“What brings you to Athens?” we asked.
“We are taking a cruise from here,” they answered, “How about you? Are you taking a cruise?”
“No, we are here to buy a car,” our response caused a collective intake of breath at their table.
“We live here,” we added, trying to put the answer in perspective. (Another audible intake from the foursome.)
|View of the Acropolis from the Electra Palace Hotel's rooftop restaurant/bar|
A Bit of Backstory
|Teeny, tiny rental cars work well on teeny, tiny roads|
We’ve been part-time ex pats for almost three years. During that time we’ve rented a variety of cars. Timing our stays with ‘off season’ tourism we've had some great rates. Sometimes as low as 15-euros a day for a tiny car to navigate tiny roads.
|You dread this but it happens and you must pass each other|
|The road to The Stone House on the Hill is getting worse, not better|
We needed a tiny SUV.
We hit a reality roadblock last autumn when we learned: we could buy a home in Greece on a tourist visa but we couldn't buy a car. We needed a resident permit before car dealers would talk to us. You regulars here know that we spent months on our ‘road-trip to residency’ , beginning it instead of the car search last September and ending it last June. Then we returned to the States.
Some of you've been with us long enough to remember that the car pictured below had come with the house when we purchased it but when it came time to register it in our names, it couldn’t be done. We sold it when its annual registration came around.
|"Our" Diahatsu came as part of the house purchase|
One Year Later. . . Autumn 2017Back on the hunt again and armed with our residency permits, we decided a used Toyota RAV 4 or a Suzuki Vitara would do the trick both in performance and price - and both models came with automatic transmissions. In addition to the purchase price and registration costs, Greece imposes an annual ‘road tax’ based on engine size and an additional ‘luxury tax’ on cars less than 10 years old. Gasoline prices are about $7 a gallon here. (Why used? The price of a new RAV ranges from 34,000 – 42,000 euros, that’s $39,434 – $48,712 – more than we planned to spend!).
It wasn’t long before we realized. . .
We Aren’t in Kansas Anymore, Toto!
|Roads in our area lead to delightful mountain villages|
There’s one major on-line used car site to which we were referred time and time again. So it became our search engine as it offered ads in both Greek and English. However we did have some translating of the translations to do:
“Living room: beige with skin” finally made sense: the car’s interior is beige with leather seats. Simple, right?
Some like this one left us wondering: “Special prices for unemployed triplets large.” (We didn’t pursue that one!)
Then came the matter of fuel options: diesel, gasoline AND propane; sometimes a combination of gas and propane were offered. Propane is commonly used to run autos in Greece. Whoa! We are talking a tank like that which holds fuel for the barbeque in the States. And you drive around with it in the back of your car! I read up on their fuel efficiency, safety and mileage BUT I couldn’t wrap my head around a high pressure tank of propane taking up space in the back of the car. (Before you ask: electric powered cars are not an option in rural Greece.)
So our requirements now included: gas or diesel fuel and an automatic transmission. We hoped one might be found among the 34 used RAV’s available throughout Greece on our trusty used-car website. There were fewer Vitaras.
While we were told Greeks don't drive automatics someone certainly is because several times in the course of the last few months, we'd 'find' a car, call and be told it was already sold. Or it was not yet on the lot. Or no one spoke English at the company and we didn't know if they had a car or not . . .this wasn’t going to be simple.
|34 Toyota RAVs were available throughout Greece - a pretty big stretch for a search|
Greece’s recent economic downslide has impacted car sales. We were told the numbers of annual new car sales have dropped to 80,000 from the 300,000 annually prior to 2008. But this drop in sales seems to have impacted all of Europe where business articles reported sales of 12.6 million cars in 2015 was two-thirds of sales in 2007. Car sharing, the economy and young people losing interest in cars were all cited as contributing factors to a decline in new car sales.
Bottom line: fewer new cars sold, fewer used cars available.
