Overland United States of America Travel
Pan American Highway > United States of America
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The United States of America is a great destination for overlanders, with many kinds of highways and other overlanding options.
- 1 Visiting the United States of America
- 2 Entering the United States of America with a Car or Motorbike
- 3 Driving in the United States of America
- 4 Gas and Diesel price in the United States of America
- 5 Safety and Security Considerations
- 6 Camping in the United States of America
- 7 Navigation
- 8 Special Overland Travel interests
- 9 Vehicle Maintenance
- 10 Buy or sell a car or motorbike in the United States of America
- 11 References
- 12 Helpful External links
Visiting the United States of America
The United States of America, with 329 million people (as of 2018), Silicon Valley, the Grand Canyon, the Rocky Mountains, hundreds of national and state parks, and New York City, is one of the most successful and important countries in the world. It provides many opportunities for tourists (and therefore Overlanders) both inside and outside the country, and overland travel, especially in the form of cars, is extremely popular in the country.
But one of the things that’s particularly notable to Overlanders is the ability to drive easily around the country. Especially in the country areas of the West and the state of Alaska, America is heaven for Overlanders.
Entering the United States of America with a Car or Motorbike
Correct as of: September 2013
(To check if you need a travel Visa for United States of America, application instructions and fees see: United States of America Visa online application at VisaHQ.com)
List the paperwork required to enter with a vehicle, including number of copies
When shipping a vehicle to the USA from outside the country, as of mid 2013 the following fees apply:
Handling Fee: $60.00 USD
Bill of Lading: $50.00 USD
Documentation Fee: $45.00 USD
ISF 10+2: $95.00 USD
Temporary Importation of a Foreign Vehicle shipped in to the USA
- Obtain EPA approval prior to shipping (took two weeks in August 2014)
- Complete all documentation and forms
- US Border Protection & Customs — http://www.cbp.gov/trade/basic-import-export/importing-car
Non-residents may import a vehicle duty-free for personal use up to (1) one year if the vehicle is imported in conjunction with the owner's arrival. Vehicles imported under this provision that do not conform to U.S. safety and emission standards must be exported within one year and may not be sold in the U.S. There is no exemption or extension of the export requirements.
For CBP clearance you will need the shippers or carrier's original bill of lading, the bill of sale, foreign registration, and any other documents covering the vehicle. You will also be required to complete EPA form 3520-1 and DOT form HS-7, declaring the emissions and safety provisions under which the vehicle is being imported. Vehicles that meet all U.S. emission requirements will bear the manufacturer's label on the engine compartment in English, attesting to that fact. For vehicles that lack such a label, the CBP inspector at the port of entry may require proof of eligibility to import under the EPA exemptions or exclusions specified on form 3520-1.
Vehicles that do not meet all U.S. emission requirements, unless eligible for exemption or exclusion must be imported through an independent commercial importer (ICI). EPA will not allow the vehicles' release to the vehicle owner until ICI work is complete. The ICI will perform any EPA-required modifications and be responsible for assuring that all EPA requirements have been met. Some vehicles cannot be successfully imported or modified by an ICI, however, and in general, ICI fees are very high.
Cleaning the Undercarriage
To safeguard against importation of dangerous pests, the U.S. Department of Agriculture requires that the undercarriage of imported cars be free of foreign soil. Have your car steam-sprayed or cleaned thoroughly before shipment.
Temporary Vehicle Imports for Non-residents
Motor vehicles and motor vehicle equipment for personal use may be imported for up to one year. The vehicle must be imported in connection with your arrival and it must be owned by you or on order before you depart from abroad. Only individual nonresidents may import a vehicle through a nonresident exemption. There is no Customs bond required, however EPA requires that written approval must be obtained prior to importation.
- Importer must file with U. S. Customs, upon entry, an EPA Form 3520-1 declaring code "O;" and attach the EPA letter of exemption.
- Importer should keep a copy of the EPA approval letter for future proof of EPA exclusion.
- Importer must be a nonresident;
- Vehicle may not be sold or otherwise transferred to another party in the U.S.;
- Vehicle must be used primarily for personal use by the importer while in the U.S.;
- Use of this exemption is prohibited if the vehicle is to be used primarily to conduct business, or for principle use by persons other than the importer (or spouse of the importer); and
- Vehicle must be exported after one year, or upon the nonresident departing the U.S., whichever comes first.
