An American Buying a French Car in Germany – Part 1

Thrifty Travel Mama | Expat Life - Buying A CarWe bought a zoo!!

I mean, we bought a car!!  And it was a real circus show, let me tell you.  Or better yet, I’m going to have Doc Sci tell you.

Other than doing countless hours of research and going with him to two car dealerships and test driving the car we finally bought, I had little to do with the whole shebang.  As such, I asked him to type up a rundown of the events so I could recap them for you here.

As I read over his notes, I couldn’t stop cracking up.  He’s been mentioning doing a guest post for a while now.  And I thought to myself, hey, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

(Well, I might fix a few things here and there.  My editing self just can’t help it.)

So, (mostly) in the words of Doc Sci, here is how we bought our zoo, er I mean car…

While it wasn’t quite as adventurous or glamorous as a Matt Damon movie, it was still quite the ordeal.  When deciding to go down this road of becoming expat car owners, we set an ideal price point and an absolute max price point.  The only cars we could afford in this range were kept in back lots behind gas stations, in alleys, and between other less than reputable buildings.

The first lot we visited was full of beaters.  Several guys ran their operation from a rusted out trailer on the fenced-in grounds.  These dudes sported fanny packs stuffed full of car keys, wads of cash, AK47s, and who knows what else.

We (and I mostly mean my wife) tried to keep an open mind.  We had hauled our three kids down here on a Saturday morning.  We were darn well going to at least look at the car we came to see.

It was cherry red – spankin’ fantastic from the outside.  The inside, however, had a healthy coat of dog hair and dust, and the engine made an impressive ticking noise.  All this, and most likely more, for the low price of 5000 euros.

When looking around online, we had seen that this particular dealer actually had two cars we were interested in but only one was visible on the lot.  We cautiously inquired about the other car.  “Oh, that car is in France right now.”  Wait, what?

Only then did we realize that at least a third of the cars on the lot had French license plates.  And some were rusted, burned, or visibly broken down.  Must’ve been some kind of “family” establishment if you know what I mean, but it was definitely not the kind of place I wanted to have my family hanging around.  We got the heck outta dodge.

On the way home, we wondered how on earth we were going to find a car that fit our criteria (could squeeze three car seats in the back, not too long, easy to parallel park, not too expensive, not too many kilometers) with little time to look or resources with which to pay.  We thought, well, I guess we’ll just have to pray for one.

And whaddya know, that night, we found the exact car we had hoped for, in our price range, and it was an automatic!  I probably don’t have to tell you how rare those are in Europe.  Yes, we are that immigrant family buying a cheap used car from a back lot and hoping against hope that it might just be an automatic because we’ve never driven our American selves around in standard style.

We called the dealer (who just happened to not speak English) and told him we’d come look at the car on Tuesday morning.  He assured us that he opened at 9am.

We showed up at 10am.  No dealer.  We waited over an hour for this guy to roll up in his tricked out VW Touareg.  Since he wasted half of our haggling time sleeping or getting his nails done, we skipped straight to the test drive, strapping our almost-frozen baby in the backseat.  Big Foot slept through the whole thing, clueless as to how his parents were floundering in the front seat with their pathetic German.

And that pesky little language barrier proved to be quite the problem when we finally decided we would buy this car.  The dealer was also a foreigner with not-so-stellar German skills.  We ended up having at least four friends phone this guy at different times to negotiate, clarify, and confirm.

In the end, I decided to take it for one more test drive before signing on the dotted line.  This time, I left the baby and my wife at home and brought a professional translator with me.  I say professional because anyone with an Aussie accent is definitely the real deal.

On this test drive, I could’ve stolen the car.  The guy just let us go and asked that we return in 10 minutes.  No driver’s license check.  No I-keep-your-passport-while-you-take-my-car.  Maybe he also had an AK47 up his sleeve, but what do I know.  I’m only an engineer.

The car seemed to good to be true.  The whole time, I feared being taken for the proverbial ride.  The fact that this  car was also from France didn’t help.  But Slick Dealer assured me everything would be fine and offered to go with me to the registration office.  However, no one was going anywhere without cash.  I signed a contract agreeing to buy the car, and we set an appointment for Monday morning to seal the deal…

Stay tuned for Part 2 of our story of buying a car in Germany!Signature-Marigold


7 thoughts on “An American Buying a French Car in Germany – Part 1

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