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So I'm planning to make a trip through the US. More specifically: through the west of the US (San Fransisco, Las Vegas, that area).

I was wondering if you had any tips for me. It would be a 2-person trip of 20 days. Our plan was to rent a car or a campervan (van in which you can sleep). We prefer the campervan but it's fairly expensive (at least it sounds like a lot of money to me, $1450 for 19 days). Anyone know any good alternatives or have any other suggestions? Thanks!

Edited by minitauros

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Last Post by Stuugie
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You could sleep in a motel or hotel, but at $200/day that would cost you $3600.00 USD. Campervans get terrible gas milage, gas costs about $3.60/gallon. Get a Toyota Prius which gets about 52 miles/gallon (I own one and is one of my favorite cars).

Next make sure you dress according to the time of year you visit. Los Vagas is in the dessert so it gets very hot in the summer. San Francisco is near the ocean so you might need a light jacket at night. If you are not a US citizen you will need to carry your passport and driver's license from whatever country you are from at all times.

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Done that in the past, but last time was 10 years ago.
Hotels+rental car is far more flexible than campervan, as you're far more mobile (especially in towns and cities where the large size of the campervan makes for problematic driving, and there tend to be fewer if any reasonably safe places to stay with one overnight (your average big city trailerpark is NOT a nice place)).

I wouldn't get a Prius (or other hybrid). In the hot desert conditions their performance is terrible, the heat plays havoc on the batteries.
Better go for something like a Ford Focus. Still excellent mileage but more reliable.

Hotels, think Best Western, Holiday Inn, etc., and select hotels in smaller towns and cities near big ones. Often quite a bit cheaper that way.
They also typically come with free breakfast.

So between the lower fuel cost, lower parking fees (typically you'd pay more for a large campervan than for a compact or subcompact car), and the free breakfasts, you might well end up being cheaper than using a campervan for the trip.
And it's sure more comfortable :)

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I didn't realize that about the Prius -- I live in the mid-west where the temp is not nearly as hot as in Vagas.

Also check for conventions in town -- hotel/motel fees normally double at that time.

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Thanks for the tips, guys! We're actually more into visiting nature/national parks, less into visiting a lot of cities. What do you think about taking a tent with us and using that in combination with a rental car? I heard it's free camping in most places there. Is there anything to watch out for?

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For camping make sure you store anything edible (food/toothpaste etc..) properly (air-tight containers) and some distance from your tent in case of bears. Other than that just check the hunting seasons.

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A tent and a rental car seems like a decent plan if you mostly aim for natural settings. Also, for the occasional city visits, sleeping in a hostel (youth hostel) is a very good option too. It's usually very cheap (20-40$ per night), if you are not too high-maintenance (which I don't think you are, from what I gathered). In hostels, you often meet people who are, well, interesting (for better or worse).

And if you are going to sleep in a tent in those areas, remember that in the desert climate like California or Nevada, the days are quite warm (e.g., 30C - 35C), but the nights can be quite shilly (e.g., 10C - 15C), so be prepared for that. On my first trip to California, I just brought light summer clothing, and I was freezing my a$$ off as soon as the sun went down.

Other than that, I don't have much else to say. Have a nice trip!

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You have to see the Grand Canyon, and if you get the chance, hike around a bit outside Sedona. My brother has been to the Painted Desert and says it is spectacular.

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We prefer the campervan but it's fairly expensive

Edited by Dani: Plugs snipped

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To check whether you're allowed to camp free and where in and around national parks, check the national park service website at http://www.nps.gov/index.htm .

Yosemite is well worth visiting, unless things have changed for the worse a lot in the last 25 years or so (been that long since I've been to California).
Death Valley, just drive through it on the way from San Francisco to Las Vegas. Remember to pack tons of water, you will have to turn OFF your air conditioning for part of the trip to prevent your engine from overheating.
From people I've met who've been there, Zion NP is well worth visiting.
Grand Canyon of course. We took a 2 day tour by aircraft from Las Vegas, with one night in a hotel on the rim. Probably the best way to see the area unless you plan to hike the canyon itself (and even if, seeing it from the air is spectacular, well worth doing).
Moab is probably a bit out of the way, but spectacular as well.

