The car thing

How much time have I spent agonising over buying a bloody car???

It started back in the UK long before I left to come here. I had been researching my options and came across a blog written by Stephan –  a now returned VSO volunteer in Dar – who had bought and shipped a 4WD from UK. The advantage being that you can actually see it, buy it, then stuff it full of kit (like in Stephan’s case a windsurf board and a bike) before sending it off on a boat. Sounded like a plan. So I searched for weeks – on Autotrader mostly – even put an (unsuccessful) bid in on a small 4×4. But then I asked myself – did I need a 4×4 at all? – did I need to send lots of kit? – would there be anywhere to park it safely? – and what were the rules on import duty? –  and ultimately did I have time to be worrying about all this given that I was very busy trying to downsize my life to fit into an International Development Volunteer box. (Meanwhile some dude in Mayfair was calling me every other day to get me to buy exotic derivatives and make my fortune – possibly the subject of another post.)  So with an immense sense of relief I quit worrying about a car and got on with thinking about my life. Phew! And anyway I knew that you could order a secondhand car online from Japan so I could sort it all out later.

I suppose it was a displacement activity – to not have to think about this crazy notion of walking away from a secure £30k job with a pension plan and a few mortgages, and to definitely not have to feel the feelings of leaving loved ones, or feeling their pain. So it was good to let the car thing go. No – I would concentrate on getting the trappings of my former life distributed, negotiated, delegated, stored, sold, taken to the charity shop, semi-permanently lent, or chucked away. Which took quite a while. And had a lot to do with bags – lots of bags – I counted 17 bags in my flat at the peak bag period. I’m sure the good people of the OXFAM shop in Wythenshawe were getting close to asking me to stop going round there with ever more random things.

So here I am – sorting it all out later. Although to be fair I do feel that I gave the going away thing a fair shot, particularly given my long held but ultimately rather sad ‘wellll nobodys going to miss me really so I’ll just sneak off’ approach to goodbyes. An approach that I have struggled – with some success over recent years-  to get away from, and one that I put down to having been whisked away from every relationship that I ever had for the first ten years of my life by successive relentless ‘moving house’ events (five time in 10yrs across three nations some of them twice I calculate). So I did pretty good, what with two very thorough works leaving dos, and a loose schedule of penultimate and last meetings with loved ones. And I did get rid of almost all my shit. It did take a while to get into goodbye mode though –  I remember repeatedly answering the inevitable “what does it feel like to be leaving and going so far away” type questions with “to be honest I havent had time to think about, I’m so busy with all the minutiae of jabs (God the jabs – the 13 or was it 17 jabs?), and bags and flights and utility bills, and cars and shite.

My old UK car

Yes – so I’ve been here a month now and boy have I learnt a few things about buying cars online from Japan and shipping them to Tanzania.  I’m writing this occasionally flicking a glance down at my maibox indicator because I’m waiting for THE EMAIL – the one with the proforma invoice for the car that, after a month of research – including to my shame a full 8+ hour day, I intend to buy. Thats the kind of guy I am though – thorough! (anal would be unkind if perhaps a little too close to the truth). Sue, my son’s mum, was the wife – not that we ever married – to my Jack Sprat in that regard. She would buy the first washing machine she liked the look of in the first washing machine shop she happened to come across, whereas I would spend weeks researching washing machines including waiting a week while the local library internally transferred a copy of the relevant Which report, then having selected the perfect model – balancing technological advantages against cost, I would visit every shop within reasonable distance to establish the best deal. Hah!

So it turns out – perhaps unsurprisingly  – that there are a lot of sharks in the international secondhand car business. Some of the pitfalls are set out in useful googleable websites but it boils down to being really careful about picking a reputable established company using criteria like

  • whether they have a proper car showroom type operation with a solid address and landline phone numbers, not a webmail / mobile setup.
  • probably Japanese, as a few naughty Tanzanians are based in Japan and busy ripping off their unsuspecting compatriots,
  • ideally have membership of a Japanese trade body like JUMVEA,
  • can produce paperwork like the auction inspection report on demand
  • and their prices should not be outrageously low, remember the old adage if it looks too good to be true it probably is

The website that equates best to Autotrader is http://www.tradecarview.com  – they show searchable cars from a wide range of suppliers – SOME of whom are genuine!

So wheres that bloody email?

The one I want

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