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Old 29th March 2017, 05:42   #1
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Default USA: 5,700 mile road-trip in a Mazda 6

When life gives you lemons, you tie it to a car go on a road trip. Thatís exactly what I planned to do when I saw airfares which mocked my meager student budget. The spring break was fast coming and I had loads of places in my head to visit. Flights were way too expensive while buses and trains were just not viable. What better chance to go on a road trip!? I immediately checked all the car rental websites for the best deals and once I was convinced, I booked a full size car for 12 days. Being under 25 years of age is a pain while renting cars in the US. However, from internet, I learnt that becoming a member of USAA would waive off my young renterís fee and I did just that to strike the cheapest deal and it worked like a charm. I also purchased rental car insurance from outside for those unforeseen situations. Now the plan was as follows: I drive from Philadelphia to Dallas alone while visiting my uncle in Kansas en route. From Dallas, three of my friends were to join me to complete the trip back in Philadelphia covering a few places on the way.

It was a busy Thursday for me as usual with classes and lab work right from morning 9 AM to night 9 PM. Amidst this schedule, I managed to squeeze some time to go pick up the rental car. I had an option to choose between Toyota Camry, Nissan Altima and the Mazda 6. Camry was too dreary, and I hated the transmission on Altima. I chose the Mazda 6 and I was happy about it.

After picking up the car on 2nd March, I returned to my classes and carried on with the routine. When I was done at 9PM, I rushed home, packed clothes, water bottles and some snacks. I was to drop my roommate in Newark, Delaware which was a 45 min detour which I didnít mind because in a 17.5 hour drive, 45 min more meant peanuts. With a full tank of gas, a bundle load of energy despite the busy day, the two of us set off at 10.30 PM from Philadelphia. By 11.15 I dropped him off and began my solo 17 hour drive to Kansas. My favorite mix of Punjabi, Bollywood, Telugu, Tamil, Kannada, Malayalam, Devotional, English (it was a long drive after all) songs were keeping me company. After about an hour into the drive, it started snowing. A small fear set in for, I wasnít in a 4X4, I didnít have shovels or snow chains, but I got adventurous and continued cautiously. The snow followed me for two and half hours and by this time it was almost time for me to refuel. The approach to the gas station, along the exit was covered in thick snow but the Mazda made it without much drama. After some stretching and refueling, I continued driving.

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Near the gas Station

The snow slowed me down severely but I had no other option but to go cautiously. I couldíve taken a Motel and resumed my journey when the snow waned but I was in no mood for that. As I egged myself on, the snow fall reduced and I was back munching miles. It was 4 AM by now. I am not much of a coffee lover and itís never kept me awake or anything. So to be alert, I kept hogging fruits that I brought along and emptied water bottles. After another quick refuel, I realized, I was only about half an hour behind schedule. However, I needed some sleep as well. At about 6 AM, I pulled over at a rest area just after Columbus, Ohio and immediately fell asleep. When I woke up at 7:45 AM, I freshened up and started the long haul again. Songs, conference calls with friends and family, food and water kept me going. At 4 PM, I reached my uncleís house in Leawood, Kansas. I spent the next day also in Kansas with my cousins. I got my much needed sleep.

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With Uncle

On 5th March, at 10 AM I left for Dallas. It was an 8 hour drive to Dallas and after the drive to Kansas, this was a rather small one. Once out of Kansas, the vistas were just getting better and better. I wanted to pull over at every other exit to click the pristine grasslands around but I controlled my urge and pushed on.

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At one of the exits

En route, after a quick lunch stop after Oklahoma City, I refueled. It began raining heavily after this but after the snow drive, this was like a walk in the park. My uncle in Dallas was unaware of my visit. At 5:30 pm I called him on FaceTime to show him his own house. I wanted to surprise him and from the way my cousins ran outside to the car, they were surprised! :P Mission Accomplished. Next two days in Dallas went by so quickly with cousins.

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With Cousins

On 8th March, at about 12 pm, I went to pick up friends from their college to start the next phase of this trip. Since they had classes, I went there only by afternoon. By around 3 pm, we left from Dallas for Colorado. Catching up with your best friends after a long time, in a whole new place is the best thing that could happen to a road trip. At no point along the next 6 days did any one of us get bored of the road.

