably won’t want to return to your old lifestyle once you’ve had a taste of freedom, so have a think about a plan B for the end of your sabbatical....
 
W

WingingIt

Messages
20
Location
Gloucester
Vehicle
Looking to buy
Thanks for all the info guys! I still think the Cali is probably plan B over getting a custom conversion done, but it is a strong plan B. Honestly, part of what attracts me to the idea of living on the road for a while is that I just like driving out in the middle of nowhere without a plan. I've done a lot of long distance motorbike trips in my life (including in the US, as I lived there for a while), and this is the next step. But as the driving itself is important to me, that is why the Cali is so high up the list based on reviews.

I really need to rent one for a short trip at some point and see how I get along though, so I may do that this summer.

As for what happens at the end of the sabbatical, that is a good question! I quite like the idea of retiring young and living a nomadic lifestyle, and that's what this sabbatical is testing... is the reality as good as the fantasy? So if I love it, then it is motivation to turbocharge my saving when I get back to achieve that goal. If I don't love it, I sell the van (hopefully not having lost too much if it is the Cali!) and get back to my normal life.
 
L

Lightning

Messages
1,664
Location
Bristol
Vehicle
T6 Ocean 204
Thanks for all the info guys! I still think the Cali is probably plan B over getting a custom conversion done, but it is a strong plan B. Honestly, part of what attracts me to the idea of living on the road for a while is that I just like driving out in the middle of nowhere without a plan. I've done a lot of long distance motorbike trips in my life (including in the US, as I lived there for a while), and this is the next step. But as the driving itself is important to me, that is why the Cali is so high up the list based on reviews.

I really need to rent one for a short trip at some point and see how I get along though, so I may do that this summer.

As for what happens at the end of the sabbatical, that is a good question! I quite like the idea of retiring young and living a nomadic lifestyle, and that's what this sabbatical is testing... is the reality as good as the fantasy? So if I love it, then it is motivation to turbocharge my saving when I get back to achieve that goal. If I don't love it, I sell the van (hopefully not having lost too much if it is the Cali!) and get back to my normal life.
The fantasy is good, but think of it as a stage, it’s a lovely lifestyle but any lifestyle has its downsides. Finding somewhere new to park every night can get exhausting for example. If you follow people who do this on YouTube you notice that very few of them last more than a few years. The most successful ones tend to have partner (or dog) on the road with them.
Try and keep your options open, if you have a house rent it out rather than sell it for example.
I love and see myself changing it any time soon.
Bob Wells is a massive resource of information for van dwelling in the states. Check him out on youtube too.
 
L

Lightning

Messages
1,664
Location
Bristol
Vehicle
T6 Ocean 204
The fantasy is good, but think of it as a stage, it’s a lovely lifestyle but any lifestyle has its downsides. Finding somewhere new to park every night can get exhausting for example. If you follow people who do this on YouTube you notice that very few of them last more than a few years. The most successful ones tend to have partner (or dog) on the road with them.
Try and keep your options open, if you have a house rent it out rather than sell it for example.
I love and see myself changing it any time soon.
Bob Wells is a massive resource of information for van dwelling in the states. Check him out on youtube too.
Also have a look at Pamthevan on YouTube. She spent years living an idyllic life with her dog in a Renault Kangoo...until the dog died and she got a motorbike to continue her adventures....
 
RichardH

RichardH

VIP Member
Messages
108
Location
West Yorks
Vehicle
T5 SE 140
It was a few years ago now (2001), but I did buy, register and insure a vehicle in the USA for a 5 month camping / road trip with my family. I found various forum postings from people who had done it before and knew what to do. I was anxious about it beforehand, but in reality the process was fairly straightforward. The business I bought it from understood in advance that I was from overseas and helped me through the paperwork. We did a lot of miles through the western states but eventually sold it for only $500 less than the purchase price, despite the large rear end dent caused by a drunk driver (much more damage to her car and the police were uninterested).

We got to plenty wild and remote places, where wild camping was often the only option. I strongly recommend the National Forests - much less crowded than the National Parks and often scenically spectacular.