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This is great, guys, thanks for so many useful tips :). Much appreciated! If anyone still has anything to add: I'm still interested, of course!

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Maybe, but I'll take my 52GPM Prius over your 23GPM car anytime. Granted, I have not driven it in the mountains or desert so that might make a difference. But around here the Prius has just as much power as any other standard car.

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Jeff dunham

Because stand-up comedians are well known for their scientific, technical and mechanical expertise.

Electric cars in general are awesome. They accelerate faster, break down less easily, cost less in maintenance & fuel, and are almost silent. The only downsides are limited range - generally 60-100 miles which is much more than a city dweller needs on a daily basis (which is overcome by hybrids) - and the higher cost at point of purchase.

Edited by Agilemind

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I can drive my Prius 500+ miles between fillups, then then it's not 100% electric. It has a small gas engine to keep the battery charged.

Edited by Ancient Dragon

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I can drive my Prius 500+ miles between fillups

Is that city drive over a period, or a single 500 mile stretch?

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This hybrid thing is off topic but I was interested in the comment about problems in extreme heat and cold because I am a Camry hybrid owner. From what I was able to find in forum posts, people in Arizona aren't experiencing any significant problem with batteries in their Prius (and Camry) hybrids. The cabin temperature in the car is the key factor in how hot the battery gets. Many owners in AZ use solar shades on their windows to keep the temperature from rising too high when the car is parked.

I did find an article about battery failures in Honda Leaf's but that is a more widespread problem that is causing many Honda hybrid batteries to fail after as little as 2 years. The batteries themselves are probably quite similar but Toyota seems to have done a very good job in the software that manages the charging of the battery pack. NiMH batteries don't like to be fully charged or discharged. The Prius has been around for 12 years and they are proving to be very durable. Some battery packs have failed but the % is very low. I'm very happy with my Camry Hybrid.

On the original topic, you should be able to find decent motels at $100 / day and sometimes less. You'll want to do some research using a site like tripadvisor.com to find the good ones. With the saving in gas compared to a camper van, the price probably won't be much different. Motels have TV and free wifi and often have pools and exercise rooms. Those are all nice to have.

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Used to drive a Honda Insight, which has pretty similar performance to a Prius.
Nice car, but not really fuel efficient compared to cars in the similar price range like a VW Golf Diesel or Ford Focus Diesel.
Of course without the subsidies on hybrids it would be a lot more efficient than cars in the same price range, like a BMW 5 series or Ford Crown Vic.

I get the same fuel efficiency now driving a smaller non-hybrid car that's cheaper overall (initial price about 2/3 lower, lower taxes, lower maintenance bill, lower insurance cost) and large enough for me.

Would I get a hybrid again? Who knows. But I'm under no illusion it's "good for the environment" compared to other cars in the same price range as it's not.
I'll buy one if when I'm shopping for a new car I can get one that is economically priced, has similar or better fuel efficiency and maintenance cost as compared to other cars on my shortlist.

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In this list the Prius is the most fuel efficient car of the non-electric cars.

But I'm under no illusion it's "good for the environment" compared to other cars in the same price range as it's not.

And why isn't it? The cost has no effect on the environment.

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And why isn't it?

Most likely because the producing of batteries is not very environment friendly, and (semi)electric cars use more of them.

My compact diesel car runs 20+ miles per liter on long distances.

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If you plan on going through Oregon, you might want to do that towards the end of your trip, or you might end up spending the entire time there ;-)

Crater Lake and the Oregon coast are pretty popular places. If you're wanting to see some amazing wilderness and you're in Northern California, the Red Wood Forest is a must see.

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Most likely because the producing of batteries is not very environment friendly, and (semi)electric cars use more of them.

Batteries have different environmental problems (toxic waste rather than CO2 & air pollution) and most can now be recycled mitigating their environmental impacts. Batteries in electric cars should last the life of the car (~10 years) so the impact per kilometer is pretty small.

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And why isn't it?

compared to other cars in the same price range it's no more fuel efficient, yet has a higher environmental impact to manufacture and later dispose of.

