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Ivan's Salty Lemons

Community Highlights Long Term Travel Ivan's Salty Lemons

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Man has always needed to advance from one spot to another.

Here on Grand Cayman, we were no different. We decided to buy a car, and as we have learned firsthand, there are several very important steps in purchasing your first vehicle on island.

#1 - Get a Drivers License

On our second day, we headed over to the DMV, took our drivers exam. Passed it with flying colors. As long as you consider flying colors getting help from the officer in the testing room. Done.

#2 - Scour the Island for a Suitable Vehicle

Three places sell cars: online at, car dealerships, and any free space alongside the road. to be confused with the much larger eBay), sells anything you could imagine. Everyone selling a vehicle lists it on eCay. Half of the cars that we test drove, were found there.

The only car I test drove at a dealership was pretty indicative of my views about them. I walked over to the Nissan, turned the keys, nothing. The ignition didn't even try to roll over. The assistant salesperson seated under the tin stand a 100 yards away, slowly stood up, and walked over with jumper cables in hand. Not the most promising sign. Before you could say "This battery is not of very good quality", the car had been jumped and I was off racing around town. Our eagerness to have some transportation was obvious by the fact that I brought Nadine and the kids to test drive the same car a second time. And a second time, the car had to be jumped. The salesperson promised that would put a new battery in it. Yeah right! That's about as likely as a New Mexican running a silverware plant.

The 2007 Ford Taurus Strikes Back

#3 - Test Drive that Bad Boy!

Once you find a car in your price range and actually are able to get a hold of someone on the phone, then you test drive that car like it's no one's business. Most importantly, you don't buy a car that was on island during Hurricane Ivan as the majority of cars were underwater. As I did, you check every little crevasse, examine the trunk, stare intently at everything under the hood, kick the tires twice just to be sure, cross your arms and scratch your chin, and audibly say "hmmmm" just so they know you just aren't quite sure the quality of this transportation. This is a very important step in any car buying experience. None of this is as important as #5. After all the posturing, you calmly ask, and not like you really need someone else's opinion, "Can I have a mechanic look over it, because it looks great to me and if everything checks out, we'll buy it for $2,000, a dozen conch shells, 48 coconuts, and a twelve pack of Ironshore Bock beer."

#4 - Verify with a Mechanic

Nadine and I had found a couple of cars that fit all of our requirements. Four wheels, cup holder (Sophie and Dominic's request), working cd player, and A/C that was a cold as the other side of the bed. All the posturing about my car knowledge blew imploded once the mechanic shared his professional opinion, and we found out the real state of those pieces of machinery. Every time, the mechanic looked at us sadly and stated, "There is no way I would buy that car John. I might pay a maximum . . . . $500. Also John, I wouldn't buy anything other than Japanese on this island. That is my one piece of advice from my experience here.". With that, we returned to step #2.

#5 - Let's Make a Deal

Find that one special car that makes your eyes twinkle. They list it at $5,000, you offer $500, both parties go back and forth until you reach that middle point, $4,500. You give them the money, grab the keys, drive off and tell yourself, "We really got a steal." Actually, this is an island where old cars don't lose value. There's not enough cars to replace them. Plus, mechanics will never go hungry from a lack of work.

#6 - Of Course Your Car is Going to Break Down

Once you have that one special vehicle. It's important to drive it. The island initiation to having a new car is that in the first week, it will break down at some point and you have to make repairs.

#7 - 2007 Ford Taurus

What actually happened:

  • After a month and a half of a rental car (You're welcome Thrifty), we test drove 12 cars. The two we considered buying turned out to be lemons. Looked beautiful, but under the hood, they were crap.
  • An accountant was leaving the island heading back to London and was looking to sell rather quickly, the car handled the roundabouts just fine. I liked the color. Nadine liked it, it was same make of her very first car. The kids liked it because it had several cup holders.
  • We made a deal, bought the 2007 Ford Taurus, officially passed the title over to us, and it was our island car. Oh, we didn't want to deal with taking it to the mechanic this time. We just went with our gut feelings here.
  • Within hours, the rusty antenna fell off. Returning from work Friday night (we bought it Thursday), we stopped at the store, came back out and it wouldn't start. We had to have the battery replaced the next day.
  • Within a week, the car was making a very annoying squeaking sound. Maybe that was the car's way of making music since our radio was broken and we don't have any cds.
  • It was a tiring month and a half experience, but we now have a car. It's gets us around Grand Cayman.

Where is it right now you might ask? It's currently at the mechanic being fixed.

This featured blog entry was written by TulsaTrot from the blog Globetrotting Around the World.
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By TulsaTrot

Posted Wed, Oct 23, 2013 | Cayman Islands | Comments