Ivan's Salty Lemons

The Joys of Purchasing a Car in Grand Cayman

Man has always been on the move. Eventually, his feet became tired and his back ached. He thought there must be an easier way. His solution, he created the 2007 Ford Taurus.

Here on Grand Cayman, we are no different. We needed to buy a car and our experience has taught us firsthand, there are several very important steps in purchasing your first vehicle on island.

#1 – Get a Drivers License

Upon our second day on island, 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 eCaytrade.com, car dealerships, and any free space alongside any road.

eCaytrade.com (not 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 was pretty indicative of my general views about negotiating with car dealerships. I walked over to the Nissan, turned the keys, no reaction. Very similar to my interactions with girls in college. The ignition didn’t even try to roll over. The assistant salesperson seated under the tin awning a 100 yards away, slowly stood up probably expecting this to happen, 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 with the nagging fear in the back of my mind that this reliable automobile was going to randomly stall.

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. I put about as much faith in that as I do the New Mexican education system.

#3 – Test Drive that Bad Boy!

Once you find a car in your price range and actually get 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 (You got to read the Beer Advocate descriptions of this 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 imploded once the mechanic shared his professional opinion, and we found out the real state of this piece 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 living 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. A positive economical point, it stimulates the need for mechanics. They will never go hungry from a lack of work here.

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

Once you have that one special vehicle, the one that makes your eyes twinkle, it’s pretty 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 return to that mechanic for costly repairs. It’s job security for the mechanic.

#7 – 2007 Ford Taurus

Purchasing a Car in Grand Cayman
She Cleans Up Nicely

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, Ivan’s saltiest lemons. Looked beautiful, but under the hood, they were rusty like the bottom side of an Ironshore beer can.

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.

We named her “Turbo“. Just like the movie.

Oh, we didn’t want to deal with taking it to the mechanic this time. We just went with our gut feelings here. Our gut never lets us down. Except for that one time I had that really bad fish in PerĂº. But that is besides the point, I am not in PerĂº now.

Within hours, the rusty antenna fell off with a little six-years old’s help. 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. I tell you, I follow my gut.

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.

Oh, you say you needed a ride? Sorry, it’s currently at the mechanic being fixed.

Purchasing a Car in Grand Cayman
She Cleans Up Nicely

World Traveller, Father, Husband, Coach, Spanish & French Teacher, Polyglot, Funny as all get out

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