- Here are the full EPA guidelines to importing a motor vehicle in the USA http://www.epa.gov/otaq/imports/documents/420b10027.pdf
To import your vehicle in the USA, you must temporarily import it; this process does not require a Carnet de Passage.
Obtain Non-resident Temporary Importation Approval from the EPA; this process can take up to 14 business days (2 weeks) to complete and is required before sailing; required supporting documentation.
a. Non-resident Temporary Importation Approval request — Signed letter (example here)
- Your full name, current foreign address, phone number, Fax number, and email address (if applicable)
- Your U.S. address, phone number, Fax number, and email address (if applicable)
- Vehicle year, make, model and Vehicle Identification Number
- A statement explaining the reason for your visit to the United States. (work/school/vacation).
- The date of the importation
- Location of the vehicle and the Nonresident at the time of request.
- The duration of the importation.
- Proof of ownership (Registration or title documents from country of origin).
- Copy of passport
b. Supporting documents
- Copy of Vehicle Registration certificate
- Copy of passport
- The above can be emailed to: Imports@epa.gov
Documentation for Customs/your clearing agent
- Power of attorney for customs purposes (the agent should provide paperwork)
- Copy of the Non-resident Temporary Importation Approval from the EPA (as above)
- EPA complete declaration forms 3520-1 (EPA) (form here)
- DOT HS-7 – A Declaration re Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. Tick box (5) stating that the vehicle does NOT comply with USA standards and that you will export it within 12 months.
- CBP Form 3299 Declaration for free entry of unaccompanied articles Tick box Code ‘O’ stating imported by a non resident for personal use for a period of one year. (form here)
- Bill of Landing
- Supplemental declaration for unaccompanied personal & household effects
- To whom it may concern statement for customs (example here)
- Copy of flight itinerary showing that you will arrive in the USA around the same time as the vehicle
- Copy of passport
Please see this post for links to examples of letters and forms.
Shipping your vehicle from Europe to the United States
If you ship your vehicle from North Europe to North America (Canada & USA) with a RORO, you have the following options:
- WWL is one of the few companies that deals with individuals (https://www.2wglobal.com/). As of July 2017, WWL ships from Liverpool, Gothenburg, Southampton, Bremerhaven, Zeebrugge to Halifax, New York, Baltimore, Portsmouth, Savannah, Galveston, Charleston, Brunswick, Port Hueneme, and Tacoma.
- Seabridge is a German company that organizes RVs and Overland vehicle shipping. (https://www.seabridge-tours.de/?language=english). As of July 2017, Seabridge ships from Liverpool, Antwerp, and Hamburg to Halifax, Baltimore, Brunswick, Los Angeles, and Seattle.
Process at border
An overlander reports having crossed the land borders twice, once from Yukon, Canada to Alaska, USA (August 2015) and then from British Columbia, Canada to Washington, USA (September 2015). Both times the border officials asked nothing for the van. No documents, no physical control. The van was registered in Greece with Greek plates.
As of early 2019, due to smuggling and illegal (or undocumented) immigration, there are a lot of concerns about the US/Mexico border. The president wants more money for the US/Mexico border (primarily to build a "smart wall"), so he has declared a national emergency to get the funds.
Note: Both Canadian & U.S. borders have no exit border posts; therefore, you do not get EXIT stamps from the country. (This is not how it works in airports, however.)
Cost of entry
As of September 2015, entering to (and exiting from) the U.S. is free of charge for vehicles. However, Overlanders have reported paying 6 USD pp for the entry stamps in their passports (Yukon, Canada/Alaska August 2015).
Permitted length of stay
State the permitted length of entry for the vehicle
Extension of stay
Describe the process to extend the permitted length of entry for the vehicle, if possible.
Storing a vehicle and temporarily leaving the country
Describe if/how a vehicle can be stored, and for how long.
Also mention if the owner / temporary importer can leave the country while the vehicle is in storage.
Exiting with a vehicle
There is no exit border post of USA to Canada & Mexico. Wikioverlanders report having crossed twice (USA-Canada in September 2015 and USA-Mexico in February 2016) and there was nobody to physically check the vehicle, ask for any importation documents, or stamp the passports.
Driving in the United States of America
Recommended books for Overlanding in the United States of America
Travel insurance for the United States of America
Vehicle insurance requirements
Insurance is technically mandatory in the USA for any driver. This applies to most states but not all. Overlanders report that they have never been asked about insurance. The insurance really insures you to drive any car at all.