Third Time is a CharmFocusing on Athens and its suburbs, we had two unsuccessful ventures (both 'adventures' but I will spare you the unpleasant details) to look at cars. Bottom line: we couldn’t even find the lots – and yes, we were using GPS! Driving in Athens isn’t for sissies and finding a car lot was insanity at its finest moment. On both occasions we snarled and snapped at each other until we figured out how to get ourselves back to the freeway and returned to The Mani – in our rental car.
|Mr. Nikos and The Scout discuss cars at his AutoPark.gr sales lot in Glyfada|
|Hi Ho Silver and Away!|
It took two days to complete the registration and obtain the license plates and purchase car insurance. During that time staff members took turns driving us between the sales lot, the insurance office, and the Toyota dealership (where the car underwent a pre-sale check). They even dropped us off and picked us up from the tourist area of Glyfada so we could sightsee instead of sitting at the dealership while waiting for the car inspection to be completed.
It took two full days, but at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, we were heading back to The Mani in our car. Mission accomplished!
Hi Ho Silver and Away. . .The car’s silver color prompted my christening it, Hi Ho Silver. Inspired by a television show back in our childhoods that featured a ‘Lone Ranger' and his horse, Silver, (a fiery steed with the speed of light). The Lone Ranger would leap into the saddle and command, 'Hi Ho Silver and away!' (A phrase I plan on using each time we set off on a road trip to explore Greece and neighboring countries!)
That’s it for this week from The Stone House on the Hill. Thanks for joining us on yet another adventure in ex pat life in Greece. Hey, if any of you have an owners manual – in English – for a 2011 Toyota RAV4 laying around and want to send it to us, we’ll reimburse you for the postage!
Until we are together again, safe travels to you and yours. . . Hi Ho Silver and Away!!
Linking up this week with:
Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Travel Photo Thursday –
Weekend Travel Inspiration
This was quite the adventure! Enjoy your excursions with Hi Ho Silver.ReplyDelete
We hope to have many adventures in it Donna. And speaking of adventures, sounds like your new housesitting adventure will be great!! Good luck to you~Delete
I see how you become emotionally attached to your cars. What an adventure, just to find a car! And it already has a name! You can find owner manuels on ebay and amazon and other sites, prices can be a little stiff sometimes but they are out there. And then add shipping. Can you get Amazon Prime (free shipping) in Greece?ReplyDelete
You can be an Amazon Prime customer here but shipping to and from Greece is never free. It is breathtaking. And having a manual on line is great when you are somewhere that you could access it - but we need the old paperback version that can be pulled out in hill towns and back roads (and I have a friend ordering one for me next week. . .we'll pick it up in January).Delete
You will be very happy with your RAV 4! I've had one since 2007 and love it!ReplyDelete
Thanks Doreen. Everyone to a person who has a RAV raves about it. Think we will do the same!Delete
You can't drive a manual transmission? Whhhaaatt???ReplyDelete
No and I certainly wouldn't on these narrow, hair-pin turn roads where you may encounter a herd of goats or a dump truck passing a bus as you round the corner. Even Joel has says driving is much easier with the automatic here (and I never thought he'd say that!)Delete
You know I had never thought about the price of gas in dollars. That is a lot!! I'm glad you were finally able to find a car and what a beauty it is. Enjoy your Lone Ranger car on your adventures. I also remember the show!ReplyDelete
We were happy it came in silver as we've noticed the primary color choices here are black (which feels hot and dreary to me), white and silver. Guess it was meant to be. . .and yes, gas prices here are a bit breathtaking! Thanks for the visit~Delete
What an interesting story. I do hope you enjoy many adventures away in Hi Ho Silver!ReplyDelete
Thanks Carole! If we like it as much as others who rave about their RAVs do, I think we'll have done well!Delete
Oh the joys of expat living, just when you think you have it sorted, life throws you another wobbly. having said that bet you love Hi Ho Silver all the more because of the adventure to get here - happy travels!ReplyDelete