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The next leg begins with this sunset

It was 11 hour drive to the Great Sand Dunes National Park. With friends, the 11 hour drive seemed very short. We never realized how time passed until we reached Colorado. The roads in Colorado were beautiful Ė wide and twisty! The Mazda handled the roads quite well and was confidence inspiring. We reached our destination at 2:30 AM and went to a near by waterfalls named Zapata Falls. The last 3 miles to the falls was on a mud trail and the falls were on top of a hill. On reaching the parking place, we called it a day and fell asleep in the car. The sky was absolutely beautiful that night. The silence from the surroundings just helped us enjoy the sky more. We woke up at 6 AM to one of the most beautiful views Iíve ever seen! The sky was lighted up in multiple colors as the sun was about to rise. Our madness of sleeping in the car after a 11 hour drive paid off with this mesmerizing view!

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We Woke up to this
After taking in the sights, we trekked to the falls. It was a short trek through a snow covered path. The best part of the trek was when we realized we were walking on frozen water which led to the falls. The falls itself was frozen too. This sight was also a pleasure to the eye. The pictures couldnít do any justice to the scenery.

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Frozen Zapata Falls

From hereon we headed to the Great Sand Dunes itself and spent about an hour at the Dunes clicking random pictures. Iíve never experienced sand dunes before and this was a rather beautiful experience Ė Vast expanse of brown sand till where your eye can see!

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At the dunes

After some more pictures, we left for the Hanging lake near Glenwood Springs. It was a 4 hour drive to Hanging lake most of which was on twisty mountain roads and then along the Colorado River. The view all along was breathtaking to say the least. Snow capped mountains sometimes, red stoned hills sometimes, frozen lakes sometimes and blue waters sometimes! It was absolute beautiful scenery and an equally beautiful tarmac to compliment this.

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We reached hanging lake by around 3 pm after a quick stop at an exit to click pics on the banks of the Colorado River.

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Colorado River

The trek to the lake was about 1.2 miles. In summer the entire round trek could probably be finished in about 2 hours. But today was not a warm sunny day. After the ľ mile marker, the path started getting tricky and we werenít prepared for this. Towards the top it was extremely hard, cold and we were about to give up for how under equipped we were. However, with grit we continued on and on to see the most serene lake ever! I still cannot get over the view. We were shivering in the cold and yet we wanted to stay. As sun was about to come down, we started our downhill journey which proved more challenging than the climb. We slipped and slid almost the entire distance. Nevertheless, it was super fun.

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The beautiful Hanging Lake

Rest of the journey continued later
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Old 29th March 2017, 05:56   #2
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Default re: USA: 5,700 mile road-trip in a Mazda 6

Once we reached the car, we changed into fresh clothes and headed to the nearest restaurant for some piping hot food. After that we left for my friendís house in Fort Collins. Although it was dark by now, the drive was just as good thanks to the twisting roads through Cooper Mountains. We reached his house at about 11:30 PM. Surprisingly, even after such a strenuous day none of us wanted to sleep till about 3:30 AM. After a decent sleep, we got up leisurely at 8 AM and got ready to leave to Mt. Rushmore. It was about 5 hours to Mt. Rushmore.

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On the Way to Rushmore

The road took us through the seemingly empty state of Wyoming. It was a single laned road with almost no traffic. For about 120 miles the road looked deserted and we were surrounded by vast grasslands and small hills on either side.

We reached Mt. Rushmore at about 2 PM. While climbing the last 5 miles to Mt. Rushmore we realized we came on the wrong day because the roads were covered with clouds. However, with the little hope to have a small glimpse of the 4 faces we entered. We stayed there for about 20 min hoping the clouds would give way to the faces and god just listened to us! We thanked our stars and clicked as many pics as we could.

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Patience paid off

At about 3 pm we then started our journey to Chicago. This was again going to be a long, 14 hour journey. Two of us took turns to drive while the other two took turns to keep us company. After multiple food and fuel stops and 16 hours later, we entered Chicago and headed straight to my friendís cousinís place to freshen up. There we realized that it St. Patrickís Day in Chicago. The river was going to be colored green. We thought we were at the right place at the right time. After some tasty breakfast that our host made, we headed out to the city downtown in a bus because parking was going to be a pain. Our first stop was the St. Patrickís Day parade near Millennium Park. The parade was a pleasant mess! It was like India and I loved it.



