Learn to Drive in 30 (-13) Days
November 27, 2006 1:42 PM   Subscribe

Seventeen days to become a licensed driver and buy a used car. Can I do it? How?

My mother is in the hospital, my father is nonexistent, and college ends in seventeen days. I have to get home... somehow. We get kicked off the campus on December 15th...

I have never driven a car before, having felt an increasing need to get one for the past two years I've been here (Bennington College, in rural Vermont). Being a New Yorker, I've been lazily reliant on public transportation for most of my life. Now that my mother is hospitalized I have no one who can drive me anywhere. It's unfortunate that there's no public way out of Bennington--someone has to drive me to Albany (an hour away) to even catch a bus, and with all my things I can't think of any other method but the following:

Essentially, I need to pack up my stuff and drive to our temporary home in Poughkeepsie, NY (where the hospital is)-- this of course requires both a license and a vehicle. I've got a NY state learner's permit. I need to take out an insurance policy (most likely with Allstate or State Farm, as they seem to be the lowest for what I'm looking at). I am male, and just turned 20. I am certainly aware that this raises my premium considerably from "the norm"--I've been quoted around $1300/1200 minimum for six months. I also don't have much money (but have very good credit), so cost is an issue in all of this.

Can anyone let me know how this might be accomplished? (Timeframes for licenses/etc, recommendations on how to go about doing this, or any advice about used cars in the Bennington area? :) ) I have contacted driving schools and will be enlisting my driver friends' help in teaching myself as fast as possible.
posted by dmaterialized to Travel & Transportation (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Doubtful that you can arrange this if you haven't already completed the drivers ed class required by the state. Otherwise practicality depends on how much practice you have under your belt already.

If you really think you can do this, schedule your test right now--the typical waiting period for an appointment, according to the NY DMV site, is 3-10 weeks.
posted by phoenixy at 2:00 PM on November 27, 2006

Best answer: I think with this short amount of time you're going to end up with a junk car that's worthless and will die in a matter of months.

I'd say get your license and then rent a car, you'll shell out extra money because of your age though. Can you rent a U-Haul truck and drive all your stuff out of Vermont? Or have an older friend with a license rent either vehicle. I think you only have to be 18 to rent from U-haul. In both cases you're going to spend more money renting a vehicle than you may want to, but then you're not in a crush for time and you aren't stuck with a car you don't really want. You can spend time researching and purchasing a car you'll want to keep. It also pushes the need for your own insurance back to a more manageable time.

Think about short term answers that will allow you to come up with a complete solution at a less stressful time.
posted by Science! at 2:03 PM on November 27, 2006

Best answer: Since you are asking about the advisability of your plan, not just how to do it, let me just say that
  • Inexperienced driver
  • Under time pressure
  • Mom in hospital
  • Winter weather...
Don't do it. Obviously you want to spend a lot of time with your mom in the hospital, but not in an adjoining bed.

Talk to the university -- I am sure someone can help you, even if it is only to store your stuff until you get back. Or you could hire a mover, absurd as that sounds for a dorm room's worth of stuff, and ride along. Or hire a fellow student -- perhaps you'll get lucky and find a Poughkeepsie resident who'd be willing to cart you around sometimes once you get there, too. Or store or sell all your extraneous stuff, get a ride to civilization, take the bus, then take taxis around Poughkeepsie.

If I were your mom, I would be so worried about you that it would seriously impact my recovery. If you do decide to do this -- do not tell your mom.
posted by Methylviolet at 2:06 PM on November 27, 2006

If you are just learning to drive, it might not be a good idea to try and drive with a U-Haul or any other rental. I think you should move forward with getting a license and car but try to catch a ride to Poughkeepsie. I bet you could find someone that is at least driving in that direction who would be willing to take you and all your stuff to Poughkeepsie for a couple hundred dollars. Then you can not be stressed about taking your driving test and getting insurance and a car.
posted by sulaine at 2:07 PM on November 27, 2006

Yeah, on second thought I don't recommend a U-Haul for a new driver, especially in the winter. You could however pair up with an experienced driver and offer to pay for half the cost of a car or truck. You can also put all your stuff into storage and then come back to get it in several trips once you're squared away with a good car, got any off campus friends that will have some open storage space over the winter break?
posted by Science! at 2:23 PM on November 27, 2006

posted by wfrgms at 2:23 PM on November 27, 2006

can you use the campus community bulletin boards (real or online), or maybe the website craigslist, to find a rideshare?
good luck.
posted by twistofrhyme at 2:40 PM on November 27, 2006

Best answer: U-Haul? No. Even if you do rent a truck, don't rent it from them. Ryder, whatever, OK. Not U-Haul.