Cost of vehicle insurance
Wikioverlanders report dealing with the ex-pat department at AIG Insurance and dealing directly with the underwriter so it was much easier than the normal call center staff. The overlanders received a 1 year policy with the cover they needed for under $800.00 USD (UK Registered Land Rover). Some notes for those of you who also need it. You may not need un-insured and under-insured motorist bodily Injury (BI) cover as its likely your home travel policy will cover this. Ours does so don’t waste your money on that. You can also get much lower lever of cover based on the minimum requirements for some states in the USA. You can check out the lowest requirements by googling.
As an example, they got fully comprehensive cover $20,000.00 USD including zero excess glass cover with $1,000.00 USD excess/deductible for collisions, property ($100,000.00 USD), bodily injury cover ($300,000.00 USD for others) for the price mentioned. This is a high level of cover for the USA which is nowhere near the cover levels in the UK!
If you only want the minimum, they report that you can go a lot lower than they have. If you just get the legal minimum and the price drops a lot!
If you have young adults with you the premium will be higher as they insure the car for any driver including anyone in the household that might drive it, even if they do not. So if you have a 17yo with you it will be expensive. You need to give them an address but this is used for USA rating so it can be any address in the USA. They do not send anything there. Its all done via Email and Phone. You will need scans of all documents for the car and you.
Where to purchase vehicle insurance
Insurance can be obtained quite easily from a number of insurance companies:
- The Sunrise Group
- This company is excellent at dealing with non-US vehicles, being driven by non-US citizens, without U.S. licenses or addresses, for U.S. and Canada:
- Sarah DeStaffino
- 206 N Woodland Blvd Deland, FL 32720
- Telephone: 386-738-2812
- Fax: 386-734-0903
- Progressive (Will allow getting insurance online as self-service in most locations. They do not give insurance to foreign license holders whose U.S. address is in New York City and some other high risk metropolitan areas.)
- State Farm
- AIG (The company is AIG and the number is 800-343-5761. There’s a few people there but if you get hassle ask for Kathy. Sometimes they are on voice mail. The will insure foreign cars of different types, but not sporty or higher performance cars.)
A couple WikiOverlanders reported doing 6-month insurance with Progressive (everything online). They paid 370 EUR for a year contract for coverage in both U.S. & Canada (May 2015-May 2016). It was the only website and company where they managed to go through all steps for purchasing. Having a U.S. address is a must. Also, the vehicle must be garaged in the address — you provide meaning that the vehicle must be registered also there.
Technically you need an IDP but really you do not. It’s easier if you have one but people are not often asked for one. Florida changed the law to force you to have one but this is illegal under the Geneva Convention so the law was repealed in April 2013. However, the law was not changed, so you could get into trouble without one but it is not an offense any longer. Do not worry about Florida. Get one if you can.
Driving side of road
Right. Most major roads have either two yellow lines or one dotted yellow line in the middle. If the line in the center of the road is a dotted line, you may cross it to pass another car, but otherwise you should stay on the right side of the line. One-lane roads are more common in country areas; though it is a one-lane road, stay on the right side of the road in case a car comes the other way.
RHD vehicles can be driven in the United States of America without a problem.
Mandatory items in vehicle
State any mandatory items that must be carried in the vehicle. (i.e. safety triangle, first aid kit, fire extinguisher, etc.)
- Vehicle registration
- Proof of insurance
- The driver’s driver license
You cannot be refused care at a hospital emergency room. Everyone is triaged at some level so you might be waiting a long time. I do not know how the billing works but they send you a bill, they can't keep you there for payment. Generally emergency rooms have top quality care even if sometimes it feels like a crazy bus station with a bunch of sick people. Sometimes you get right in though. The people treating you don't know about your payment status.
In most larger cities there are walk in clinics that charge on a sliding scale. For more routine things this is a lower hassle/drama way to go.
There are also private healthcare clinics where you can schedule an appointment right away and just pay the out of pocket (visit can be about $100 plus meds).
There are subscription heli-vac providers which might be a good option for people doing adventurous stuff or have other conditions (pregnancy, heart issues, etc.)
Even without that if you are in major trouble and away from facilities the responders will heli vac you to a trauma 1 or 2 facility.
The United States has a generally good road network on which you can generally expect high standards.
