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Driving vs. Flying to New Orleans.

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Dear Tom and Ray:


I need some good advice about a trip I am considering making. I own a 1987 Chevy Chevette with 38,000 miles on it. My brother and I are planning to drive non-stop from Milwaukee to New Orleans later this summer. What I am worried about is putting a lot of miles on my car over a short period of time. I am a recent college graduate with very little money and a lot of bills, and I can't afford to age my car prematurely or to have anything expensive go wrong with it. Would it be better to fly to New Orleans and rent a car for the week? Or is it OK to drive? Thanks for your help. I read your column faithfully.
Heather

TOM: Gee, Heather, this is a tough one. I think we come down in favor of flying, and here's why.

RAY: The first issue is cost. Air fares change all the time. But let's say that for the two of you, it'll cost about $600 to fly there and back. Add another $200 for renting a nice little Geo Metro for the week (that way you can see what you'll probably be moving up to in a few years).

TOM: Driving would cost much less than that. It would probably cost you a hundred and fifty bucks in gas and tolls. But you'd be putting three to four months worth of wear and tear on the car in a week's time. That means things will wear out sooner, and that'll cost you money down the road-- probably not as much as flying, but it will cost you.

RAY: But cash outlay isn't the only consideration, Heather. What if something major DID go wrong with the car along the way? Then you're not only out the cash, but you're out the vacation, too. Instead of dancing at the Cajun Cabin on Bourbon Street, you could be waiting for a new head gasket at Fred and Ethyl's Filling Station in East Cupcake.

TOM: Moreover, taking your car on a vacation is a good idea when the drive is PART of the vacation. If, for in??stance, you wanted to wind down the Mississippi River and take a week to see the sights, then the drive it??self would be a pleasurable experience.

RAY: But this drive is not going to be pleasurable. First of all, you're going to do half of it in the middle of the night, so you won't even know what state you're in, let alone what sights you should have been seeing. And worse than that, you'll be doing it in a Chevette! The driver's seat of the Chevette is second only to the dentist's chair in seats that people want to get out of at their earliest possible opportunity.

TOM: So shop around and get the cheapest air fare and car rental you can. And don't forget that no trip to New Orleans is complete without a visit down south to Houma, the heart of bayou country. One word of caution, though. Don't stop for a roadside picnic down there. The gators are hungry this time of year!
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