Free Wheelin'

Why rent a car? Take a "driveaway" vacation and you can drive across the USA without paying a cent.

The competition

With just three offices (in Dallas, Culver City and Highland, Indiana) Schultz-International (9905 Express Drive Unit #2, Highland, IN, 800-619-7707 or 219-934-2000, transportautos.com) is a much smaller company, but still quite reputable. The deposit here is $335, of which you get $300 back when you deliver the vehicle to its owner (when driveaway companies have a limited number of terminals in other cities, they usually schedule a door-to-door delivery).

Upon departure, the company will specify the route you are to follow and supply you with a tank-full of fuel for free, after which you will be responsible for any additional gas, as well as your own food and lodging. With Schultz you are eligible for a "gas bonus" if you're driving a larger vehicle. The company, however, does cover the cost of insurance.

As is the practice in most driveaway companies, which advise that you drive no more than eight hours a day--leaving some time for rest stops and meals--Schultz-International also provides a time frame for delivery of the vehicle. Driving from Chicago to anywhere on the West Coast, for example, you would be expected to complete the trip in as many as seven days, while a trip to a southern destination like Atlanta will grant you four.

Things to keep in mind

One important thing to remember when planning a driveaway trip is that while its money-saving and sightseeing qualities are hard to rival, it is still a serious undertaking. When drivers lose track of time and miss the delivery deadline without a valid reason (driveaway companies strongly encourage communication and regular updates from their drivers so that they stay aware of any possible delays), or exceed the mileage allotted for their trip, they will be fined accordingly. "Knowing that you're running late and not reporting to us equals stealing a car," says Mr. Cornman.

But despite the time restraints, this is usually a hassle-free method of travel. "In all 15 years since we've been open, we've only had one minor driveaway incident," reports Don Harris owner of the Tampa branch of Auto Driveaway, "The A/C in the car failed, and the driver, whose companion was an elderly woman, had to stop at a nearby city and have it fixed." (The client paid).

According to Harris, the vast majority of drivers encounter no problems whatsoever. He goes on to say that driveaways attract a wide variety of participants from "winter residents returning to the Northeast to young international travelers touring the country, to elderly couples taking that long-planned trip out west."

Why not join them? Even with rising gas costs, there's no better--and cheaper--way to get where you're going.

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Note:This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.
 

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