One option not really practical in the U.K. or Europe is to buy an American style “van”. Think A-Team. Ours was a GMC Vandura, 10 years old when we bought it. With a flabby V8 petrol engine it would have been prohibitively expensive to run, here, but petrol over there is much cheaper (and diesel was less common). With two rows of captains’ chairs and a huge rear seat that flattened to a bed, it was plenty big enough to live in. Ours looked dark and threatening from outside, with blackened windows (that can be useful). However it had belonged to a boy band and inside was an incredible kitch mixture of purple leather, pink carpets, pine and fairy lights. It was splendidly vulgar but it served us well. American “vans” are cheap to buy, rugged and relatively reliable. We sold ours easily at the end of our trip.
 
WelshGas

WelshGas

Retired after 42 yrs and enjoying Life.
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Lifetime VIP Member
Messages
19,754
Location
United Kingdom
Vehicle
T5 SE 180 4Motion
Hello! I've just joined (will post a shorter into in the intro forum next) and have a few questions for Cali owners. I'm sure many have already been asked repeatedly, so apologies in advance for that.

I am considering in the next few years, taking a 1-2 year sabbatical from work to spend travelling around North America. I've looked into renting a camper van there (too expensive for such a long period), or buying a camper van there (seems very complicated/close-to-impossible for a foreigner to buy and register a vehicle in the US or Canada), so have settled on buying a camper here, shipping it to North America, and back again at the end. This has the advantage of fuel efficiency (as European vehicles seem more economical), and that I can continue to use it for future trips when I get back if I want to.

I know everyone will tell me that I should buy a Sprinter van for living long-term, but it's only me travelling solo so I won't need loads of space. And I really like the idea of the vehicle being car-like to drive/park, as well as cheaper to ship than a full-size panel van. So Plan A was to get a Transporter-sized panel van and have it converted into a camper. However, three things have made me think about just buying a California Ocean. Firstly, the legendary lack of depreciation - if I decide to sell the van when I get back from my travels, maybe the Cali would have lost less money than a panel van conversion. Secondly, I think the driving element of the Cali appeals to me, with its very modern interior, powerful engines, and a lot of driving creature comforts like parking assist. Related to this, thirdly I think it would be a nice enough daily driver to use before my travels too, saving me money on having to run two vehicles.

Which leads to my many questions,

  1. Do the residuals drop off sharply when the mileage is higher than average? All the examples I've seen of amazing residuals are on Californias that have averaged 10,000 miles per year. Obviously, touring North America I will be doing far in excess of this.
  2. Any owners worried about whether the launch of the ID Buzz might affect residuals a lot if they do a great job with it and interest flocks from the California to that?
  3. I will no doubt be 'stealth camping' in urban/residential areas from time to time - how easy is the van to ventilate with the roof down and windows shades in place?
  4. If I park in a residential area, and just have a dim light on inside for reading, etc. are the built-in shades good enough to stop the interior looking 'lit up' from the outside?
  5. Does the built-in shade for the windscreen stop people from being able to look in?
  6. Related to ventilation, can you set the heater to blow cold air instead?
  7. I've read some threads where people say the lack of insulation, like you get in conversions, doesn't matter because the heater is so good. But what about in summer? Does the van get unbearably hot inside with the sun beating down on it?
  8. Do things like solar panel installs affect residuals? I guess you would have to drill holes in the exterior to run the wiring, which may put buyers off?
  9. Finally, anyone out there who either lives in a Cali or has travelled for multiple months at a time in one, have any advice for me? Does the Cali work for this, or should I stick with my Plan A of getting a custom conversion?
Thanks!
One point you need to research if purchasing a new or relatively new vehicle is servicing and maintenance in the USA / Canada and the availability of Diesel and Adblue for the Euro 6 Diesel engined T6. Americans are in love with Petrol more so than Diesel.
 
W

WingingIt

Messages
20
Location
Gloucester
Vehicle
Looking to buy
Thanks again guys!