Compared to other cars in the same size/weight range it's somewhat more fuel efficient yet still has that higher environmental impact to manufacture and later dispose of.

The "green" mantra about them is based exclusively on their lower CO2 emissions compared to other cards in the same size/weight range (so comparing a Honda Civic sedan with a Honda Civic Hybrid Sedan for example, or a Toyota Prius with a BMW 325i), when most sales of these cars replace sales of smaller cars in the same price range (a price range the hybrids are in only because of 30-50% subsidies on their purchase price) or lease price category (which they're in for much the same reason, and for the tax credits on the income tax of people driving them as company cars).
Without those subsidies, the vast majority of people who now drive hybrids would be driving cheaper, smaller, more fuel efficient cars.
In the US that effect might be less as hybrids are among the smaller cars on the road there as is, but worlwide that's a major factor in the purchase decision people make when selecting a hybrid, the tax credits more than compensating for the higher fuel and maintenance bills as compared to other cars in the 30k Euro ($40-50k) range.

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Batteries have different environmental problems (toxic waste rather than CO2 & air pollution) and most can now be recycled mitigating their environmental impacts.

wrong. Most batteries are dumped, with the cars.
And your claim that they last the life of the car which is 10 years is not holding water.
Many hybrids need to have their batteries replaced after 5-6 years, and most cars (certainly outside the US) go for 15-20 years before being scrapped, not 10.
If a hyrid indeed needs to be scrapped after only a decade, half the expected lifespan of its non-hybrid cousins, that's another major environmental impact factor that's not taken into account.

And oh, hybrids spew out as much NOx and SO2 as other cars that burn the same amount of fuel as well as the same amount of CO2 (which isn't even a problem, despite all the misinformation spread by the green maffia about it).

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The Prius battery in US is warrented for 8 years/100,000 miles (link).

Toyota has a comprehensive battery recycling program in place and has been recycling nickel-metal hydride batteries since the RAV4 Electric Vehicle was introduced in 1998. Every part of the battery, from the precious metals to the plastic, plates, steel case and the wiring, is recycled. To ensure that batteries come back to Toyota, each battery has a phone number on it to call for recycling information and dealers are paid a $200 "bounty" for each battery.
</quote>

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Interesting point about the life time span of a car and its impact on the environment when people get rid of it to buy a new car. I've never even thought about that :o.

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Many hybrids need to have their batteries replaced after 5-6 years, and most cars (certainly outside the US) go for 15-20 years before being scrapped, not 10

Sorry that was based on Canada estimates, the freeze-thaw, pot holes, unpaved roads in some places and salt & grit on the roads in the winter mean typical lifespan of cars is closer to 10 years (15 if only used for city driving).

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The longevity of the cars and the batteries depends to a significant degree on the make and model (and how well they are maintained). The Prius and Camry have both earned a reputation for reliability and durability. With good maintenance, they are certainly capable of going well beyond 10 years and 150,000 miles without major repairs. This article from Consumers Reports based on a survey of 36000 Prius owners confirmed that the Prius has outstanding reliability, even after 200,000 miles. I am in Ontario and my 2000 Camry is still running fine and the body is still very good despite all the salt that goes on the roads.

Agilemind may be correct in saying that the average lifespan (in Canada) is close to 10 years but it has been rising for all brands and I believe that the average for the Camry and Prius is probably quite a bit higher. Despite (unsupported) claims that hybrid batteries are dying much sooner than 10 -15 years, you don't hear that when you look at reports from Prius owners. It seems that Honda is having that problem but again it is back to the make and the model.

As shown in this chart, there are more emissions from the production of a hybrid than for a conventional car but over the life of the vehicle, the total emissions are less. It may not be as dramatic a difference as we might wish but it is still something.

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Chrishea, emissions are only part of the equation.
Other pollution (and those "emissions" in that chart count only CO2, not ALL emissions, you can count on it that those are on a similar scale difference) like water and soil contamination, need also to be taken into account.
And those are extremely high for the mining and processing of the materials needed for the batteries in hybrid cars.

The article with that chart is good, but doesn't tell the entire story and is IMO too "polite" towards the green lobby's posterchild, even as it mildly attacks the claims of it being "green".

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