4. The First Order of Business

Monday morning, May 31.  Today is the day we have to go find and buy a car.  This is our first major “must-do” item of moving to a new country.  We have one day to find a car—that is pretty much unheard of when you have a “car guy” for a husband.



When Ramie is buying a car, he researches and looks, and test-drives, and looks some more, and tries to find the best deal.  He has been doing some online research for the last few weeks and has a few ideas of what he wants, and we hired an American guy who started a business to help people like us buy cars, so our hopes are high for today.


We dropped Breeze off with the dog sitter.  It was a young guy operating out of his and his dad’s house.  There were about 6 or 7 other dogs there, all roaming around the fenced back yard, all of them were very excitable including a puppy that jumped up on top of the table when we got there.  Breeze was nervous, but we brought her back with the rest of the pack and let her go.  No paperwork, nothing else needed, the guy just said that he usually only keeps the dogs until 5pm but if we were late, that was ok too.  No paperwork, no signing waivers, nothing like dropping a dog off in the US.  Hopefully there were no issues, and hopefully she wasn’t so terrible that he texted me back in an hour telling me to come get my dog!


At 9am Chris picked us up to go looking for cars.  The first dealership had 4 that we were somewhat interested in, took them all for a test drive and 2 were on the possible keepers list, a Toyota Tacoma and a Toyota 4Runner.  Ramie really wants a truck, but the SUV would be nice too.  During these test drives Chris explained a lot to us about vehicles in Costa Rica, how the buying process works, what vehicles are desirable and what makes them desirable, what holds their value for resale, etc.  We learned a lot in the short time we have known him.  Well, the test drives are done at this dealership and we have a lot more to check out so on we go.


At the next dealership.  The only one that was even in the running for a test drive was an Isuzu SUV.  This time, the owner of the dealership came along with us.  Ramie wasn’t impressed, it didn’t have any power and definitely wasn’t going to be on the possibility list.  On the way back to the dealership, the owner told us to take a turn, and low and behold there was a police checkpoint set up.  I will take a moment to explain that currently, due to COVID, Costa Rica has put driving restrictions in place where cars ending in an even plate number can only drive on even days and odd numbers on odd days.  They are doing this because there was a huge outbreak here after Easter and they think that by reducing cars on the road, that they will reduce traffic accidents, which will then reduce the number of people needing hospital care so they can focus on the COVID patients.  These restrictions started at the beginning of May and were scheduled to end at the end of the month.  At this point they are extending them week by week as needed.


Well, after the dealer saw the police checkpoint, he told Ramie to quickly turn the other way instead to avoid the checkpoint.  While we were driving on the wrong day with the wrong license plate number (we had an even number and it is an odd day), dealers do have permission to continue test drives for their business, so there actually wasn’t anything wrong with us test driving today.  Ramie turned down a very narrow road and instead of just continuing down the road, we turned around to go back to the highway.  As we were headed back the way we came, a police officer was walking toward us with his hand on his holstered gun, and there were two more officers not far behind.  Ramie stopped the car, and the officer was saying something in Spanish (which neither Ramie nor I speak or understand), so we were relying on the 2 Tico guys in the back to help us out here.  

We were told to shut the car off, get out and stand in a line on the sidewalk.  They proceeded to talk directly to Ramie, who as he says, probably had the most stupid look of “I don’t know what you’re saying but I’m going to smile and nod in agreement”.  Ramie then asked Chris and the salesman what they were asking, and they told him they wanted identification.  So, Ramie and I took out our passports and handed them over.  About this time a motorcycle officer came speeding up and now we have 4 police officers standing there around us.  All of them speaking Spanish really fast, I’m sure we had very confused looks on our faces!  They then asked for Chris’s and the dealer’s drivers licenses, who continued to speak fast Spanish, and then told Ramie to get back in the car and drive it to the directly to the checkpoint.  The other 3 of us had to walk (it was only a couple of blocks).  About this time the motorcycle officer sped off and later I found out that Ramie received a police escort to the check point.  The motorcycle officer stopped traffic and followed Ramie the whole way.  I had no idea what was going on with this whole ordeal, but as I walked over with Chris and the dealer, they explained that nothing bad was going to happen.  Since we had maneuvered away so quickly, they thought that there must be something sketchy going on and they have to check it out.  Ramie got to the checkpoint with the car before the rest of us did and he says that they were talking to him in Spanish as well.  He greeted them in the little bit of Spanish he knows and just told them he didn’t understand and they would have to wait for the rest of us to get there.  At least they were friendly to him!  When we were all at the police checkpoint, the dealer got his butt chewed out (in Spanish, but we could get the gist of it) and he was basically told, if there is a checkpoint and he’s legal to be operating, he should have never tried to avoid it.  Just a little while earlier something very similar happened and the car had several lbs. of cocaine in it.  They often find drugs in the cars that are trying to get away from the checkpoints.  After this whole ordeal (which really only lasted about 20-30 minutes) we were on our way back to the dealership.  We had decided that even if we had kind of liked that car, we probably wouldn’t have bought anything from this dealership anyway.  On to dealership number 3.