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After that we headed to the famous Sky Tower. We spent about 1 hour to get to the top and then an hour at the top clicking pictures. Chicago skyline is one of the most beautiful skylines Iíve seen. I wished I could see it at night from the Sky tower, nevertheless, it was still beautiful under the afternoon sun.

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From there we headed back to the millennium park to the cloud gate. We couldnít go to the cloud gate earlier because the park was closed until 4 PM. After spending some time there, we walked to the Navy Pier.

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By this time we were all exhausted. We then headed back to the cousinís place, picked up the car and went for dinner. After relishing some delicious Biryani, we went for the famous river walk and it was worth the visit.

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Rest of the journey continued in next post
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Old 29th March 2017, 06:27   #3
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Default re: USA: 5,700 mile road-trip in a Mazda 6

From here, we left for Lansing, Michigan which was a 3.5 hours drive. We reached Lansing at about 3 AM and headed to anotherís friendís house (being students, we look for opportunities to save money on hotels). She was waiting for us with some delicious food she cooked. Although we hogged like pigs in Chicago, we couldnít say no to the way she had arranged the food. We hogged again and then went to sleep like logs till 10 AM. We planned to visit a couple of places around Lansing but then we decided to take it easy and just visit a nearby lake. After a quick breakfast, we headed to Lake Lansing and relaxed there for a while.

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USA: 5,700 mile road-trip in a Mazda 6-pic39.jpg
Lake Lansing

Then we decided to head back home and play Monopoly and thatís exactly what we did. We played Monopoly for 5 hours continuously.

It was the 12th of March that day and one of the friends traveling with us had her birthday on the 13th. So the rest of us decided to surprise her with some good food and cake while everyone was immersed in Monopoly. I am not sure how surprised she was but the cake and the food was good! :P After the birthday celebrations at 12 AM, we sat down to relax a bit. At 2 AM suddenly we decided to leave to Mackinac Bridge. By around 4 AM I wanted to sleep so I pulled over and slept till 6 AM because everyone else was asleep too. At 6 AM my friend took over the wheel and by 8 AM we reached Mackinac bridge.

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On the way, we took a slight detour to what appeared like a lake on the map. When we reached there, we were welcomed by a frozen lake. Walking on this frozen lake was a surreal experience!

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After this we continued on to Mackinac Bridge. After clicking some pictures, we headed to the Sleeping bear dunes. Every bit of the road en route was covered in snow and it was a completely different experience driving in such a condition. The sleeping bear dune was a rather isolated sand dune that over looked a lake. It was a beautiful sight.

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From here on, was our last leg of the trip back to Philadelphia. It was a 13.5 hour journey. While this didnít scare us, what scared us was the snow storm warning in Philadelphia and surrounding areas. However, just like how I started the journey, feeling adventurous, we continued cautiously. Speeds were down to 10 mph at some sections. What was commendable was how the snow plow trucks were ready for action every few miles. As we neared Philadelphia, the snow got heavier but we pushed on and made it safely back to my house by 5AM. I returned the car at 11 AM having done 5739.5 miles on the Odo. The guy at the counter laughed for 2 min in disbelief and I thought, in the end this laugh was worth all that madness we underwent.

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The Route we covered

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The distance we covered

While this marked the end of the road trip, my friends from Dallas went on to visit NYC and D.C. for a day while I had classes to attend. Then we went around Philly before they flew back to Dallas.

Special credits to the car: The Mazda 6 was lovely. It went through a lot and it was my home for close to 12 days. It performed brilliantly and although we pushed it at most places, it consistently gave us good mileage too.
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Old 29th March 2017, 17:35   #4
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Default Re: USA: 5,700 mile road-trip in a Mazda 6

Hello, seems like a great road trip. Just wanted to know if there is a cap on the number of miles you are allowed to drive per day in a rented car in the US ? AFAIK they do have that in Europe and they charge you more if you exceed. Thanks.
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Old 29th March 2017, 21:01   #5
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Default Re: USA: 5,700 mile road-trip in a Mazda 6

Thats nearly 500 miles a day! Quite an effort you put in there. I am sure the rental counter guy was shaking his head in disbelief for quite some time after you left. Smart choice for the road trip as well. Doing this in the Camry would have been more tiring and picking up the Altima would have meant less driving fun. The Mazda 6 is a nice balance. Just curious as to who did you rent from and for how much?