Lighting - yep, that's the plan! I figure the only way I'll know whether being a full time nomad is something I'll enjoy or just a midlife crisis is actually trying it for a significant period. I figure after a year or two of it I'll know whether I want to go back to the 9-5 long term, or just for as long as I need to in order to save up enough to get back on the road. And don't worry, I'm pretty much glued to YouTube 'van life' videos! :) Out of interest, do you use Brit Stops much? They look ideal for anyone in the UK living in their van so long as they're free to roam and not tied to one area for work or something?

RichardH - thanks, I haven't totally ruled out buying in America so it's good to know that it's possible in reality. I've read mixed reports on various forums. Still, in the grand scheme of multi-year travelling the shipping costs aren't horrendous, it's the insurance that will kill me either way. Plus I really do want a 'car-sized' van which isn't as common over there. Having lived in the US, I know that it's easier to live day to day with a larger vehicle there than it is over here but... I guess, I just don't want to. Not much more logic to it than that :D

WelshGas - diesel is plentiful in the US, plenty of people driving infeasibly huge pickup trucks on their quick runs to the shops bellowing clouds of diesel! Looks like AdBlue cars are sold in the US too, so they must have some level of infrastructure supporting that. Servicing is a good point, but presumably the Cali doesn't need anything complicated early into its life? I'll have to look into that. As for maintenance... don't tell me a brand new Cali is going to break?? ;)

Something I just realised that tips me a little more toward the Cali... the Ocean is so well spec'd! By the time I'm looking to buy (another year or two), there'll be ex-demo T6.1s out there. The reason I don't usually like ex-demos is that you don't get to tick all the options boxes you want, but the base Ocean has almost everything anyway! I guess in a perfect world I'd tick the high-beam control and active lane assist boxes too, but they're hardly essentials! So savings by buying an ex-demo makes the residuals equation tilted further in the Cali's direction.
 
L

Lightning

Messages
1,664
Location
Bristol
Vehicle
T6 Ocean 204
Thanks again guys!

Lighting - yep, that's the plan! I figure the only way I'll know whether being a full time nomad is something I'll enjoy or just a midlife crisis is actually trying it for a significant period. I figure after a year or two of it I'll know whether I want to go back to the 9-5 long term, or just for as long as I need to in order to save up enough to get back on the road. And don't worry, I'm pretty much glued to YouTube 'van life' videos! :) Out of interest, do you use Brit Stops much?
Reply, I don’t personally, because the key to make this lifestyle sustainable long term for me is to spend less, not to save or to earn more. It’s much easier to spend less.
I like the idea of touring the Americas too, do you know if getting a long term tourist visa to the states and Canada is doable and realistic?
 
W

WingingIt

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20
Location
Gloucester
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Looking to buy
Reply, I don’t personally, because the key to make this lifestyle sustainable long term for me is to spend less, not to save or to earn more. It’s much easier to spend less.
I like the idea of touring the Americas too, do you know if getting a long term tourist visa to the states and Canada is doable and realistic?

Ah yes, but that's what I mean. Looks like you can stay overnight for free at loads of places in the UK with Brit Stops - looks like it'd be great for people trying to live the nomadic, frugal life. But maybe it's not as good as advertised.

I think when I looked into it before, you can travel visa free in Canada for 6 months, and the US for 90 days. So I figure I'll just cross the border a few times to stretch that out for 12+ months. Of course, you do run the risk of being refused entry that way - incredibly unlikely though. Brits travelling to the USA on an ESTA multiple times per year is hardly unusual. Even so, I actually did a motorbike trip once up through the US and Canada into Alaska, so I know first hand that Canada would be camper van paradise. So if I ended up having to spend longer in Canada than the USA that's no big loss!
 
L

Lightning

Messages
1,664
Location
Bristol
Vehicle
T6 Ocean 204
Ah yes, but that's what I mean. Looks like you can stay overnight for free at loads of places in the UK with Brit Stops - looks like it'd be great for people trying to live the nomadic, frugal life. But maybe it's not as good as advertised.