Here they showed us 2 Toyota Hilux Diesel trucks.  This is what Ramie was really wanting.  We were hoping for diesel (better torque, good get up & go, plus diesel is cheaper than gas here).  Unfortunately, after looking them over, we determined they were overpriced for what they were, and passed on them without even test driving them.  Our 2 choices were the Tacoma & 4Runner back at the first dealership.  At this point it was about 11:40. Dealerships and escrow companies (where our money was being held to pay for the vehicle) close at noon for lunch for 1-2 hours depending on the company.  If we hurried up and made our decision, we MIGHT be able to get the process started before they left. 


After some discussion, we decided that the 4Runner SUV would be the better choice for us.  While the truck would have been fantastic for hauling things, Chris assured us that here in Costa Rica they are good at fitting a lot of stuff in vehicles that you wouldn’t think they could fit it in to.  He has seen couches and refrigerators fit into an SUV like this.  Plus, this would be better for when we have guests come to visit us and we have to chauffeur them around (yes, we put a high priority on YOUR comfort as well!!

2011 Toyota 4Runner SR5


Well, it was noon by the time that we made our decision.  We went back to the first dealership and there was someone that was working over the lunch hour, so he started on our paperwork right away.  We sent what we needed to, to the escrow company and then we continued on to the lawyer who does the title transfer.  Then back to the dealership where the insurance guy came to meet us and sign us up for vehicle insurance.  This wasn’t so bad; the company Chris works for has this all figured out and set up to be pretty simple.  The only thing that we were waiting for was the money from the escrow company to show up in the dealers account and we were done! 

So now we just waited for the money to be transferred.

And waited…

And waited some more. 

Chris explained to us that for some reason the escrow companies seem to like to do this (it wasn’t just our bad luck).  Even though everything is all there and ready to go (they have had our money for over a week now) that they just wait and wait and wait.  Sometimes, even if they have everything they need by 1:00, they will wait until 20 minutes before the end of their day to press the button for the transaction. 


 They have OUR money, and OUR authorization to send it so we can take OUR car with us today--- but they are just going to send it whenever THEY feel like it?!?!  Welcome to Costa Rica!!......

    It was after 4:30 by the time the transfer finally came through.  Once the money was in the dealership’s account, we were free to go.  All we had for proof of ownership was a sketchy looking but legit bill of sale, the keys, and the legal document from the lawyer, and away we go!  Really, this is our proof.  No title?  Not pages of pages of paperwork?? Do we really own this??? I guess we do, so let’s get out of here and head back to the hotel.  Oh yeah, our dog!  We picked Breeze up from the dog sitter at a little bit before 5.  The guy’s dad brought her out to me and he didn’t speak English, so I don’t know if she was good or bad all day, and we headed back to the hotel.  I guess we will never know if she found a Tico dog friend.


Mission Number 1 – Accomplished!


Oh- and we have an ODD plate number, which means we can’t drive tomorrow June 1.  We were supposed to drive to our rental house which is about 3.5 hours away in Uvita tomorrow, but I guess we’ll be spending an extra day at the hotel... Oh, and you know those COVID driving restrictions—well, they just got a whole lot more complicated for June.  Now, odd plates drive on even days and even plates drive on odd days.  It’s a good thing this country is so beautiful, because they sure do seem to have a lot of WTF moments.  Hahahahaha




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