How to Travel The US for Free: Driving Guide

Happy woman in her car
Photo by Prostock-studio / Shutterstock.com

You can drive across the country in someone else’s car for free. It’s called a driveaway, or auto delivery service. And yes, it’s a totally legit way to travel for free.

While you do have to pay for gas, car delivery services offer a next-to-nothing alternative to renting. The cheapest one-week, Miami-to-LA, one-way rental car price quote I could recently find from Enterprise, for example, was $1,789. That includes a “drop charge” of $500, a “concession recoup fee” of $146, $117 in sales tax, and a note that “additional surcharges, local taxes, etc. may apply.” (Last year Enterprise accounted for about half of the $20.5 billion car rental industry, according to Auto Rental News.)

So if you’re trying to search for how to travel the U.S. for free, what car delivery services like Auto Driveaway offer is priceless – literally. They’re a delivery company that matches drivers with cars that need shipping, and all you pay is a refundable deposit and the cost of gas. Read on for more details about how it works, or learn about rental rates and rip-offs.

Auto Driveaway isn’t the only company that does this, but it’s one of the oldest (since 1952) and one of the biggest, with locations in 28 states.

Toronto Driveaway has fewer destinations available but offers trips to and from Canada. For other options on how to get free travel, you can try calling companies in MoveCars.com’s listings or look in the phone book under something like “automobiles – transporters and driveaways.” Note, however, that most car delivery companies use trucks or professional drivers to transport cars.

Before they turn over the keys, Auto Driveaway has a few requirements. But all things considered, they’re not asking much to let you drive off in somebody else’s car. Here’s how it works:

  1. Requirements. You must be at least 23, have a license and a valid passport if you’re a foreign citizen, and have a copy of your clean driving record, which is available from your state DMV for $5-10 or can be printed at the Auto Driveaway office.
  2. Deposit. A security deposit of $350-400 is required, and refunded after you arrive safely at the destination you’re choosing to stay at.
  3. Restrictions. These are common sense – no eating, smoking, or alcohol, and no all-night driving. You may not be able to use the trunk space, because the owners are allowed to fill it with their stuff. People can come along while traveling (and that can help you cut costs more) but if they’re driving, they have to give details up front just like you.
  4. Gas. The first tank’s free, but you can’t return the car on empty. Otherwise, you’re on your own. For a Miami-to-LA trip, you’re probably looking at over $500: 2,800 miles, assuming 20 mpg and $3.75/gallon.
  5. Distance. When you want to travel the U.S. for free, Auto Driveaway is one of the best options. The trip could be coast-to-coast or as little as 200 miles. While there is a deadline and mileage limit, they leave wiggle room for drivers wanting to take a leisurely pace and detours. You should be fine doing 400 miles a day.
  6. One-way. There’s no guarantee that once you reach your destination there’s going to be another car headed back where you came from. You may have to wait a while, and the live site only updates the car and destination list once a week, so you have to call for more accurate listings throughout the month.

Obviously, driveaways don’t work for everybody. You have to be flexible, adventurous, and trustworthy. If you’re going to stick with renting, here’s 5 Tips for a Better Deal on Rental Cars. But with some clever houseswapping or couchsurfing, driveaways can make for an almost-free road trip. And if you’re ambitious enough to organize renting out the car you left sitting at home with a service like Turo or Getaround, maybe you even make a little money.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
15 of the Fastest-Growing Jobs Today
15 of the Fastest-Growing Jobs Today

Times are tough, but these career fields are thriving.

17 Home Upgrades That Rarely Help Close a Sale
17 Home Upgrades That Rarely Help Close a Sale

Real estate agents give these renovations low marks when it comes to helping sell homes.

12 Ways Retirees Can Earn Passive Income
12 Ways Retirees Can Earn Passive Income

These simple ways of earning income without a lot of active, ongoing effort can stretch your retirement dollars.

If My Spouse Dies, Can I Get Her Social Security?
If My Spouse Dies, Can I Get Her Social Security?

If a spouse dies, will the survivor collect the other’s share in addition to his or her own?

7 Kitchen Gadgets That Make Healthy Cooking a Breeze
7 Kitchen Gadgets That Make Healthy Cooking a Breeze

These small appliances and cooking aids make healthy eating easy — and they’re all available on Amazon.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
9 Mistakes Everyone Makes When Shopping on Amazon
9 Mistakes Everyone Makes When Shopping on Amazon

Are you losing money due to any of these missteps?

Can a Divorced Widow Claim Her First Husband’s Social Security Benefits?
Can a Divorced Widow Claim Her First Husband’s Social Security Benefits?

The rules are complicated when it comes to eligibility for survivors benefits.

7 Changes Coming to Social Security and Medicare in 2021
7 Changes Coming to Social Security and Medicare in 2021

Recently, both Social Security and Medicare made some major announcements about benefits for 2021.

Can a Twice-Divorced Woman Claim Social Security Survivors Benefits?
Can a Twice-Divorced Woman Claim Social Security Survivors Benefits?

Understanding survivors benefits rules is the key to getting the most from your benefit.

These Are the 10 Worst Cars for Depreciation
These Are the 10 Worst Cars for Depreciation

Two types of vehicles are especially likely to see steep plunges in value.

9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again
9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again

The warehouse store offers an enormous selection, but these products aren’t coming back.

10 Things I Always Buy at Trader Joe’s
10 Things I Always Buy at Trader Joe’s

From snacks to sweets to side dishes, stock your cart with these time-tested favorites on your next TJ’s run.

Longer Trips to This Type of Store May Raise Coronavirus Risk
Longer Trips to This Type of Store May Raise Coronavirus Risk

An airborne-disease expert recommends exiting these stores within 30 minutes.

5 Ways Social Security Will Change in 2021
5 Ways Social Security Will Change in 2021

These adjustments will affect both workers and retirees in the new year.

11 ‘Disposable’ Items You Should Be Reusing
8 Things You Should Buy at Restaurant Supply Stores
8 Things You Should Buy at Restaurant Supply Stores

You don’t have to be a chef or a restaurant owner to shop here.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

19 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Degree
19 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Degree

There are easy high-paying majors available in the U.S. — and no bachelor’s degree is required. We’re here to help you find easy degrees that pay well.

Stop Buying These 19 Things Online
Stop Buying These 19 Things Online

The internet has changed how we shop. But for some things, you’re still better off buying the old-fashioned way.

Cut These 11 Expenses Now If You Hope to Retire Early
Cut These 11 Expenses Now If You Hope to Retire Early

Like the idea of financial independence? Part of the FIRE equation is cutting costs.

27 Things You Should Never Pay For — and How to Get Them for Free
27 Things You Should Never Pay For — and How to Get Them for Free

When you know the tricks, you can save big on all kinds of useful things that others pay for.

4 Tax Credits That Will Be More Generous in 2021
4 Tax Credits That Will Be More Generous in 2021

If you are eligible for these tax breaks, they will slash your federal income tax bill — dollar for dollar.

7 Tips for Building an Emergency Food Supply
7 Tips for Building an Emergency Food Supply

A pandemic or natural disaster could leave you reliant on your existing emergency food supply. Is your pantry well-prepared for emergencies? Knowing what to stock up on for emergencies can be a difficult task and we’re here to help.

15 Things You Can Get for Free in December
15 Things You Can Get for Free in December

December is here, which means it’s your last chance to take advantage of fabulous freebies in 2020.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.