I was reading one of my favorite efficiency blogs, Lifehacker, recently and I saw this article about Ten Things You Should do When Shopping for a New Car…and I laughed out loud. I recently went through the process of buying a car in Venezuela and it was nothing like anything I have ever experienced in the US. In response to the Lifehacker article, I have made my own list of tips for owning a car in Venezuela.
Here are Ten Tips for Owning a Car in Venezuela:
1. Unless you know someone important, own a car dealership, or ship in the car yourself, there is a high probability that you will not be able to find a new car. I have driven all over this country and I have never seen a car dealership with new cars in it. In fact, every dealership I have seen is empty. This means you will be a slightly used or very well loved car.
2. Forget about Kelly Blue Book. My Dad loves to buy old cars and fix them up. In fact I know a lot of people that do this in Oregon. One of the first things my dad tells me to do is to look up the real value of the car in Kelly Blue Book. That doesn’t work here. In general, you will pay twice as much for a car in Venezuela as you would in the US because the cars are most likely imported and there is a very limited quantity.
3. There is no DEQ. After I buy a car in the states I would need to register my car with DEQ and see if it passes some kind of environmental test. No such thing here. This is how you find clunkers rattling down the street while emitting clouds of black nastiness everywhere from their exhaust pipes.
4. Have your mechanic on speed dial because the roads in Venezuela are brutal (not just referring to that time I was held at gunpoint either). The roads have horrible potholes, the sewers don’t always have their covers, the street lamps don’t always work, and sometimes the power goes out so the stoplights don’t work either.
5. Get a Ford or Toyota because finding other car parts is really difficult. In fact, finding any car parts can be difficult. Sometimes people go to the US and bring parts back in their luggage. Sometimes people have to stand in line for multiple days to get car batteries.
6. Get ready for all sorts of paperwork. I paid about$150 US for all of the papers I had to have transferred into my name.
7. Find a GPS with updatable Venezuelan maps or use Google Maps on your smart phone, because hardly any streets are named so finding your way can be really difficult. Also, be comfortable with getting lost because even Google fails sometimes.
8. Get insured for car theft because once you get a car people will try to take it away from you.
9. Use the little ice pick looking thing to jam your gearbox, plan on getting a car alarm, and get a dashboard camera and whatever other security device you can think of because people will want your car.
10. Learn to love giving rides, not just to be nice, but to dissuade potential car thieves by having multiple people in your car. Also, drive during the day in well populated areas. Be ready to think on your feet for the time when someone will try to steal your car and try to stay calm when it happens.
So yeah, owning a car in Venezuela isn’t all sunshine and roses, but it is still useful if you want freedom to get around and you don’t like feeling as if you have to rely on others to get you places.
Please comment! Have you owned a car in Venezuela before? Have you owned a car in a dangerous place before? Do you have any tips to add?