I think when I looked into it before, you can travel visa free in Canada for 6 months, and the US for 90 days. So I figure I'll just cross the border a few times to stretch that out for 12+ months. Of course, you do run the risk of being refused entry that way - incredibly unlikely though. Brits travelling to the USA on an ESTA multiple times per year is hardly unusual. Even so, I actually did a motorbike trip once up through the US and Canada into Alaska, so I know first hand that Canada would be camper van paradise. So if I ended up having to spend longer in Canada than the USA that's no big loss!
I think at Brit stops you are expected to buy a meal and a pint. Which sound lovely,, but is not sustainable for me.
There are apps such as park4night with unofficial free spots, some much better than others!
I’d love to do Canada in my Van. I’m going to look into now too. :)
 
W

WingingIt

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20
Location
Gloucester
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Looking to buy
I think at Brit stops you are expected to buy a meal and a pint. Which sound lovely,, but is not sustainable for me.
There are apps such as park4night with unofficial free spots, some much better than others!
I’d love to do Canada in my Van. I’m going to look into now too. :)

Yeah, I wondered that. The Brit Stop website specifically says that you are not obliged to buy anything, but I've also seen YouTube videos where people say there's an expectation that you do. Shame really, as looks like they're lovely locations otherwise!

I found this website useful for research - https://www.seabridge-tours.de/html/verschiffung.php?language=english

The bit that will make your eyes pop out of your head are the insurance costs. It doesn't surprise me though, when I lived in America before, my first 6 months insurance before I'd got my US license and some driving history there just to drive a normal car was insane. They really don't trust us foreign drivers over there unfortunately!
 
L

Lightning

Messages
1,664
Location
Bristol
Vehicle
T6 Ocean 204
Yeah, I wondered that. The Brit Stop website specifically says that you are not obliged to buy anything, but I've also seen YouTube videos where people say there's an expectation that you do. Shame really, as looks like they're lovely locations otherwise!

I found this website useful for research - https://www.seabridge-tours.de/html/verschiffung.php?language=english

The bit that will make your eyes pop out of your head are the insurance costs. It doesn't surprise me though, when I lived in America before, my first 6 months insurance before I'd got my US license and some driving history there just to drive a normal car was insane. They really don't trust us foreign drivers over there unfortunately!
The shipping costs don’t look too bad. UK to Halifax. I found SUV quotes for a RoRo of around £1000. Then you have to fly there and bring it back. I imagine it quickly adds up.
I suppose Insurance would be through a specialist UK provider, as that’s your home address?
 
W

WingingIt

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20
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Gloucester
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Looking to buy
The shipping costs don’t look too bad. UK to Halifax. I found SUV quotes for a RoRo of around £1000. Then you have to fly there and bring it back. I imagine it quickly adds up.
I suppose Insurance would be through a specialist UK provider, as that’s your home address?

All I know about insurance really is what's on that site, and a few forum posts here and there where people say it's really expensive! I think it is done through specialist N. America-based insurers. According to the indicative quotes on that website, a new Cali would cost north of $6,000USD for a 12 month trip, so lets call that £4,500-ish. Maybe there are cheaper ways to do it with other providers, but I'm factoring that in as the worst case scenario to my thinking.
 
L

Lightning

Messages
1,664
Location
Bristol
Vehicle
T6 Ocean 204
All I know about insurance really is what's on that site, and a few forum posts here and there where people say it's really expensive! I think it is done through specialist N. America-based insurers. According to the indicative quotes on that website, a new Cali would cost north of $6,000USD for a 12 month trip, so lets call that £4,500-ish. Maybe there are cheaper ways to do it with other providers, but I'm factoring that in as the worst case scenario to my thinking.
Gosh. That is a lot. Blimey.
 
W

WingingIt

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20
Location
Gloucester
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Looking to buy
Gosh. That is a lot. Blimey.

When I lived there, I was paying what would have worked out at around £2,000 for 12 months insurance on a 4 year old base spec Mazda 6 before getting my US driving license, at which point the price came down a lot but still vastly more than car insurance in the UK. So, I'm afraid I don't doubt the quotes on that website, as mental as they sound to Brits! :eek: The combination of medical costs, no national health service, and a very pro-litigation culture in the US conspire to make vehicle insurance a whole other world of expense there compared to what we're used to.
 

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