Thanks for the lovely comment! I guess Hi Ho brought us an adventure when we went in search of him. . .thanks for pointing that out! xxxDelete
Phew!! What a rigmarole!! SO happy you finally have a car. :-)ReplyDelete
Yes! House, permit and car. . .let the good times begin!Delete
HaHa! I know that snarling and snapping between driver and navigator when you're driving in a foreign country! (We take turns driving which makes each of us a little kinder & gentler.) Lucky for us, we both know how to drive a manual because automatic transmission cars are outrageously expensive here in Portugal. So glad you had luck on your 3rd try at finding a car and that it will be the three of you, The Lone Ranger, Tonto and 'Hi Ho Silver away' in the Mani!ReplyDelete
Surprisingly the automatics weren't more expensive here but they were like looking for a needle in a haystack! Yes, it is nice to have that checked off the to do list, which leaves us pretty much without any pressing 'to do's' any longer!Delete
I never imagined that purchasing a car abroad could be so daunting! Thanks for sharing your experience!ReplyDelete
I think it is one thing to talk of being an ex pat and another to be one. Those who are 'fed up with the U.S.' and we've heard from many, often say they are moving out of the country. Unless they are prepared, financially, mentally and physically, I don't think they will last long as ex pats. ;-)Delete
WOW...what an ordeal just to buy a car. So glad you are now car owners.ReplyDelete
Now I am wondering if your road will be repaired.....
Believe me, if and when that road gets repaired, it will get a whole blog post all its own!!Delete
A bit of a rocky ride finding your car, but it will be worth it now that you can explore all that fabulous Greek countryside!ReplyDelete
And we are setting out today to do just that! Thanks much for the comment Karen!Delete
my goodness, I had no idea it would be such a process to buy a car in Greece. Interesting to hear that less young people are buying cars these days. I guess the amount of traffic on the roads is a problem and the cost of fuel? Whereas in Australia we have huge distances to travel and everyone has a car. Have fun "hi ho Silver"!ReplyDelete
Jill - that is much as it was in the States, at least in our former area. Mass transit there still can't compete with the ease of it in Europe so a car is a necessity. Thanks much for commenting and see you soon at your 'place'Delete
Toyotas rock! Great purchase! Thanks for the insight on how things work in Greece. The part of being able to buy a house but not a car sounds crazy. Maybe dealers should ask for a change in law since their business are being affected (in some way). #TPThursdayReplyDelete
We are learning the wheels of government turn slowly here and maybe they've already sought a change. In any event, Hi Ho Silver and away!! Thanks for stopping by!Delete
I loved Silver and the Lone Ranger. Good choice of name. Everything is coming together nicely!ReplyDelete
Well as we say here, Siga, Siga (see-GAH, see-GAH) slowly, slowly we seem to be putting together the new chapter!Delete
Hello, what an ordeal buying and looking for your car. I am glad you found the cute silver Toyota. I hope now with the road tax you have to pay they fix your street to your house. Have a happy day and week ahead.ReplyDelete
Glad to read that you finally have wheels that you can both drive. I don't drive an automatic either and wanted to rent a car in Portugal the other winter, but like you said, the cost of renting an automatic is steep. Even coming back to Canada and buying a car was a bit of an adventure. Although I could drive on Korean license for 90 days, I discovered after I purchased the vehicle that I could not insure the care using my Korean license. I had to do some scurrying and a bit of fibbing to get my license changed pronto. Thanks for linking up this week. #TPThursdayReplyDelete
What I meant to say was I don't drive a standard!ReplyDelete
Some similarities in our stories. We chose British Columbia instead of Greece. We could spend a total 6 months in a rolling year so when we retired we applied for residency, a two year wait. Now we are ready to apply for dual citizenship. A customs agent once teased BC stood for bring cash. Even as visitors we were able to buy a home (in fact two, one a float cabin and one a condo) and a car. Except for driving in downtown Vancouver it's small towns and easy to use roads. We did buy a 4x4 truck for offroad driving and to haul our boat trailer and quad trailer. Now we have more property in Canada than the States. - MargyReplyDelete