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Originally Posted by RajeevMD View Post
Hello, seems like a great road trip. Just wanted to know if there is a cap on the number of miles you are allowed to drive per day in a rented car in the US ? AFAIK they do have that in Europe and they charge you more if you exceed. Thanks.
Usually there is no limit on mileage for rental cars in US. If you are using special/corporate codes for your reservation then there might be mileage charges depending on the location (airport/off-airport) and type (one way or otherwise) of rental. In 90%+ situations though there is no mileage cap.
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Old 29th March 2017, 21:06   #6
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Default Re: USA: 5,700 mile road-trip in a Mazda 6

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Originally Posted by RajeevMD View Post
Hello, seems like a great road trip. Just wanted to know if there is a cap on the number of miles you are allowed to drive per day in a rented car in the US ? AFAIK they do have that in Europe and they charge you more if you exceed. Thanks.
Hi Rajeev, there is no limit on the mileage unless you take some weekend deals or other cases which Cesc has mentioned.

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Originally Posted by Cesc View Post
Thats nearly 500 miles a day! Quite an effort you put in there. I am sure the rental counter guy was shaking his head in disbelief for quite some time after you left. Smart choice for the road trip as well. Doing this in the Camry would have been more tiring and picking up the Altima would have meant less driving fun. The Mazda 6 is a nice balance. Just curious as to who did you rent from and for how much?



Usually there is no limit on mileage for rental cars in US. If you are using special/corporate codes for your reservation then there might be mileage charges depending on the location (airport/off-airport) and type (one way or otherwise) of rental. In 90%+ situations though there is no mileage cap.
Hi Cesc, I rented it from Budget car rental for around $26 / day including taxes. I also see that you stay in Philly Nice to know.

Last edited by saishivaj : 29th March 2017 at 21:07. Reason: Added more content
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Old 29th March 2017, 21:21   #7
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Default Re: USA: 5,700 mile road-trip in a Mazda 6

Not bad at all saishivaj! I guess thats the best value I have ever seen someone get out of a rental car. 5,700 miles for $312!!

Then there are people like me who will often return a rental car after putting less than 100 miles on it!
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Old 30th March 2017, 00:57   #8
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Default Re: USA: 5,700 mile road-trip in a Mazda 6

the major expense being insurance and other coverage - was taken from outside. A hassle during the bad times, when outside of the renting company - but all is fine, if everything goes well.
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Old 30th March 2017, 02:48   #9
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Default Re: USA: 5,700 mile road-trip in a Mazda 6

Insurance isnt a major expense if done right. If you have a good credit card then collision damage and even loss of use is covered. For liability - rental car companies are required by law to have minimum coverage. The minimum coverage varies by state but a basic coverage is there.

Also if you reserve on the european websites of major rental companies then they give you insurance inclusive rates. For $30-35 a day you can book a full size rental car on Avis's UK website for most of their locations in US. That rate includes $0 deductible collision damage waiver and liability insurance. Getting insurance at the car rental counter is horrendously expensive and IMO should never be done.
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Old 30th March 2017, 03:12   #10
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Default Re: USA: 5,700 mile road-trip in a Mazda 6

Mazda 6 indeed a great car and very well captured road trip and nice pictures.

Sorry for taking this off topic here, but wanted to clarify / get clarifications as well, regarding insurance:
Although had my own car insurance with rental car coverage as well + credit card coverage (chase, amex etc) for collision, used to just opt for insurance from the rental company (full coverage) for the peace of mind and convenience part.

During a mishap:
As most of the credit cards don't cover SUVs (up to sedans are fine) and also our own car insurance covering rental cars, has its own limitations. Mostly used to go with Hertz Full Coverage - just call them up and hand over the keys, in case of a mishap. No need to discuss with credit card customer care (who sometimes act as secondary coverage) or your own car insurance company (also will not impact your ongoing premiums with them).

Last edited by Eyas337 : 30th March 2017 at 03:13.
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Old 30th March 2017, 13:27   #11
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Default Re: USA: 5,700 mile road-trip in a Mazda 6

Nice travelogue there. 5,700 miles is quite an effort. No wonder the guy at the counter laughed. I see you have put in some long hours there and good to read that you respected your limits and got some sleep when it mattered.

