Day 6: Finally Bought A Used Car – I Think!

Got up around 7am and it was colder than I expected sleeping in our new rental just down the road from our own property. I expected it to be warm at night or at least barely cool but in fact for me it felt cold and I got up in the night to get another light blanket (i.e.; 2 light blankets plus a sheet).

Was cold upon getting out of bed in the morning too, though it quickly warmed up by around 8-9 am or so.

We drank some coffee and then walked up to our property. They were supposed to put the walls up yesterday but I couldn't be there to see. But as we arrived no one was there and we found no walls.

Just as well as I wanted to be there when the walls went up.
Diego (our caretaker par excellence) was just down the road so I called him and he came by. Diego is the best thing to happen to me in Costa Rica since we got our property. He is dependable, conscientious, hard working, gives great advice and is helpful in situations way above and beyond the call of duty.

We talked for a few minutes about some stuff and then he had to go back to work. He gave us some good info and advice about planting stuff and buying stuff, and we went back home to prepare for what we hoped would be our LAST DAY of looking for a car and our day of owning a car.

We had arranged for a mechanic of good reputation recommended by a friend to look at it today and if it passed the test we would buy it. The owner and I had agreed to a price if it passed the test and he agreed to let me have the mechanic test it and run a compression check on it.

But on the way to the mechanic, the owner called me and tried to talk me out of testing it. My blood pressure began to rise and I reminded him that he had agreed to it yesterday and we had shaken hands on a price if it passed the test.

He agreed to it but then said he had another car I might want to look at. This seemed very odd to me but I said, okay I would look at the other car.

We met at the other car and he told me that he wanted to back out of having this mechanic look at the car because he once had a bad experience with this mechanic. I said, "Fine, then; I have another recommended mechanic's number in my pocket."

However he began to capitulate re the idea of a compression check, saying it wasn't necessary etc. But I figured as long as I could get him and the car to a mechanic, once we got there I could push for the compression check. However I began to wonder what he was afraid of. It was as if he knew it wouldn't pass the test.

He asked me for the # of the mechanic and he called him instead of me, to make the appointment. I interjected as he called to say to tell the mechanic that I was a friend of Jim's who recommended him to me.

So we made an appointment and went over there. Meanwhile Jim called me and said the mechanic had called him - Jim - and said that some guy had asked him to "help him sell this car to me". Being a friend of Jim's he called Jim to tell him to tell me to watch out for this guy.

Jim warned me to then make sure I talked one on one to the mechanic so he could tell me the lowdown on the car without the owner of the car hearing him tell me the truth.

As it turned out the mechanic, Carlos, found the car had been in a wreck on the left side and that the engine was smoking from the oil fill hole and the oil gauge hole. He said this indicated that it had bad rings and so wasn't in great shape. He saw our disappointment and we expressed it as well, saying we didn't know what we were going to do now as we were spending $70 a day on renting a car and just couldn't keep wasting time looking for a decent car. He said he knew of one a friend was selling that fit what we were looking for, and he'd do the same checks on it he did on this one, and arrange for us to look at it.

We said yes please and he arranged it.

Could it be that he said the car was bad just so he could sell us his friend's? A cynical person - like myself - might say this seems like what he did.

However my friend told me this guy was 100% trustworthy and he would do what he could to help us avoid getting a bad car.

Now you will see this as being reckless, naive, or crazy but this is what happened:

I said that if I decided to buy the car tomorrow when we looked at it, the problem would be transferring the money as I am not sure who to transfer it to and it would take a couple days and yet I couldn't transfer it until I was sure we wanted it.

He said that we could transfer it to an attorney or a friend but I said they generally don't want to do this due to U.S tax issues and so I guess we'd just be forced to rent a car a few more days in spite of it eating up so much of our dwindling money.

This is where it gets crazy:

He said if I wanted I could transfer it to him and he would apply the money to any car we wanted to pay for.

I called my friend about this and he said "Look, I would have no problem doing that with him, he's totally honest and a friend of mine."

So, throwing my best "skeptical cynical American" instincts aside I went back and told him yes I would transfer the money into his bank account.

I have only met this guy today. I know nothing of him except for my friend's recommendation, yet I transferred $7150 U.S. dollars into his account with no contract or anything.

AM I FUCKING NUTS?!!

I might be. I am so poor this money is super important to me and is the ONLY money we have to buy a car which we need desperately! So WHY would I trust a guy I just met in a foreign country with my desperately needed money, with no written contract or any kind of official legal paper work as to what the money is for???! WHY? He could just say it was money I owed him and any judge in the world would allow him to keep it!

I don't know. It just seemed like the right thing to do. I trust him. I trust my friend's recommendation. But granted, this seems, in retrospect, like a very dumb move on my part!

So tomorrow we go to look at his car and I will trust him to tell me if the car of his friend's is good or not (is that crazy??! that I really think he will tell me the truth about his friend's car??).

Well that is the case, that is what we are doing.

And I hope he does say the car is good so we can return the $70/day rental and start driving our own car!

So this may have been the single most irresponsible, crazy, dumbest thing I've ever done! Yet I do not think it was. Tomorrow and/or successive days will tell the story.

Oh, I forgot the mention the "adventure" of transferring the money internationally from Costa Rica out of my U.S. bank to a Costa Rican account. I tried calling them to do it but a message said i'd have to pay international rates

So then I thought and said to myself, Okay then I'll try Skype. I called them on Skype adn that worked. But they told me I still had to go to the Schwab web site, fill out all the info re the mechanic's account so I had already gotten that info and was ready. Filled out the info and they passed me to the International transfer guy and I did the transfer and then they asked me a bunch of Credit Bureau type questions like "Did you ever live on this street?" "Which of these towns did you never live in?" and so on. It is scary how much info they have on us! Anyway it's always nerve-wracking to me to have to fill out all that info and make sure all the account numbers are exactly right and so on, let alone from a Costa Rican mechanic's office in the pouring rain during a lightning storm.

So we finally finished that and we both felt completely drained (my wife and I) and we went to eat as we'd had NOTHING to eat all day, just a cup of coffee in the early morning before we left on our 6th day of our Costa Rican adventure.

We went to a popular place that serves coffee, dessert, sandwiches etc and got completely GOUGED. My wife ordered what they called a "tostada" but was actually a slice of bread with some sauce and veges on it; I ordered a vege sandwich. We both had a mango refresco (fruit plus milk). Cost: $20. I couldn't believe it! I thought it would be around $10. Last time I'll go in there for anything more than coffee and a piece of cake. The sandwiches it turned out were $6 and $8! I don't even usually pay that in the states! I decided I'd stop eating there.

We had to drive home the long way because it was raining and I was afraid this p.o.s. rental car would not make it up the big hill to our place.  When I say "drive home the long way" I refer to the fact that there is a rectangle of roads that go to our property. One involves 3 sides of the rectangle and takes about 45 minutes to drive, the other one involves just one side of the triangle and takes about 15 minutes to drive. However, the short drive is very very steep and the steep part (as we found out when we first drove this rented Bego up there) can be a challenge to get up if it's slippery.

So we went the long way and it took a long time, but in spite of our stressful day and this long drive home, I enjoyed the scenery on the drive home around twilight and it seemed to make all the stress we'd been through this day go away.

We came home, layed in bed for awhile talking and then took showers and ate.

Another day, another car, another crazy Costa Rican situation ...

At night I began to wonder what I'd done? Is it possible I'd been hood-winked out of $8k? Had I been incredibly dumb to wire $8k into this guy's account with no contract or anything? Would we get a good car or was that a scam too?

I hoped for the best. It was a done deal. It is what it is.

Go to Day 7 here.

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