We wanted to live without a car but we chose to live in a rural area and self-build our home – which pretty much forced us into getting a car. We deliberated what to get for many weeks … we put off making a decision as long as possible. We were intimidated by another large expense taking a bite out of our finite “creating a home” budget. We were also intimidated by the actual act of buying a 2nd hand car in Romania. Finally it became a hindrance and we had to take action.
Our needs were:
- 4×4 to give us access to and from (and on) our land all year long (including snowy winters and muddy springs).
- Automatic – Andreea is not used to driving a stick-shift … and thinking into the future of driving with kids in the car … convinced us to go with an automatic.
- Not a pick-up truck – although it would have probably been very useful in the short term (construction project) it was (a) too expensive and (b) yearly taxes are higher because it is considered a commercial vehicle.
- Limited engine size (2.5L) – again a tax consideration – the larger the engine volume the more expensive the tax – and it rises drastically.
- Powerful enough to tow a loaded carriage (instead of the open bed of a pickup truck).
We narrowed our search to Kia Sorento, Nissan X-Trail and Hyundai Tuscon. We had the opportunity to ride and witness the capabilities of the Kia thanks to Horatiu (our architect) who owns one – including driving to and arriving at our property. So we focused on the Sorento.
We were strongly advised against purchasing a 2nd hand car in Romania (poor maintenance, poor roads, unknown and untraceable history, plenty of devious ways to disguise car problems). Instead, we were told to purchase a car in Germany. This used to be a good option until the end of 2010. Then Romanian lawmakers imposed extremely high registration taxes for foreign cars. The tax is based on the car pollution/ecological rating – naturally the older the car the lesser the rating and the higher the tax. These taxes made it irrelevant to bring a car from Germany (or any other country for that matter).
So we started by lots of online searching. At one point, to bring more focus into our efforts, we visited a very large car-market outside of Cluj city and that only fueled our fears. The market was overwhelming and according to rumors (which we could feel in the air) is dominated by local organized crime. So we headed back home happy to have made the effort, but dismayed by its results.
We hit the online searching again and found a very few (we only need one!) appealing cars. We had two primary cars listed (both Kia), one in Bucharest and the other in Costanta (we also had one or two other cars as secondary options in both cities). We were still inhibited and had no specific travel plans (~9 hours by train to Bucharest + another ~4 hours to Costanta) until Horatiu came to our karmic rescue and invited us to join them on a drive to Bucharest. We still deliberated until the last day but decided to jump into the water.
The owner of the Kia in Bucharest was kind enough to come and meet us where we arrived in Bucharest (near Horatiu’s in-laws). We looked over the car, it’s service record and spoke to the owner. Horatiu was again with us and supported us in looking at the car and communicating with the owner. It looked well kept, immaculately serviced and loved by its single owner. It already had a tow-hook installed (valuable for us) and many other extra amenities (less valuable to us). Andreea and I each looked inside our hearts and bodies and then at each other and decided to go for it.
We made an offer that the owner was reluctant to accept. We openly shared with him that we had another similar car waiting in Costanta but that we would be relieved to spend a weekend in Bucharest instead of having to travel to Costanta and happy to buy his car. We asked him to consider it and let us know by the end of the day, so if need be we could prepare to continue our travels the next morning. Later that night he called and agreed.
Despite all the warnings about buying a Romanian car and the nagging bureaucratic processes involved we had a smooth and great experience. The owner was pleasant, understanding and supportive. We drove around the city (making arrangements) with him an entire day and were happy that he was a safe and pleasant driver (not typical of Romanian drivers) which also reflected on his use and care of the car. At the end of the day, having recognized our discomfort in navigating the vast and unfamiliar city, he left us where we were staying and took a taxi back home. He was sad to part with the car. He also invited us to contact him if we have any questions on using and or maintaining the car … really a great all around experience … and this is now our car:
We are happy to add this to our magical list of firsts:
- The 1st taxi driver – the one that drove us from the airport when we first arrived in Cluj (and also moved us into our current apartment) was also the driver who took us on our 1st and only tour of the county to Mociu where we found our land.
- We are currently living in the 1st apartment we saw (though we did see more apartments we came running back to it).
- Horatiu is the 1st and only architect we met with.
- Our land in Mociu was the 1st property we listed in our spreadsheet and the 1st and only property we saw.
- Our house plans, though they have gone through numerous iterations, are true to the 1st sketches Horatiu drew for us.
- Our car is the 1st car we physically saw.
Our process repeatedly involves a lot of waiting, thinking, feelings, talking and research followed by clear and focused action yielding magical results. We usually arrive with an odd mix of clarity and doubt that together seem to guide us with phenomenal precision.
Today we are going in our 1st car to to our 1st land to plant a 1st tree:)