Saturday, March 17, 2012

Buying a Car

My husband drives 45 km outside of Riyadh to the desert where he works long hours in the sun, working on his solar project. It's a long drive and he, ever the independent, chafes at being unable to get around on his own schedule. (I have to say that I am dealing with not being able to drive FAR better than he could handle it.)

When we first arrived in Riyadh, my husband took a taxi a few times out to the solar village, but eventually, he got so annoyed with it and having to wait for our car allowance that he rented a car. This is completely out of character for him as he hates to spend money on things like that.
It took some time for our car allowance to be delivered. When it was finally deposited in our account, my husband was ready to go shopping THAT day.

We had done some online searching on a local "craigslist" type of service. We found a car that had potential, but the owner wasn't willing to barter about the price. Since his asking price was out of our budget, we walked away.

Just for kicks, we looked at a couple of car dealerships. Women are allowed to go in these dealerships, but I did get some funny looks from the salesmen when I went with my husband. I am sure the salesmen are used to western women having some knowledge about cars. I generally try not to think about not driving here--as it only serves to frustrate me. However, seeing those beautiful shiny cars, made me long to test out at least one car. I'm curious if it would be possible for me to drive out in the desert. Hmmm. . . must inquire further. We weren't really serious about buying a car at a dealership either. The prices were WAY out of our budget and it is silly to buy or lease a new car when you are only going to have it for a year.

Our next stop was a used-car dealership--where we found a place that had a car that met all our requirements: 7 seats, sturdy SUV body, and of course, a price that fit in our budget. The dealership told us they had two 2008 Nissan pathfinders parked in another lot that we could try. They gave us directions and off we went.

One thing you should know about Riyadh is that you can go from one fairly nice section, to being in a slum-like area within a few blocks. As we drove through the city, we began to see fewer "pretty" areas and started to get into a more "industrial" area. Finally, we found the lot, in this appalling quarter with rubbish piles everywhere. My father owns a construction company and I thought I was thoroughly versed in grease, grime, dirt and dust. I was wrong. For a former grease monkey, I found some of the lots appalling. Fortunately, the cars we wanted to look at were parked in a relatively clean shelter. Compared to the other lots, this particular lot could have passed the white glove test, figuratively (definitely NOT literally), but sometimes comparisons are helpful when you want to endure something.

We found the two Nissan Pathfinders and chose the car that looked in better shape. Dh test-drove the car around the block. Given our time and budget limits, we felt like this car would be fine.

My husband took me home and returned to the car dealership to buy the car. I thought he would drive home the new car that night. Not so. The car had to pass an inspection before we could pick it up. A few days later, we get a call from the place saying the tires were bad and so it didn't pass the inspection. We knew the tires needed replacing. We said, "replace the tires and we'll pay the additional money." Seems logical, right? Well, nothing is logical in this country. Rather than putting new tires on the car, they switched tires from the other Nissan to our car, temporarily, so it would pass the inspection. Then the brakes needed fixing. This time, they couldn't fake that repair and so actually did it.

Two weeks later, all the inspections were completed and we were allowed to pick up the car. We still need to get new tires, but we all fit, safely in the car. It has enough oomph to survive on the brutal streets, and if we are in a collision, I'm pretty sure we'll survive.

I much prefer buying a car in the U.S.


  1. Well, I certainly admire your strength for being willing to live in such a foreign place (as in, so different from here). I'm not sure I would have the fortitude. I think I would selfishly stay in the states and let my husband work there if that's what it came to for me. Sounds like a much more stressful experience than buying a car here, that's for sure.

  2. I have to be honest, I can deal with a lot--but living without my husband for a year? I'd be in the loony bin in a few months. I totally admire army wives.