The largest highways in the United States, often called freeways, are the interstates. They typically are named with an initial "I" followed by a number; for example, "I-5" is a freeway in the western United States, and "I-95" is a similar north-south highway in the eastern U.S. Interstates are fast and either cover large distances or go through high-population density areas. There are a few interstates that go across the country from east to west — I-80, I-90, and I-10. As an example, I-80 goes to San Francisco, California, and includes many side-routes (which are labeled I-680, I-280, etc.), which are also freeways and go around the Bay Area.
There are also U.S. routes that go around the United States; these are smaller roads than the freeways. At a lower level of the network are state routes, which can vary from freeway status to country roads. See the section below for more information about country roads.
Country roads can vary more in quality than the major highways. In the west, they may be old ranch roads that have been paved, but are often narrow. Do not expect large gaps on the sides of the roads; a road may be only one lane. Sometimes, unfortunately, country roads are used by commuters to get around traffic jams on freeways — commuters may go much, much faster than is safe on a country road.
General road quality
In urban and suburban areas, you can expect good roads — most major and minor roads are paved. If a road is not paved, you are probably trespassing, with the exception of some roads in rural parts of the least populated states.
In some urban areas, freeways can have problematic potholes, but generally roads are good. The U.S. routes and many state routes are particularly high quality, and while it may not be legal, you can sometimes drive faster on the ordinary highways than you can on the freeways.
Road signage is excellent, although at intersections on surface streets, the signs that show the names of the streets are often small and hidden from view due to trees. Signs along freeways are clear.
On many of the remote routes where overlanders may find themselves driving, there will not be many road signs simply because there is little need for them. But when the signs are important, like when there's a steep slope or a major intersection, you can expect signs accordingly, even on the more remote U.S. routes, like the Nevada section of U.S. Route 50. America typically uses traffic signals and stop signs, rather than roundabouts, at intersections — however, roundabouts are used along some surface streets. Yield signs, which are triangular in shape, are sometimes used. Stop signs have an octagon shape with a red background and white text.
Toll roads mostly exist in the northeast and are cash only unless you have an EZ-Pass; just buy one and place a certain amount on the pass. The only states where they don't work are Kansas and Florida where they have their own system. New York and New Jersey have the highest tolls upwards of $7.00 USD but most are $0.75 USD to $3.00 USD (as of August 2014).
There are tolls around Detroit and into Canada, and there are some tolls on some freeways in Florida. On the other hand, freeway driving generally doesn't include tolls in the Western United States.
Bribery in the United States of America
Do not even think about bribing — it will only make the situation worse. Police in America will never ever take a bribe. If they think you are trying to bribe, they might take you to jail. No cash will ever be exchanged with a policeman outside a police station. If you receive a ticket, some police might try to scare you by saying you can't leave the country until you pay the ticket or fine; this is incorrect. It is a good idea to pay either way.
The Border Patrol operates random checkpoints within 100 miles of the international borders looking for people illegally entering the country and drugs. Most checkpoints will have work dogs sniffing the vehicle for illegal drugs. The Border Patrol web site is at http://www.cbp.gov/border-security/along-us-borders/overview. Vehicles with foreign license plates may have to show passports and proof of legal entry, but not always.
California has agricultural checkpoints to mitigate the transportation of invasive species. For the most part they will ask if you have any fruits or vegetables, look at them for signs of fruit flies and send you on your way if nothing were found. If there are signs of invasive species, they will throw the items in the trash and you are free to proceed. Their web site is http://www.cdfa.ca.gov/plant/pe/ExteriorExclusion/borders.html
Traveling with pets
Many hotels and motels have clear policies about staying with pets — ask in advance. Some chain hotels are considered "pet-friendly" and some others are "pet tolerant," meaning they will charge extra for pets and reserve a higher amount than simple incidentals for security deposit in the event that any damages are incurred by your pet during the stay.
Some states have requirements about location of pets in the vehicle, some require them to be secured separate from the driver so as to not provide a distraction or hazard.
Most business establishments, especially places where food and drink are served or prepared, forbid pets inside. U.S. Law requires the admittance of official (registered) service animals, such as seeing eye dogs.
Gas and Diesel price in the United States of America
Last updated: December 2018
Currency and unit to display:
Gas and diesel prices vary across the country, and change quickly. An example of a more expensive state for gasoline is California, while a less expensive state is Florida. In California, expect over $3 a gallon, while in Florida it can get as low as about $2 a gallon. Therefore, information like the below does not really give a good picture of gasoline prices around the country.
|Regular (87)||$2.42 USD per Gallon (US)|
|Diesel||$3.16 USD per Gallon (US) to $5.00 USD per Gallon (US)|
Gas and Diesel Availability / Frequency
Lower 48-states: In general, local gas shortages only happen in if there is a catastrophic weather event. For the most part gas stations are less than 50-miles apart. There will be blue information signs posting where fuel stations are further apart than this.