The snowy conditions would have definitely made things more thrilling. Some of the sites in the pictures are simply breathtaking. Adding videos was a nice touch too. Walking on the frozen lake must be quite an experience.

Coming to the car, among the ones you have listed, the Mazda 6 is easily the most interesting. I'd have taken the same if I had a choice.
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Old 30th March 2017, 14:12   #12
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Default Re: USA: 5,700 mile road-trip in a Mazda 6

Fantastic trip and there could not have been a better time for me to read this. I am moving to the US for good and was contemplating which car to buy and Mazda 6 was on my radar. While i drive an Innova Crysta here in India (which gives me supreme comfort), i did not find a similar car(fitting my budget) in the US and hence was looking at Camry, Mazda 6, Sonata etc.. . I love driving and love to haul miles. Reading your review gives me the confidence to go with a Mazda 6. Can you please write more about your experience with the car. Will be helpful.
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Old 30th March 2017, 19:48   #13
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Default Re: USA: 5,700 mile road-trip in a Mazda 6

Quote:
Originally Posted by Eyas337 View Post
Mazda 6 indeed a great car and very well captured road trip and nice pictures.

Sorry for taking this off topic here, but wanted to clarify / get clarifications as well, regarding insurance:
Although had my own car insurance with rental car coverage as well + credit card coverage (chase, amex etc) for collision, used to just opt for insurance from the rental company (full coverage) for the peace of mind and convenience part.

During a mishap:
As most of the credit cards don't cover SUVs (up to sedans are fine) and also our own car insurance covering rental cars, has its own limitations. Mostly used to go with Hertz Full Coverage - just call them up and hand over the keys, in case of a mishap. No need to discuss with credit card customer care (who sometimes act as secondary coverage) or your own car insurance company (also will not impact your ongoing premiums with them).
Dont really think this is off topic. Quite a few people reading this high mileage trip report in a rental car may contemplate doing something like this. Insurance is an important aspect of rental cars so we should be clear about how to get coverage.

Re. credit cards not covering SUVs - you should be good unless you are renting something really large or exotic (Chevy Suburban, Tahoe, Range Rover). The exclusions for the cards I have reads as follows:

'What types of rental vehicles are not covered?
Excluded worldwide are: expensive, exotic, and antique automobiles; certain
vans; vehicles that have an open cargo bed; trucks; motorcycles, mopeds, and motorbikes; limousines; and recreational vehicles.

Examples of excluded expensive or exotic automobiles are the Aston Martin,
Bentley, Bricklin, Daimler, DeLorean, Excalibur, Ferrari, Jensen, Lamborghini, Lotus, Maserati, Porsche, and Rolls Royce.'

For Amex it reads as follows:

'This benefit does not apply to some rental vehicles, including:

Trucks
Pick-ups
Full-sized or cargo vans
Commercial mini-vans
Customized vehicles
Antique cars
Limousines
Full-sized sport utility vehicles
Off-road vehicles
Any vehicles with a manufacturer's suggested
new retail price of $75,000 or more'

The absolute fine print on Amex for their definition of full-size SUVs is:

'Full sized sport utility vehicles, including but not limited to, Chevrolet/GMC Suburban, Tahoe and Yukon, Ford Expedition, Lincoln Navigator, Toyota Land Cruiser, Lexus LX450, Range Rover or full-sized Ford Bronco'

I would say reading the fine print on insurance is essential and helps in making efficient choices. To me the above fine print means I can use my card's CDW (the most expensive insurance component if buying from car rental companies) for practically all my rentals. The car rental counter guys know it too - when they see an Amex platinum in your wallet they will not even bother selling you CDW. If you rent a lot (which I do with over 130 days across 25+ rentals in last 1 year alone) then managing insurance in a cost-effective way can save you thousands of dollars. When there is any room for doubt I simply reserve from Avis' UK website where all kinds of coverage can be had for less than $10 a day as opposed to nearly $40 a day that the rental companies ask for at the counter.

