So you’ve decided to buy your dream car, but it’s a few hours away or even all the way across the country. What do you do? How do you buy that dream car long distance and get it in your driveway?

Over my wild obsessions with various vehicles I’ve found interesting ways to bring home sweet motorized loot. All are in their own an exciting adventure! Believe it or not but there are a few options and they are cheaper than you’d think. But there is one method that easily takes the cake..

The most obvious way to get a car or bike home (and likely the option chosen by most people) is to simply have it shipped. However, getting a car shipped long distance from a dealership to one closer to you can set you back $500 if the dealer is charitable. Or it cost you all the way up to a thousand dollars. Working with shippers (for both new and used car purchases) can be a headache of its own before you even get to how much money you’ll have to pay them.

Second to that, you could obtain get a truck and trailer and bring it home. This is the method I use to bring home all of my motorcycles, albeit using my trusty smart fortwo.

But that can run pretty expensive as well if you don’t own or can borrow the necessary equipment and the vehicle is far out.

So just how do your dream vehicle home without adding another grand to the purchase price AND turn it into some awesome fun at the same time?

Take to the Skies!

If you can craft together the necessary components, you can not only fly across the country, but bring your new vehicle home for even cheaper than the other options while having an epic road trip doing so. This is my favorite method for bringing home new toys.

Back in 2016 I was presented with heartbreak. The aforementioned smart fortwo caught fire, sparking fears that it was dead. I’d later on fix it and the car would be better than ever, but it seemed right then and there the car was a total loss.

A good friend in the smart community gave me the opportunity of a lifetime. I could not only bring home the best version of my ‘attainable dream car’, but choose any version I wanted off the lot. I’d get a massive discount on any car on the lot and my down payment wouldn’t even change even if I chose the most expensive car on the lot. My supposedly dead trade-in would stay with me and I’d even get an amazing financing deal. It was basically free money plus a dream car! No other dealership was even coming close to this kind of deal or even in this same planet for customer service.

There was one catch: The car had to be shipped for a fee or I had to fly out to the dealership in California to pick it up.

After some number crunching I came to the astonishing conclusion that it would be massively cheaper to fly out and drive my new car home long distance. But how?

The Setup

The first part was simple. I timed a weekend not near a holiday and chose the cheapest airline and the cheapest ticket. Then I parted ways with $60 to Frontier Airlines for a one-way flight from Chicago O’Hare to Los Angeles International. Using the free carry-on to my advantage, I packed a large purse as much as I could.

From there, I needed to arrange transportation to the airport. Given I needed to be there around 6am to reasonably make my flight, I opted for an Uber. Since I hadn’t ever used Uber before I was able to take advantage of a $25 off a first ride offer, bringing my ride to the airport down to $25.

From LAX, the dealership would send a car to fetch me. That meant I would travel from my doorstep to my new car 2,100 miles away for only $85 and I didn’t have to do anything but enjoy the ride.

The Execution

This particular experience gave me a bunch of firsts. It was my first time in an Uber, my first time on a plane, and most definitely my first time heading any further west than Iowa. And I was doing it all by myself.

The Uber picked me up right on time and got me to the airport with a massive 3 hours to spare. Oops, I may have been a bit too eager with my timing.

If you bring a printed copy of your ticket and boarding pass with you, the process should be amazingly painless. I walked up to the Frontier counter, got a real boarding pass, sailed through airport security and made it to my gate with nearly 3 hours to waste. Should flying out be an option you choose and you choose to do it on an off season, you can definitely leave yourself a smaller buffer of time.

The Flight

Cheap airlines get a bad rap for a bunch of reasons. You get little space, you pay a lot in baggage fees, and the word “amenities” may as well be a swear word. However, airlines like Frontier and Spirit aren’t really for people with bunches of bags or people needing oodles of room. They’re for people who need a sky bus to get them from A to B really fast. And for that purpose, I found Frontier absolutely epic.

My plane was a very clean and recent Airbus A321 named Fallon the Falcon and the flight itself was awesome considering the price I paid. On another one of these adventures, I flew out to Denver for another car. That plane was another A321 in Spirit livery. It only cost me $31 to get to Denver. I felt like I was getting away with robbery.

The Drive

When you land and take your transportation out to your new toy, it’s time to get back home.

In my experience, there are two ways of getting this done. You can do it Cannonball Run style where you just eat up as many miles as possible, or like a cool drink on a hot day, take it slow and enjoy it.

I chose the former…and oh my I have some regrets.

The drive back to the Chicago was 31 hours and 2,100 miles. By the time I stopped exploring the Los Angeles area and ready to drive home I was already awake for nearly 16 hours.

Regardless, once I broke free of LA’s never ending traffic jams I set my cruise control to 83 miles per hour (break in, what’s what?) and set my sights on Illinois.

Should you choose that Cannonball style option you’ll end up watching many great sights pass by your windows. One by one I watched Arizona desert, Las Vegas, even entire mountain ranges appear and disappear as my little car ate up the miles like it was built to do it.

You Need Rest

Driving straight through something can be quite fun and I understand why people will even try to make a game out of it. But driving tired is dangerous. Use this story as a lesson, as I did myself.

At nearly 23 hours of being awake and 6 hours into my journey home, I started hitting rumble strips in Utah on the highways leading up to its mountain ranges. I pulled over for a nap that only lasted for 30 minutes before I set off again. Once again, I set my cruise for 83 mph and continued my race across the country.

I would drive the majority of the rest of the journey without sleep, only giving up again for another nap somewhere in eastern Iowa (after 31 hours of driving) before doing the final 5 hour leg.

By my calculations I arrived at home about 36 hours after I first set my sights for my state. I was only 5 hours slower than Google’s time and that included all fuel stops and the two naps. Not including the two naps, I had been awake for 52 hours on a total of 4 hours of sleep. As for money, the whole trip cost me well under $300, or less than half what shipping would have cost me.

Recommendations

After learning this lesson, I still fly out for long distance car purchases, but I actually park for some satisfying sleep. I’ll stop and take in the sights as well. The world is beautiful when you take it all in. I’ve repeated this trip two more times to add even more dream level smarts to my inventory.

Should you choose to bring your ride home in this fashion, definitely make sure you make time for some sleep. Or even better, bring a friend with you and drive in shifts! Or best, take it slow and enjoy the sights.

Buying a car is often a stressful process or just downright not fun, but it doesn’t have to be. Maybe next time you buy a car, buy it far away and make an adventure of it. Bring your best buds, bring the love of your life, bring anyone. Or, see how close you can safely try to meet or beat your GPS’ travel time. Either way, hop behind that wheel and enjoy it.

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