Death Valley California used to have a 80-mile stretch without gas. It is best to stay topped off in desert regions. On Highway 395, going through eastern Oregon / Washington there is a 300-miles without gas.
In many states, especially ones with strong agricultural/forestry/mining production, there may be 2 prices advertised for diesel in rural areas — in these cases, the lower priced fuel has not had the state fuel taxes added into the price as the vehicles using it are not intended for road use (no highway tax, road tax, department of transportation tax, etc.). The definition of "non-road use" is not off-road, overland, or off-highway, but rather exclusively non-road use like tractors, farm machinery, logging and or mining equipment, and vehicles that do not convey on roads unless trailer-ed. This fuel usually has a dye (often red) to indicate presence in the fuel tank, which may be inspected by law enforcement personnel. When in doubt, ask — there are expensive fines for using improper fuel on public roadways.
Gas and Diesel Quality
Sulfur content of diesel is 10ppm and winter grade is automatically introduced in filling stations. Shell seemed to do this first.
Safety and Security Considerations
The United States has the 24-hours a day, 7-days a week never shut down, never impede traffic philosophy. As always, it best to drive slower at night or below the posted speed limits.
In general vehicles can be parked on streets or in lots. Watch out for metered spots and no parking zones (especially in urban areas). Vehicles parked illegally in urban areas are often booted or towed, which can result in large fines for the individual who owns the car. Also watch out for private lots that require payment. Often they are patrolled 24 hours and vehicles that have not paid will be booted. When parking in rougher neighborhoods make sure valuables are not visible and that the doors are locked.
Special driving considerations
A List of special things to be careful of (i.e. Unsigned speed bumps, abnormal road rules, people or animals on the road, etc.).
When driving in rural areas, you will find wildlife on the roadway. In the western part of the country (AZ, MT, UT, NM and so on), if you hit and kill a cow or horse, you will be responsible to pay the owner of this animal 2 times the owner’s declared value. Try extra hard not to strike farm type animals with your vehicle. You should be especially careful if there is tall grass growing on either side of the road, because animals can hide in the tall grass and jump out onto the road unexpectedly. Even if there is a fence between the road and the grass, be careful.
If you're at an intersection with a red light drivers can turn right after coming to a complete stop (with exceptions — if a sign says you shouldn't, then don't). So if you see someone turning on a red light, don't be surprised. And as usual don't stop in the crosswalk and you have to yield to everything else (vehicles, pedestrians, bikes, etc).
Parts of California, particularly the Bay Area freeways, have a reputation for potholes that can develop and make driving uncomfortable. The same is the case with the city of Stockton, to the northeast. The freeways are busy, making maintenance work difficult.
Security advisories and information
- Country Specific Information - U.S. Department of State
- Travel Reports and Warnings - Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada
- Travel advice by country - Foreign and Commonwealth office (U.K.)
- Travel Advice for United States of America - Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Camping in the United States of America
Organized "pay" camping is as common as hamburgers and hotdogs in North America. Facilities commonly found at these campsites vary with price and location. A certain Wikioverlander reports seeing prices reaching $1,000.00 USD a month at big city California beach locations with full hook-ups, and swimming pool, rec room and washing machines. Middle of the road places are around $25.00 USD to $30.00 USD per night with full hook-ups or around $350.00 USD to $500.00 USD a month. Full hook-ups, is electric, water, and sewer. If they allow tents, the cost is about half the full hook-up cost.
Keep in mind that RV-parks are not campgrounds. A Wikioverlander was rudely reminded of that in Las Vegas, Nevada. Because of the numerous compromised people visiting Las Vegas their rules are very discriminatory to keep things to a manageable level.
"Wild camping" or "boondocking" is officially called "Dispersed Recreation Camping" by The U.S. Department of the Interior's Bureau of Land Management or BLM for short. It is also perfectly legal to disperse camp in any Nation Forest except where expressly prohibited, usually near established camp sites. A well organized web page at http://www.boondockingguide.com can answer all your questions on "wild camping" or really just "camping."
