If you were to pick the perfect way to collect a US rental car, in the dark, in a convertible with LOADS of blind spots, from an airport car park and into an automatic with the tightest brakes ever, is probably not the best combination!! It made for an interesting drive over the Bay Bridge, that’s for sure!
We’d hired a convertible Chevrolet Camaro from Alamo rental car hire at Oakland Airport, and whilst this wasn’t the first time I’d driven on the right, we’d had an awesome trip in France with a beautiful Kia last year, American driving is very different to European roads. There are a few essential things to know before you travel, some I’d read about before, some that I learnt on the road (not a recommended way to learn things, FYI!!) SO here are my top tips for US driving…
Get to know your car
Take time when you first get in the car to set your position up as much as possible. The stress of not being able to see out the back window all the way into SF, that by moving the seat down the following morning I’d solved, could have been avoided by taking 2 more mins when we got in.
Read the paperwork
Read your documents VERY carefully. Alamo was awesome, so easy to deal with and very accommodating all the way through, (gave us an extra half day to return the vehicle for free, thanks guys!) however I’ve read horror stories of people being charged $1000’s for bumps and scrapes. Get all the cover your budget will allow. Be realistic about the amount and type of driving your doing. Yes, a convertible probably wasn’t THE most sensible vehicle for our trip, but when it came into its own in LA, we loved it. Lots of luggage? Get a jeep, Lots of miles, go for something efficient like a Ford Focus. Hire is actually really reasonable, so shop around well in advance.
American cars are MASSIVE, but so are the roads and parking spaces, so I was surprised at how quickly this came to feel natural. That being said, Cali drivers aren’t the most accommodating, so be sensible and drive defensively.
Stop fully at all stop signs. Like FULLY STOP. You’ll get ticketed if you don’t. There are no roundabouts so you get 4-way stop signs. These look confusing but it’s actually really straightforward. Whoever arrives first, goes first. If your not sure, wait, let them go then go when it’s clear, Easy peasy.
The American Way
U-turns. Wow. The u-turns. So the lack of roundabouts presents a problem when wanting to change direction. The solution? Sling a youeee! The first time we did this was genuinely terrifying. You get the hang of it pretty quick though, keep an eye out for the no u-turn signs though, as again, you’ll get a big, fat ticket.
So yeah, driving in the US of A can be a bit daunting, but in the right vehicle its super fun, and in major cities like LA, it’s absolutely essential. I mean, whats more CA then a convertible on the PCH at sunset….