This is part two of Doc Sci’s adventure in buying our new car! You can read Part 1 here.
On the appointed day, I was on the bank’s doorstep bright and early. I got my baller roll of 100 dolla bills. Except in euros they have 500 dolla bills y’all.
The big money is kept in a vault, so if you need those 500 dolla (okay, okay, they are euro) bills, you must wait several minutes. The lock is on a timer – presumably long enough that an employee could press an alarm and the Polizei could arrive before the bandit made off with the loot.
So after the obligatory wait and with 5 grand in my backpack, I set off – on the bus – to buy a car. I gave Slick Dealer the cash, and he promptly put it in his safe a.k.a his jacket pocket. The dude had way more 500 dolla bills too. A serious baller roll, no joke.
We then climbed into his custom leather seats and took a long, awkward 30-minute drive to the registration office (called the Bürgeramt in Germany). On the way into the building, he saw no less than 4 people he knew.
Like all government offices, visitors must take a ticket: first-come, first-served. The place was packed. So Slick Dealer hit up one of his pals for a ticket, which reduced our wait time to 15 minutes instead of over an hour. The actual registration of the car took longer than usual because of the French title, but thank God it turned out to be a legit (as in not stolen) vehicle.
Finally, I paid 42 euros and was given my registration, license plate number, and a green sticker to put on the inside of windshield on the passenger side.
The green sticker is very important. Next year, our city is requiring all cars that drive in the city center to have these stickers that indicate an acceptable level of emissions and environmental pollution. Without a sticker, drivers will have to stay out of the city center or pay a fine if caught. Old cars obviously have a hard time getting these, and so do diesels.
Speaking of old cars, we learned that there is a tax each year on your car which is based on how old the car is as well as how big the engine is. At some point, it just gets too expensive to drive an old beater because the taxes cost way more than the car is even worth.
Taxes are paid to the government via bank transfer. In order to register the car, you must give them your bank account number, and sign a piece of paper authorizing the direct debit of the taxes (paid yearly).
Anyway, I took my newly registered paperwork down to the the license plate shop. Surprise, surprise, Slick Dealer knew the woman behind the counter. They had a nice chat, and she only charged me half price for the plates. At least dealing with this guy had some benefits.
We then got back in his ride for another long, awkward drive back to the car that I now own. I hesitantly drove it off the lot, double and triple checking traffic, lights, and signs because this is no rental. I own this clunker and am responsible for anything that happens.
Smarty pants Slick Dealer didn’t put any gas in the tank, so I had to stop off to fill ‘er up. I watched the gauge go up, up, up, and at 70 euros I had to shut it off because I couldn’t stomach paying more than that for a single tank of gas.
Since I only ride my bike around our city, I had no idea how to get home from the gas station. Thank goodness for Google maps and a smartphone (which, by the way, just happens to be about the only thing that is cheaper in Germany than in America).
As I’m driving, I realize that all the controls and dashboard messages are either in French or in German. The car paperwork is missing the code necessary to change languages. Guess I’ll be giving Slick Dealer a call once again.
This car might be cheap in price, but it’s wicked loaded with electronics. Halfway home my rear end was so sweaty I had to pull over and figure out how to turn off the butt warmers. It also took me five minutes to figure out the windshield wipers, and another ten to make heads or tails of the key. It’s actually the size of a credit card and looks like large keyless entry remote, only you stick the whole thing in a slot and then push a big Stop/Start button to turn the car on and off. It’s like I need a PhD or something just to own this ride.
In the end, I’m glad it seems our adventure with Slick Dealer was just that – an adventure instead of a nightmare.
Note from Thrifty Travel Mama: Thanks, Doc Sci for taking time out of your research schedule to write this guest post! Oh and in case you’re dying to know, our car really is French not only in previous ownership but in make and model (Renault Scenic). We like to keep things multicultural around here!