"Roadside" camping or "car camping" or "stealth camping "is very common. You are allowed to stay at most major interstate highway road side rest areas for 8-hours. Truckers stay there all night arriving just before dark and departing before sunrise. It can be hit or miss finding a place towards midnight near major cites. Rest areas have bathrooms with drinking water, pick-nick tables and often a place to fill up water bottles. The first rest area in the state will have free state maps and tourist information. Coffee is served on major holidays to promote safety.
Overnight sleeping at truck stops is very comfortable. They generally have showers, laundry rooms, food and more for the truck drivers "home away from home" over night stay.
Wall-Mart is also a common place for transit RV (recreational vehicle) traveler to park over night. Some Wall-Marts do not allow over night parking. A GPS waypoint list is maintained at www.poi-factory.com/ and http://halberstadt.macmate.me/Walmart/Walmarts.html of locations that do and do not allow overnight parking.
The U.S. Department of the Interior's Bureau of Land Management (BLM), manages a very high percentage of non private land in western USA. Their main web site is http://www.blm.gov/wo/st/en.html. Camping information is found in the local BLM field office web site under recreation. They have downloadable maps and end less amount of information.
The most popular BLM camping areas, by number of winter visitors, are the BLM LTVAs, short for Bureau of Land Management Long Term Visitor Areas. For a fee of several hundred dollars visitors may camp for as long as seven months. See: http://www.blm.gov/ca/st/en/fo/elcentro/recreation/ltvas.html and http://www.blm.gov/az/st/en/prog/recreation/camping.html
Camping guide books
There are many campground directories for RV-parks. None of them are great at covering all camping locations. The priority of these directories is on paid commercial RV and camping locations. A internet search of "campground Directory," will give you pages of directories. Woodalls, Good Sam RV Travel Guide & Campground Directory are a few. They are available at Camping World and RV supply stores and some sporting goods stores.
A non-commercial web site that excels in GPS GPX files of national forest camping locations is located at: http://www.uscampgrounds.info/
Several more directories — http://alternativeto.net/software/ultimate-us-public-campgrounds/
Generally, tap water is safe to drink in the United States unless a sign saying “Non Pot-able Water" (meaning “do not drink it”) is posted. There have been problems in the U.S. before, like in Flint, Michigan.
Many places (like grocery stores and hotels) sell bottled water, but this is expensive compared to tap water.
Reise Know-How are among the best paper maps. Purchase paper maps before arriving in United States of America.
GPS Maps of the United States of America
The following web page sums up map makers in the USA: http://www.gpsinformation.org/dale/mapmakers.htm
GPS co-ordinates for camping, propane, gas, repairs, etc. in the United States of America
- FreeCampsites.net is the largest data base of free and almost free campgrounds, boondocking locations, wild camps, and overnight parking covering the USA. Reviews, pictures, maps, coordinates, water, dump stations...
- iOverlander is a website and iPhone application designed by Overlanders, for Overlanders. It contains GPS co-ordinates and reviews for camping, hotels, propane, water, mechanics, borders and much more.
There are many websites where you can get GPS coordinates. Here are a few that stand out above the rest:
Special Overland Travel interests
- There are some nice country roads in the hills to the southeast of the Bay Area. One that cyclists and motorists often do is the Mount Hamilton Road, which goes from San Jose, California to the top of Mount Hamilton (about 4,000 feet high). From there, San Antonio Valley Road, which becomes Mines Road, leads east and then north toward Livermore, California.
- A section of U.S. Route 50 in the western United States is called the Loneliest Road in America for good reason. It begins in western Nevada and continues east to Utah. It’s all paved, quality road, mostly with two lanes total (in a few places, four), but large parts of this long drive are extremely remote with only a few small towns along the way. The drive is beautiful, and is a relatively easy getaway if you live in populated parts of California. Wikivoyage has an itinerary for the route.
Everywhere in the United States is good for overlanding. But if your definition of overlanding is a remote, long-distance journey entirely on primitive, unmaintained roads that would snap a Hundai into multiple pieces, then you'll have to do some research. The United States contains many rugged and remote areas, however many of them are designated as Wilderness areas in which any motorized vehicle is prohibited. And its system of highways and paved roads are also vast and well connected. These two factors combine to mean that there aren't too many cohesive, dirt-only, long-distance, remote and isolated overlanding routs in the country. But there are still a few out there:
- The Mojave Road, a 147-mile (237 km) primitive road in the Mojave Desert of California and Nevada, is possibly the most iconic overlanding road in the country.
