Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Buying a Car in Saipan

As Emily mentioned in her previous post, we are now the proud owners of a blue 1997 Jeep Cherokee. I purchased it from our dive instructor Joe, who is leaving Saipan for Australia on Friday. We were able to work out a payment schedule and a price that we both found suitable and he's going to deliver the Jeep to us on Thursday.

I must say that buying a car on this island has been an interesting experience.

We could have gone the new car route. There are several dealerships on island. Microl corporation sells Toyotas, Joeten Motors sells Nissans and Fords, and Triple J Motors sells Ford, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Kia, Hyundai, Isuzu, Suzuki, Subaru, Lincoln, Mercury, Volvo, Bluebird, and Daedong.

New cars are much more expensive here than they are on the Mainland, plus Emily and I weren't interested in a five year loan commitment, so that pretty much left us with used cars.

Buying a used car on this island is truly an adventure.

The three major car dealers sell used cars, plus I think that there are several other smaller used car lots on island. Although these dealerships sell a lot of used cars, most of the used car business is done on an indivual basis. There are a few places around the island that serve as unofficial used car lots. The main one is the Garapan Fishing Base in front of Christo Rai church.

Car owners park their car there in the hopes that somebody will see it and want to buy it.

Other popular places are anywhere along Beach Road, in the Joeten parking lot, and in Susupe near Kilili Beach.

Some people will just park their car on the side of the road in some random spot on the island, even a road with very little traffic. Today I saw a car parked in San Vicente on the grass. It wasn't in a parking lot or in front of a store. It was just parked on some grass in the hopes that somebody would drive by and purchase it.

The other good place to look for a used is garagesale.saipan.com. There are usually a handful of used cars added to the list every day.

One thing I've noticed about buying a used car on this island is that people have unrealistic ideas of how much their car is worth. For example, when we first got here, I test drove a Toyota pickup that was sitting in front of Christo Rai church. The owner listed the price as $5000.

The first thing I noticed about the car was that it had recently been painted. That's always a bad sign. Then I noticed that the door handle was missing, the bumper was falling off, the windshield was cracked, the window tint was bubbling and peeling, the cabin was a mess, the seats were stained, and the radio and antenna were missing. I told the guy that he'd be lucky to get $1000 for the truck, but that I would give him $1500. He said that he wouldn't take less than $4000.

I wished him luck, because, my god, he was going to need it.

Almost everybody tries to tell you the Kelly Blue Book value of their cars. More specifically, they try to tell you the Kelly Blue Book value of their car if was actually in good condition and if it were in California.

You see, Kelly Blue Book doesn't value cars in Saipan. For good reason, too. Cars here get beat up. REALLY beat up. You are never more than 2 1/2 miles from the ocean (AND I MEAN NEVER) and the hills and the roads are so extreme that your car gets worked. In addition to that, everything is so close that you don't really have to drive very far to get anywhere, so even if your car only has 40,000 miles on it, you've started and restarted your car many more times than the average car with 40,000 miles on it.

All that brings down the value of a car, but don't try to tell the people trying to sell you a used car. They'll just ignore what you say and bring up the Kelly Blue Book price again (and maybe tell you that cars are more valuable in Saipan).

Unfortunately, NOT owning a car really isn't an option unless you are going to live and work within Garapan, Chalan Kanoa or Susupe. There is no public transportation and the terrain is so hilly that you'd either become an Olympic bike rider or get really tired and go home.

The situation works out really well for the garment factory workers. They go straight from their barracks to the factory and then back at the end of the day. But if you're reading this blog online, chances are that you might want to do more with your life when you are on Saipan.

You might want to go to the beach, visit your friends and family, or maybe even go out to a bar once in a while. You'll need a car to do that.

I think we got lucky. I'll let you know if the Jeep is still running in six months.


tetricus said...

My environmentalist friend is driving a jeep? Hmm I guess if it is that hilly, then it might be justified. Orlando Amy, on the other hand, I will continue to snicker about privatly (Honda Pilot!).

Emily said...

Believe me, it's that hilly

Emily said...

We also needed either a truck or an SUV for when we begin work on the you-know-what

ugh, yard work...

Anonymous said...

Excellent car buying, Saipan style!
Good for you Angelo and Emily!
---proud Dad