Renting a car/truck sounds like a reasonable plan (once you have your license), except that rental agencies generally don't rent to drivers under 25 years of age. And one-way dropoffs are very expensive.

Other options: you can UPS your packable stuff (this is entirely feasible, and UPS will pick up at your door), and sell/donate your non-packable stuff, or put it into storage. At that point, you just need to transport yourself, not your stuff. This should be an easier problem to solve—worst case, you could take a cab to Albany, but it seems likely you could find a ride-share.

Finally, Methylviolet is right.

This is a tough situation. Hang in there.
posted by adamrice at 2:41 PM on November 27, 2006

Learning to drive safely takes more than seventeen days. Listen to methylviolet.
posted by flabdablet at 2:43 PM on November 27, 2006

I'm confused. Are you leaving college for winter break? or for good? I would say put things in public storage, but if you're leaving for good (or taking a semester off to help your mom) I would just UPS everything.

If you're coming back to the college at some point, leave the larger items with friends (futons, lamps, etc.). Everything else, pack up into boxes and just mail it all.

A computer box of stuff is about $40-50 to mail. Do the math, you'll realize it's much safer, easier, and saner to just mail everything.

(This was the method I used to move in/move out of my college dorms, when I had to fly and could only check in two bags)
posted by unexpected at 2:59 PM on November 27, 2006 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for the helpful answers! I think I'll try to just ship things home and store the bigger items with friends here (though they may not enjoy it, I could give them enough to make it worthwhile)-- I am coming back to campus, just not for several months. I'll move forward with learning to drive but I guess I'll try to hold off on actually buying a car for as long as possible. I'm certainly in no rush to pay $450 a month in car payments/insurance premiums :) The longer I can wait on this whole ordeal, obviously the better.

Thanks again!
posted by dmaterialized at 3:22 PM on November 27, 2006

You may be able to take a bus
"Scheduling and ticket information can be obtained through Vermont Transit at 1-800 451-3292"
though the article is dated 2001
you can also try a U-store-it place if you have too much stuff to put at a friend's house. Get a friend to drive the stuff.
Good luck, I hope your mom gets well soon.
Follow the advice above re: learning to drive
posted by defcom1 at 4:07 PM on November 27, 2006

Ditto on not trying to force learning to drive in a short amount of time, in bad weather, etc. If you're not already on Facebook, get an account, add everyone you know at school and in the area, and post a "note" about hitching a ride to Poughkeepsie. Your note will show up on all your friends' home pages and chances are you'll find someone else from your school who is going in the same direction.
posted by radioamy at 5:57 PM on November 27, 2006

N'th-ing the 'Anybody but U-Haul' assertation - I've delt with them on four seperate occasions/locations (Including two crosscountry moves), and regretted it every single time. Ryder's a much better bet.

Seriously, though - Do you REALLY need to keep the whole dormload? Can you cut it down to a duffelbag and sell/give away everything else?
posted by Orb2069 at 7:36 PM on November 27, 2006

Can you learn to drive in 2 weeks? Easily.
The mechanics of driving are simple.
Will you be the best driver out there? Likely not.
Will you be a bit intimidated heading down the thruway? Almost certainly.

But any normally coordinated 20yr old can easily get down to Poughkeepsie without killing himself or anyone else.

However, the logistics are going to be a bit difficult, since you'd presumably need to get over to Albany(or whatever DMV is nearest) to take your road test in NY, in which case you might as well just ship your stuff and get yourself dropped off at the train station.

The other thing to remember is that just because you don't have a driver's license doesn't mean you can't own, register and insure a car.
posted by madajb at 7:36 PM on November 27, 2006

Even hiring movers would probably on balance be cheaper than driving lessons, buying a car and getting insured over the space of two weeks. But you probably don't have to even go that far -- now is the time to rely on the kindness of your friends and acquaintances to help you UPS the stuff you absolutely need and take care of the things you need to store, or even drive you down to NY. Might also ask your college if they'll store stuff for you -- I know my college stored things over the summer for students.

Also, I agree with Orb2069 -- you should get rid of your big stuff if possible. You're going to be moving around a lot in the next few years in any event, so the lighter you can travel the better. You certainly don't need a lot of stuff in Poughkeepsie since you're only there temporarily.
posted by footnote at 7:11 AM on November 28, 2006

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