- The Denali Highway (don't let the word "highway" fool you) is a 135-mile (217 km) gravel, lightly-traveled road in Alaska loaded with sharp turns, stunning beauty, panoramic views, and a sense of isolation that is difficult to find in the lower 48. The highway is becoming little used and poorly maintained, and it is closed to all traffic from October to mid-May each year due to snow.
- White Rim Road, a 100 mile (160 km) dirt road in Utah, is one of the most scenic and popular overland destinations in the country. The whole state of Utah has a seemingly unlimited number of off-road adventures.
- The Alpine Loop is made up of the many trails near Ouray, Colorado. It is known as one of the best off-roading destinations in America. Some of the names of the individual roads and trails are: Cinnamon Pass, Engineer Pass, California Pass, Mineral Creek, and Yankee Boy Basin — which all add up to about 85 miles (137 km). The altitude ranges from about 9,000 ft (2,700 meters) to 12,000 ft (3,600 meters), which means it's usually open and clear of snow from July to September, and the many different trails and terrains to choose from make it flexible and accessible to almost anyone in almost any vehicle.
- The north rim of the Grand Canyon — while the south rim is not only a paved road crawling with tourists, it also costs $30 per vehicle. The north rim, however, is rugged, remote, and endless miles of dirt, mud, snow, rocks, sand, water crossings, and epic views of the Grand Canyon. Also known as the Arizona Strip, this 3-million-acre (~12,000 square km) remote wilderness is awash with dirt roads and jeep trails, some of which even take you into the drainage of the Grand Canyon itself. Modified 4wd vehicles are required for the majority of the roads, though there are several maintained roads suitable for small cars and large RVs.
- The beach at Padre Island National Seashore is technically a highway and there are no vehicle restrictions, no reservations are needed, and a camping permit is required. This out-and-back "road" on the southern coast of Texas may not qualify as a true overland adventure, as you cannot enter on one side of the barrier island — which is the world's longest — and exit on the other, but it is a worthy destination non-the-less. Vehicles may drive along the beach who's damp, fine sand makes for a great, hard, compact surface. However, there are soft, dry spots. 4-wheel-drive vehicles with the tires aired down (highly recommended after the 5-mile marker), can drive South for up to 60 miles (97km) until reaching Mansfield Channel, at which point the vehicle must turn around as there is no bridge onto South Padre Island. It is recommended that drivers bring with them a winch, a shovel, and a spare tire. The idea is that, if you get stuck in the sand, you can dig a hole several meters in front of the vehicle and bury the spare tire in the sand with the winch cable attached to the tire. This provides an anchor to winch yourself out.
- Rampart Range Road, which was built in the 1930's, is a well-known and well-maintained trail that runs through Pike National Forest and almost the entire length of Colorado's front range south of Denver. It crosses a number of counties from its north end near Sedalia all the way down through to Colorado Springs. It is 60 miles (97 km) in length and there are numerous off-shoots, spurs, exits and entry points along its length.
- The Lost Coast is a few hours north of San Francisco on the Pacific coast. It's south portal is Usal Road which is the most rugged and challenging section — it can be closed off and impassible during the rainy season. From the south take Usal Road (county road 431) 19 miles to Four Corners junction. From here, well-maintained dirt and gravel Chemise Mountain Road goes north 6.5 miles, crossing into Humboldt County to end at paved Shelter Cove Road. After a sharp left turn, go west on Shelter Cove Road for only 0.5 miles and then take a right onto King's Peak Road that travels 12 miles through the King Range National Conservation Area. It ends at paved Wilder Road which is 8 miles south of the town of Honeydew. In total, this route through the Lost Coast is at least 46 miles (74 km) of one of the country's most isolated coastlines in one of the most naturally beautiful places in the world.
- The Rainbow Trail is on the east slope of the Sangre De Cristo range in Colorado. This 100 miles (160 km) trail is for motorcycles and quads only; a Jeep is too wide. It hugs the perimeter of the Sange De Cristo wilderness area, but you can cross the mountain range to the north along Hayden Pass and to the south along Medano Pass which goes through the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve. In late Summer 2017, parts of the Rainbow Trail and Hayden Pass were closed after the Hayden Pass Fire damaged part of the trail.
- High Water Mark Trail is also known as the Ozark Overland Trail. This 140 mile (225 km) 4x4 trail system in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas also contains some very high water crossings — a vehicle specially modified will be required when the water is high. Other than the water crossings, it's not a super technical trail. Mud terrain tires might be a good idea, though.
