“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