Wednesday, February 12, 2014

We bought a car!

On Sunday morning, we bought a car! We have spent the last month discussing every car that drives past. We ogle the cars parked on the side of the road as we walk. There are many totally different brands and models here, so it feels like a kid going into a new candy shop where everything is a just a little bit different, slightly different colors, slightly different shapes (especially the French cars- Peugeot, Renault and Citroen!) We decided that we didn't want to spend a lot on a car, as we will really only be using it for the occasional errand and outing. Also, cars are much more expensive here, due to the taxes and we still plan to mostly get around by foot and bike (I will not get lazy, I will not get lazy!) After switching from a minivan to a Fiat last year, I have fallen in love with driving a little car. So, I really wanted a small, hatchback type of thing. Especially here, where the roads can be narrow and parking spaces are some crazy, tiny set of dimensions. You would not believe what it's like trying to park at the supermarket. It scares me so much in fact, that I may just do my grocery store shopping online (for the things I can't get at the Farmer's Market) and have it delivered.

Anyway, my dad had asked his mechanic, who he buys all his cars through, to look out for a car for us. It was comforting to know that what we buy would have been checked over by him to ensure we didn't end up with a lemon. Though I admit it was hard to wait and not just jump on or and run out and buy something that immediately struck our fancy. But after turning down a couple of potential cars, something finally came in that we were happy with. (We bought an 8 year old car that has only 23,000 miles on it. That's crazy.) I have a long list of errands "to do" once we have a car and I am very eager to get started on that. There are also people scattered around the country that I am eager to visit. I am so excited to explore the countryside in greater detail than that which I can cram into a two week visit

Driving a car is not just a matter of getting the car, though!

1. Driving License
We can actually drive for a year on our California driver's license, but we will both have to get an Irish license before the year is up. So within the year, I must apply for an Irish driving licence. This involves going through the full driver licensing procedure. I must first complete a driver theory test (using this book to study.) Of course, when I went to book my test online, one of the required fields is "MTO (driver number)" which is apparently my drivers license number. Problem is I need to take this test in order to get a license number. ARGGGGGH, Once I get my test taken (once I figure out how to book it) then I apply for a learner driving permit (which involves a long list of forms and procedures), then drive around with a big, red "L" sticker (it doesn't stand for Laverne or even Loser, however much it feels like it) on our car for a while and then complete a driving test in Ireland. Once we pass the driving test, we will be issued with a full Irish driving licence. Phew, must get started on all that, because it will probably take me a year especially with stupid online roadblocks in place.

2. Car Insurance
You can not drive a car here without it being insured, and you get a disc that has to be displayed in the front windshield. So, our car had to sit in the driveway til we sorted out insurance. I spent all of Monday on the phone with a variety of insurance agencies that I sourced from the web or from personal recommendation. Some of them will not even give me a quote because we have no driving record in Ireland. One company I talked to quoted me over 2500 euros (calculated using today's exchange rate that works out to 3407.50 US Dollars!) a year because we have no record and so are no different from any new driver (even though I have been driving for 25 years now and have never had an accident or claim.) We basically need to wait until we are here a year for our insurance to go down to a decent rate. Anyway, last night we finally got our insurance taken care of and I now have wings, I mean wheels.

3. Parking
We are really lucky that we have a driveway in front of our house. This is an old city and many of the houses and streets were built before there were cars. So parking space is not a given. Many streets have resident parking permits and even our street has "Pay and Display or Permit Parking Only." There are not a whole lot of spaces though. So, a visitor can park (and pay) for up to 3 hours (if they find a vacant spot), or if we got a second car, then we could pay 400 euros a year for a street parking permit.

4. Toll roads
There are a lot of toll roads, bridges and even the third-longest urban motorway tunnel in Europe. Some of these have toll booths, where you can just pay as you go (if you have Euros on you!), but some use a video system to bill you via your vehicle registration info. I am told there is actually quite a bit of fraud in this area with people making fake license plates. So, the best bet is to pre-register for an electronic transponder thingy-majig called an electronic toll tag. You can do that here.

So, hopefully I will now be able to post about some fun road-trips!

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