- The Rubicon Trail is perhaps the best known and most popular 4x4 trail in the world. This 22-mile (35km) track near Lake Tahoe, California, is a brutal rock crawling pilgrimage that contains almost too much rock-crawling pleasure to be mentioned in an overlanding wiki.
- A discussion of off-road destinations in America would not be complete without mentioning the network of 4x4 trails known as Moab. The "slickrock" terrain surrounding Moab, Utah, provides a unique, high-traction driving experience that is perfect for rock crawling. Although the numerous trails range in difficulty from fairly easy to the most extreme, you'll need high clearance and low range 4wd for even the easy trails.
- There's a 17-mile dirt road in Monument Valley that can be rough on regular cars. It goes from the visitor center, down to the lower part of the Valley, and past many of the rock formations present in the Valley. Make sure your vehicle can handle it — probably best to avoid taking regular cars down there.
In addition to the roads, trails, and networks of roads/trails listed above, many folks (who are often Adventure Motorcyclists) have assembled cross-state and even cross-country tours and have shared those routes on the internet — either for free or for a small price. The tours are a mix of jeep trails (unmaintained two-track roads), single-track routes for motorcycles (though many have alternatives for 4-wheeled vehicles), country/mountain dirt roads, paved roads, and highways — the latter being at a minimum. A few of them include:
- The Trans America Trail
- The Great Western Trail is a long distance route that can take travelers all the way from the US-Mexico border to the US-Canada border, and travels through 5 western U.S. states. As of summer 2018, no one has completed the the Great Western Trail all the way from Mexico to Canada, but a planned route can be viewed here.
- Trans-Wisconsin Trail — view the route on Google Maps
- There are Backcountry Discovery Routes in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Mid-Atlantic, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. Check out the interactive maps on their website.
- Expedition Utah
- Southern Colorado Backcountry Overland Tour. You can view the route on Google Maps
4x4s / Trucks
- Toyota Global Dealer Locator
- Land Rover International Dealer Locator
- Mercedes Benz International (select country on bottom right)
- Jeep International site locator
Add known good mechanics here.
Greer Automotive Services (aka: "GAS")
- located 30 minutes northwest of Atlanta, Georgia.
- 10262 Main Street, Woodstock, GA 30188
- (678) 540-7131
- M-F 8:00A-5:00P
- SA 8:00A-2:00P
- *** Partners with Peach State Overland — https://www.peachstateoverland.com
Buy or sell a car or motorbike in the United States of America
In some states it's relatively painless to purchase and register a vehicle as a foreigner, but in other states it's very difficult.
- Arizona — Overlanders have reported it's very easy to register a vehicle in Arizona. You don't need an address, and it can be done while using a 90 day "visa waiver", or a longer term 6+ month visa.
- Alaska — Overlanders have reported it's also easy in Alaska. You need an address (hostel, hotel or Air BnB works fine) and can use your license from your home country. Doesn't matter if you're on a 90 day visa waiver.
Keep in mind you may use a vehicle as a tourist for one year, that may not be able to import. So do not think that you can legally import the vehicle even though it is in the country. The main rule is that vehicles must be 25 years or older to be imported into the USA.
If you have a newer vehicle that was never sold in North America (Defender, Land Cruiser, etc.) you cannot import it into the USA unless it's older than 25 years.
The following is a copy and past from U.S. Customs and Border Protection web site: http://www.cbp.gov/trade/basic-import-export/importing-car
"Exceptions The following vehicles need not conform to emission or safety requirements but may not be sold in the U.S. and may require EPA and DOT declarations:
Those imported by nonresidents for personal use not exceeding one year. The vehicle must be exported at the end of that year — there are no exceptions or extensions."
Also read "Registering a foreign registered vehicle, car or motorcycle in the U.S. with the Department of Motor Vehicles" at https://help.cbp.gov/app/answers/detail/a_id/425/~/registering-a-foreign-registered-vehicle,-car-or-motorcycle-in-the-u.s.-with
This is a important point from the referenced web site above. "If you bought or were given an imported vehicle from someone in the U.S., and they did not clear it through CBP before selling or giving it to you, there could be a problem. It is illegal to sell an imported vehicle that has not been formally entered, and it is subject to seizure."
Links to the source of any information - blogs or discussion forums, etc.
- Demographics of the U.S. Wikipedia
- https://www.nrdc.org/stories/flint-water-crisis-everything-you-need-know Flint water
Add any helpful external links here.