Friday, November 16, 2007

Buying a car in Puerto Rico

It is a sad truth than when you live in Puerto Rico, outside of San Juan, which has some public communications in form of buses and a train, you need a car more than anything else (other than lodging, of course) .

It dawned on me already during my second day here, when I dropped off - at Aguadilla airport - my rental car, which took me from San Juan's airport to the west coast. The cost of a one day car rental from Hertz was $44 (with unlimited milage) + gas, the coast of a taxi ride from the nearest car rental to my new place ( less than 15 km) was $35!

It became even more obvious a few days later, when I wanted to visit a farmacy, a grocery store, etc. Puerto Rico - at least the part I live in (a rural area close to the beach between the municipalities of Rincon and Aguada) - is not walkable. The road is narrow, traffic fast and furious, no side walks of any kind + there is a new road or bridge construction going on on my way to anywhere, where driving alone is dangerous - since the part of the road that is open, is so narrow - and walking would be outright suicidal!

So for the last four weeks I was mostly stuck - and had to coordinate (read: beg) rides with colleagues who had cars and took pity on me - for the most pressing shopping trips.

Thus I soon started to look for a car, but first I had to make a decision of what type of car did I actually want, need, and was willing to purchase. Not having a car to take me to dealers I started looking at, a good place to find a lots of things: real estate, rentals, cars, both new and used, appliances, furniture, even jobs, if you wanted – or needed – to be gainfully employed here.

Well, if I were going to do a lot of mountain driving, the safest bet would be a jeep or something similar, I thought… and almost fell for a cute 2-seater, Suzuki Sidekick. But they cost a pretty penny here and - not being sure how long I would stay in Puerto Rico I preferred to avoid spending so much money for something I might need for 6 months or so and the hassle of having to sell it if/ when I decided to leave. When I was in the midst of hesitating, one of the colleagues offer to lend me her old car for a week or so, so that I could be temporarily unstuck and could go see several possible choices.

I accepted – and – after finding out that she was no longer using that car, and no longer needed it, I asked if she would sell it to me. She hesitated a bit, insisted that the car go first to a mechanic, who would thoroughly check it out and fix whatever might need to be fixed, so that I could avoid any unpleasant surprises, agreed to sell it to me after I drove it, inspected and fixed, for another two weeks or so, to be dead sure that I really wanted to buy it.

And in that way I became a – so far tentative – owner of an old, but in decent working condition - Chevy Lumina – for $700!

P.S. I noticed that this blog post is frequently accessed by people searching for buying a car in Puerto Rico and - since this car purchase was a bust, I would like to refer them to the blog of my once neighbor, Chris, who successfully bought a short-term car at first attempt, while for me it took two. And you might also check out the dilemma you might be facing, when you buy a car in PR, what to do with it once you decide to leave the island.

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