Last edited by Cesc : 30th March 2017 at 20:08.
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Old 30th March 2017, 23:28   #14
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Default Re: USA: 5,700 mile road-trip in a Mazda 6

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Originally Posted by joelchandra View Post
Fantastic trip and there could not have been a better time for me to read this. I am moving to the US for good and was contemplating which car to buy and Mazda 6 was on my radar. While i drive an Innova Crysta here in India (which gives me supreme comfort), i did not find a similar car(fitting my budget) in the US and hence was looking at Camry, Mazda 6, Sonata etc.. . I love driving and love to haul miles. Reading your review gives me the confidence to go with a Mazda 6. Can you please write more about your experience with the car. Will be helpful.
I am glad I could help you with your decision at the right time. I am 6ft and I found the car spacious both at the front and at the back. The seats themselves were super comfortable and I can vouch for that after such long hours we put in. I drove 400 miles at a stretch and stopped only to refuel. Talking about the miles, we did push the car and yet it returned us 27 mpg which is amazing for a full size sedan. With normal driving I am sure 32 mpg is easily achievable. The car paired to all phones easily and the system itself was quite intuitive to use. I really like the knob selector akin to high end cars which was present near the gear lever. I used this knob more often than the steering mounted controls themselves. I am sure our rental wasn't the top end so it didn't come with some of the features like navigation and satellite radio which I think come with the top end model. The interiors and the dashboard especially was a real pleasant sight. The design is pleasing to the eye and everything was laid out ergonomically, something which can be overlooked in cars sometimes. The quality of materials also felt a notch above that of Camry/Fusion/etc. I sit at the lowest possible setting and the visibility was quite good even there. It's quite easy to find your comfortable driving position. Coming to the engine, I am sure you are aware of the specs but let me tell my two cents about its feel. It is not a power house but it will get the job done very well. It can do some pretty good speeds too. The transmission in automatic mode works brilliantly. The shifts happen when you want them to. In manual mode however, I was a little disappointed because I didn't get the kind of gear braking while downshifting that I expected. There is sport/normal mode selector which alters the gear shifts. The transmission is even more brilliant in sport mode and holds on to gears when you want it. It gets a little more aggressive than in the normal mode and I loved it while driving on the hills. With all the luggage and the full house inside the dynamics didn't change too much. What I liked most about the car was the manner in which it handled the speeds on mountain roads. Brakes also deserve a compliment. The trunk could swallow quite a bit of luggage (4 people's luggage for a week + 2X32 pack waterbottles). The door pockets also were spacious enough for 500 ml water bottles. I didn't try 1l bottles although it might fit in.

What I didn't like was that a fair bit of road noise filters into the cabin; sometimes I wondered if any of the windows were open. This particular model didn't have leather seats. I don't know if the top end comes with it but the fabric attracted quite a lot of dust which was difficult to clean. But then, we practically ate/lived in the car for 7 days which could've made it dirtier than what a regular could be subjected to before getting cleaned by the owner. Other than these negatives, the car performed beyond my expectations. I hope this helped. All the best for your move to the US
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Old 31st March 2017, 00:30   #15
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Default Re: USA: 5,700 mile road-trip in a Mazda 6

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Originally Posted by saishivaj View Post
I am glad I could help you with your decision at the right time. I am 6ft and I found the car spacious both at the front and at the back.
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I hope this helped. All the best for your move to the US
That was one awesome road trip saishivaj! Loved the pics! I stay in Dallas TX and I own a 2016 Mazda 6. I absolutely agree with all the details you have shared about the car. The car is an absolute delight to drive compared to any of its rivals like the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, Nissan Altima and Hyundai Sonata. The car is certainly not the best but I chose it because its better than most of its competitors. The gear box is very eager to upshift for gas mileage but if you don't want that use the sport mode (standard on all models), if you still don't like that it has a manual mode. I am happy that Mazda dint go with the CVT approach. The engine is sufficiently powered (2.5L 184HP) which gets you from point A to B with a smile on your face and at the same time being easy on the pocket. The Touring and above trim get the larger 19" alloys which add to the road noise significantly(but they look awesome). The suspension has a great balance between sporty and comfort. The interior space is good but not the best in class and I absolutely love the infotainment system on Mazda with the center knob selector and the 11 speaker Bose audio. The blind spot monitoring on the side mirrors is a big plus while driving on the highways especially during night or in rains.

Mazda has a huge potential to make better driving and equipped cars but still for some reason they don't sell good in the US. Its the best VFM but does suffer with the resale values.
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