Chris’ summary of buying a car here, in our experience:
“We’d like to buy a car, please.”
“Haha, LOL, good luck.”
So, as you may remember we are shipping our minivan to Sicily. It is on a boat somewhere in the Atlantic right now, I assume. Ever since we’ve arrived, we’ve been been looking for an island beater — preferably a small, four-door automatic car for cheap. In the mean time, we’ve been using a rental car provided by our hotel. Chris has tested a couple, but we haven’t been overly worried because hey, we still have weeks, right?
Uhhhhhh suddenly, without realizing it, we are basically almost out of time. We move Monday. And we still don’t have a car.
We really didn’t expect it to be this difficult, but we’ve been running into roadblock after roadblock. And reached record levels of paranoia, haha. The issues:
1) Conflicting advice
So, basically almost everyone we talk to here has different recommendations for how to go about finding a car, what kind of car to get and how much to spend. So, as a result we are baffled as to who/what to believe. Some people have told us to only get an Italian car to blend in, others tell us a newer American car is the way to go because it more likely had regular maintenance done. Some say buy the cheapest, oldest car because it is going to get beat to shit anyway; others say a newer one is a better bet for reliability. Some say you should only buy already denationalized cars (cars sold to Americans have to be “denationalized,” then can only be sold to Americans after) from another foreigner, others say the denationalization process is no big deal and don’t worry about it. Some say a warranty is a must, others say a warranty is total bullshit anyway. Two dealers have come recommended by some, but not by others, and both bad-mouth each other.
So we have no idea who to believe.
We are having a very difficult time just finding cars to choose from, to start. There are a couple of websites for Americans selling to others, but the good ones go fast. There are dealers in town, but only a couple that speak English. Getting answers from them can be … tricky. Quite frequently a couple of them have told us they were getting something in “tomorrow” or “later this week” that somehow don’t quite materialize. In another instance, we were given vague reasons given why we couldn’t take the car somewhere else for an inspection before buying. Greaaaaat. Part of the problem is our parameters, of course: I want us to have an automatic because while Chris could happily drive a stick, I am not good at it and don’t want the anxiety that comes with it.
3) Outrageous prices, and paranoia
So while it seems easiest to buy from an American leaving the base — no language barrier, no 10-day waiting period for denationalization — we have thus far been fairly shocked by prices. A recent example? A 1989 Renault for $3,000. For a car practically as old as I am. I mean, you can make the argument that it is a classic but come on.
Another problem is that we recently learned that rolling back a car’s odometer is very common here. One of the dealers told us he saw 30 cars one day, and all but four had rolled-back odometers. So now any time we see a car with low mileage and a reasonable price, we are extremely suspicious instead of considering it promising.
Of course, every salesperson we talk to has a lovely story about how it belonged to a little old lady who didn’t drive much. Chris: “There can’t possibly be this many little old ladies who just so happen to want to sell to Americans …”
At the same time, however, we don’t want a car with too many miles either. So, we are looking for a magical car with not too many miles, but also not so few that it seems suspicious. As far as I can tell, it is basically like hunting for a unicorn.