Shopping for Wheels

Now that we are basically settled in our rental home, we have decided it is time to move to the next step of grown-up residency – owning wheels. We have been renting cars when we’re here and it’s really ridiculously expensive. We have long been discussing how to approach the car issue. As you all know – and have all mocked me for – I have driven Milly the Smart Car for many years. I loved her and felt totally safe and comfortable squeezing into tight spots and parking in crazy places. My favorite was the time I parked in the covered shopping cart spot at WalMart. It was Christmas season, which meant all the shopping carts were in the store full of toys and turkeys. Why waste a perfect Smart size parking spot? We have taken Milly to the mountains packed down with ski equipment on more than one occasion – once she sadly returned on the back of a tow truck. But mainly she has been my source of independence and a worthy companion. We had not decided if she would come with us south. German cars are not generally welcome in Mexico and I can’t imagine driving her all that way. She would probably fit in the back of the truck with our belongings but when would that happen?

A Milly Sandwich - RIP

A Milly Sandwich – RIP


Before we had made the decision, God/fate/Saskatchewan icy roads/traumatized friends stepped in and made the decision for us. Milly is now in Car heaven, revving her motor with the best of them.



So now what? Grant began by researching every vehicle in Mexico. Literally. I want a small car or SUV. He wants a big old truck that can haul his trailer full of tools. I want something pretty and fun. He wants something manly and hardworking. I want an automatic gas vehicle. He wants a diesel manual. We both want room to haul children and visitors. So we have made the marriage-saving decision to buy 2 vehicles. While I know we could easily make one vehicle work, I don’t want to be trapped at home when he starts building.

Apparently even the vehicles here come with their own chickens!

After perusing every online ad we could find, we decided to start by checking out all the used car lots in the area. Generally, vehicles are cheaper in Guadalajara, but I wanted to see what we could find locally. And BAM! I found exactly what I wanted – a baby-blue convertible Volkswagen beetle. After doing some price comparisons online, we decided this was a decent deal. Now we are risk-takers but we certainly weren’t going to buy a car without getting it checked over by a mechanic. How would we possibly figure out that process? I emailed our go-to buddies, Pastor Fredy and Pastor Gregory and asked if they knew of a trustworthy mechanic and of course they came through. Fredy told us that a mechanic would be at the church the next morning to look over all the church vehicles. So we went to the car lot, shoved the salesman in the tiny back seat, put down the convertible roof and cruised to the church to meet Francisco the mechanic. We received a good report and decided this was the car to replace Milly (R.I.P.).

The next tricky issue was to get the money together. There was no way to get money from our Canadian bank to the car dealership except the old-fashioned way – withdraw cash from an ATM at the Mega store. So we maxed out the daily limit on 5 credit cards two days in a row until we had the needed giant pile of cash. In 2016 there really has to be a better way! Once my purse and Grant’s pockets were bulging, we snuck around Mega store, taking sharp turns around corners to ensure no one was following us.   As if Mexican cartel banditos were hiding in the fruit department of Mega grocery store spying on old, sunburned gringos.

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The car had a couple of things that needed checking and the mechanic had suggested a tune-up, so we were told we could pick her up at 1:00 on Thursday.   Now I totally didn’t believe it would be ready at 1:00 but we went to the lot – come back at 6:00 they told us. At 6:00 we arrived with our giant and secure Ziploc bag full of cash to complete the transaction. After the ceremonial counting of the cash, we were given a receipt and all of the original titles and paperwork. We knew the car had originally come from the USA but we did not know that it had never been licensed in Mexico before. The salesman had promised he would help with the licensing process, but he definitely had not mentioned that we would have to go through the whole process of getting it licensed in a new country. I see a bureaucratic nightmare in our future.

By about 7:00 we started getting nervous. Two business type men had shown up and driven away with our cash but our car was still nowhere in sight. It was still at the mechanic’s shop – on its way any second they said. The dealership lights went out, everyone started leaving. Our salesman told us “Follow that guy in the white truck, he’ll take you to your car”. Now that didn’t sound like a good plan to me – but I really wanted to see my car since my money was long gone. We backed out of the lot, prepared to follow the random guy in the white truck….. and it was nowhere in sight. So now the money is gone with the business guys, the white truck that knows where our car is has left us behind, the salesman has gone home, and we are standing at the side of the road in the dark wondering what the heck is going on. I did have the cell phone number for Pepe, the dude who had taken my car to the mechanic’s shop and I called him with just a hint of panic. He told us he was on his way and within a couple of minutes my new car pulled up alongside us, ready for me to drive her home.

We verified that it would be okay to use the dealership permit until we got our own plates the next morning (Oh definitely!) and that their insurance would cover me in an accident on my way home (Oh no… there’s no insurance on this car. You have to get your own but the insurance office closes at 2:00). I KNOW I NEED INSURANCE BUT YOU TOLD ME TO COME AND GET THE CAR AT 6:00 AND I WOULD HAVE A TEMPORARY PERMIT AND I WOULD TAKE THE CARD HOME AND YOU WOULD HELP ME GET ALL THE PAPERWORK DONE TOMORROW!!!!!   But senora, the insurance office closed at 2:00 – you can’t get insurance now.  Yeah ….. I got that…..

So no way am I driving a new car home without insurance. It’s Mexico people – there are crazy drivers and mountainous speed bumps and a variety of loose farm animals and chickens – I am not sending another good friend to Car heaven without insurance. So we headed home with no money and no car, trusting that tomorrow would be a better day.

To be continued…..

Today was indeed a much better day. It is so true that everything looks better in the daylight and that held for us and our car-buying adventure. Now I’m not saying everything went smoothly today – we still spent 3 or 4 hours going from office to office. I’m not even saying it’s all done. We are still waiting for our final registration and plates which will take another week. But we have a temporary sticker and I am driving my own car. Is there a moral to this story? Well, life in Mexico is not easy. Bureaucracy sucks. Mexican time is unpredictable. Speaking Spanish is really important. Convertibles are fun to drive and now I can do it all year round. Insurance offices close too early. Life is the place where patience gets you through or frustration takes you out. If you love where you are and what you’re doing, it’s all worth it!

It's all worth it!

It’s all worth it!

Guess I better learn to drive here!

Guess I better learn to drive here!