Today we let a four-year-old choose our new car.
EV6 definitely picked our car out of a line-up of dozens as soon as we hit the lot. She is obsessed with the color blue, and this car is an unmissable electric blue that you could spot from a kilometer away, which she nearly did.
“Let’s get that one!” she insisted as soon as we entered the parking lot full of models certified to have been never before driven in New Zealand.
“Oh really? How much would you pay for it?”
“Three dollars,” she replied. This is how much EV6 thinks every single thing costs.
As for whether it’s our car… well… I wouldn’t say that we own the car as of this writing. It’s more that we put down a refundable deposit on a car with a US credit card for an outrageous fee because the car dealership will not accept our American money.
I knew car shopping would be hard, but I didn’t anticipate that the hard part would be forking over a giant pile of existing money earmarked for car buying!
This little wrinkle has thrown quite a wrench into the “What to do when we hit the ground!” section of my “Moving To New Zealand” Gantt chart (which is a real thing that exists). I thought the crushingly obvious order of events would be bank, cell phones, car, house. That makes sense, right? Money, communication, transportation, permanent habitation.
In reality, the bank won’t even make an appointment with you until you are in the country and then it takes several days to wait for it, during which time you’ll probably want a phone and a vehicle, except purchasing the vehicle requires you to have a New Zealand bank account, but even if you visit the bank to try to rush things you’ll learn that the bank account requires you to have a permanent address with some form of bill associated with it, but you are probably still living in a hotel because renting a house requires you to wire a bank deposit, which is virtually impossible to do from a US bank (as we discovered), so you’ll need a bank account to rent the house where you can be sent a bill in order to get your bank account in order to buy your car.
At least the cell phones were easy.
Going into the day I was pretty sure the most difficult part of the experience would be actually agreeing on which car to buy.
When we last bought a car eight years ago it was difficult, but for a totally different reason. We quickly learned that in America (or, at least, New Jersey) if you go car shopping as a couple all used car salesmen will default to talking to the male half of said couple (even if said half explicitly disclaims that he doesn’t have a driver’s license, only has the vaguest idea of which side of the car the gas pedal is on, and might in fact think horsepower has to do with tiny horses inside the engine running in miniature treadmills and maybe that’s what the fan belt is about?).
We once walked out of a dealership mid-conversation because they refused to address E directly even after I re-directed every question at her.
Fast forward to today. I’ve probably put more mileage and wear on it in the past few years due to carting around both EV6 and musical equipment around all creation (though rarely at the same time). However, my technical car knowledge has only progressed slightly past the horsepower dilemma and I’ve only ever driven that one car except for a handful specific occasions (the first of which was when I drove Nan’s tank of an SUV to get Chinese food).
E is still the prohibitive household expert on all things vehicular, except for maybe its hauling capacity. Unless we were going to be driving a wide selection of 2006 Toyota Matrices – or maybe some 2016 Matrixes, everything was going to be completely foreign to me (and that’s even before accounting for the left-side driving).
And, as it turns out, there might not be a single Toyota Matrix on the islands of New Zealand.
Before moving to an island I had never put too much thought into how cars get to where they’re sold. They’re cars! They grow on large vines like watermelons or something, and then your dealer drives them onto the showroom floor.
Okay, I didn’t really think that, but living in the United States tends to give you this baseline of “Of course they send massive ships stocked with XYZ thing here from Mexico / Europe / Asia / the moon!”
Things are different when you’re on an mountainous series of islands with a total population less than 10 million and where cars drive on the left side of the road. It only make sense to import a certain amount of new cars each year, because after the mark-up for shipping them here the new-car-buying market is pretty small.
In fact, the new car market is small enough that it’s incredibly common for dealerships to import used cars to sell – specifically, cars that have just been through their lease in left-side countries like Japan. They actually tout these vehicles as being never before being Kiwi-owned. It’s a thing.
Those are the cars we mostly wound up look at, and after a brief dalliance with other brands (me: “I didn’t flee American to drive a fucking Ford”) we wound up at the marvelously friendly Rutherford & Bond Toyota looking at Camry and Corolla wagons, because they were the nearest things to our beloved Matrix. And, as it turned out, the make, model, and year we were most keen on was only in stock in the electric blue EV6 gravitated toward as soon as we hit the lot.
Thus, the choosing wound up being the easy part. Then, we tried paying. Despite being assisted by the nicest, smartest, sweetest finance person in the entire world who also happened to be a squeaky British doppelgänger of Tina Fey, we just could not puzzle together a way to take possession of the car today. We had the money. We could show Squeaky Kiwi British Tina the money. She believed we had the money. But there was no way to get the money from our bank to Toyota’s. Instead, we settled on putting a deposit down so the car would still be there after the weekend.
Said our salesman: “I’m telling you this car will not be here 24 hours from now. People love this color.”
EV6 nodded sagely in agreement