A car for camping?
June 15, 2014 8:51 AM Subscribe
Does it make sense to buy a cheap car just for weekend camping trips? If so, what should we look for?
posted by enn to Travel & Transportation (33 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
We live without a car in the city. For day-to-day city errands and commuting, I don't feel any desire to have a car. However, recently we've been making more of an effort to go camping on the weekends. I really enjoy this and would like to go even more frequently; the constraining factor for us is the cost and hassle of renting a car. Traditional car rental agencies have very limited hours on the weekends, so we end up paying for more days than we actually need the car—and insurance, gas, etc. are all extra. Car-sharing services like I-Go and Zipcar are more flexible and the pricing more all-inclusive but the per-day prices are quite high (usually close to $100/day) and there are over-mileage charges to worry about.
(We've also gone on various car-free camping trips via combinations of train and bike, which is a lot of fun, but of course you are very limited in the locations that are accessible this way, particularly when you're trying to fit the trip into a weekend.)
Due to the sprawl-y nature of this area, it's usually a minimum of a 2-hour drive to get anywhere worth camping at (and often more like 3 or 4 hours). I expect that, aside from these weekend trips, the car would pretty much spend its time parked on the street unused.
So my question is: does it make sense to buy a car specifically for this purpose? Because it would only be used for what is essentially a hobby, it would have to be an extremely cheap, older car in order to make financial sense. (If the total cost of ownership, including insurance, city registration, and gas, is much more than a few hundred dollars a month, we'd probably be better off continuing to deal with rentals.) Is it possible to buy a car for a couple thousand bucks that would be reliable enough for this purpose? Would a small older truck perhaps be more reliable (we would not need to seat more than two people)? Are there any particular things I should be looking for that might be different than what I'd look for in a daily driver? I have never owned a car and don't know what to look for or what it is realistic to expect.