28 July 2013


This week we have had one goal: find a vehicle. Our qualifications:
·         Must be available to take home within a week
·         Must be the best deal possible
·         Must be an SUV able to handle rough terrain
·         Must be an automatic since Rachael doesn’t trust herself driving in a panicked situation a manual transmission with her left hand
·         Must be white or silver due to the heat conditions (it’s winter and it’s 86 F / 30 C)
·         Must have great pickup and solid breaks
·         Must be new or a used vehicle in great condition produced in the last two years

When purchasing a vehicle in Papua New Guinea, there are two options for consumers. One is to find a vehicle from an importer and have the vehicle shipped in from Japan, which takes roughly six weeks for delivery. The alternative is to review the current inventory offered in one of the city’s actual dealerships.

Paul originally wanted to order a vehicle and have it shipped from Japan but when I came into town sooner than we both anticipated he decided to see what he could purchase on a more immediate time line.

Our experience the last six days is reminiscent of the time when Paul and I were dating and he just decided one night that he wanted a Jeep Wrangler. Back in the early 2000s, I had been promised dinner and hangout time. Within five hours on a single evening, Paul drove to every dealership in a 20-mile radius to check their inventory.

Our dinner route was based on car dealership locations, not the quickest or easiest way to our destination and, yes, the madness continued even after dinner. I should also mention that we did not once speak to a salesperson; we went after hours. Paul poked his head into windows, inspected every new or used Wrangler, checked prices and then got back into the car and drove to the next location. The next morning he decided he didn’t want a Wrangler anymore; he was interested in the new Liberty. He not only did not buy a Liberty, he did not buy a Wrangler or any other vehicle – ever. He drove his ’99 Cavalier from the day he bought it in high school until we moved to Singapore when he donated the car to his cousin, who, by the way, is still driving the ’99 Cavalier named Bullet.

Paul had already contacted dealers and had seen vehicles before I arrived but was not confident in a purchase decision. Monday, five days after I landed, we hit the road in search of a reliable SUV.

We went to two dealers and looked at a few vehicles. In the first dealership, I immediately spotted a hot, sturdy, jungle-tough looking SUV with a Nissan label proudly displayed on the front. To me, the vehicle was Nissan’s version of a Land Rover and I was sold…until we heard the price…and it was 300,000 kina (three times the budget). “Of course it is!” I exclaimed. “I always pick the ones with the highest price tag.”

Disappointed, I walked away from the Nissan and toward the Mitsubishi Pajero Paul had previously discussed with the dealer. We took the seven-passenger, 5-liter SUV out for a test drive and it went pretty well. We received a quote. Paul negotiated. They knocked off a little and then we prepared to leave.

When Paul inquired about used vehicles, he was directed to another dealership up the road. The used vehicle we were offered, however, was not only beat up, it had a manual transmission. We looked at one or two other beat up used vehicles and then headed inside. We saw two new Kias, a four-door crossover called the Sportage and a seven-passenger SUV called the Sorrento.

By the end of our visit, Paul and I both decided we favored the Sorrento, which came with Bluetooth technology and a backup camera, but he had one more place he wanted to try – the Ford dealer down the road. We pulled in, entering through the exit, and Paul immediately freaked out, made a crazy U turn and bolted like he couldn’t be seen in the vicinity. He explained that he had already been to the Ford dealer and had been presented an offer on a Hyundai Tucson (we discussed this option before my arrival but Paul was not certain he wanted to purchase the SUV). He did not want to pursue that option any longer and he didn't want to talk to anyone about it.

Happy with our frontrunner, we went home and I did a little research. I found details of the Sorrento online and was pleased to see such high safety ratings. I thought we had a winner.

But we didn’t.

Tuesday was a holiday and Wednesday I am not sure we left the house (is it sad I don’t remember?). Thursday morning started with a trip to the license bureau so that I could obtain my PNG driver’s license. Within an hour, I had in my hand another awful ID photo (this one I have nicknamed my prison photo) and a new name. Racheal.

Upon exiting I did what any woman would do – I first examined my photo to see just how bad it was and then I verified my information since I did not have a chance to do so inside. I stopped walking when I noticed two letters in my first name were transposed.

“What do I do?” I asked Paul. “Do I go back and tell them to fix it?” I asked not knowing if anyone inside would actually understand my request.

“Just leave it,” Paul advised.

“No, I think I want to at least go in and ask. What if something happens to me and someone tries to verify my information and they don’t match up? I don’t want to be detained somewhere.”

“Fine.” Paul, playing the role of the good husband supporting the crazy wife, followed me back into the building with the screeching door and waited behind me as I tried to explain to the men behind the glass that my name was not correct.

I handed over my passport and indicated my name was misspelled. At first they were confused so I repeated myself. Then I heard them read each letter aloud, “R-A-C-H-A-E-L.” Then again, “R-A-C-H-A-E-L.” “No!” A second man urged. He pointed his finger to my new license and stated, “R-A-C-H-E-A-L....A-E-L, E-A-L.”

“Oh,” the first guy said. “Is O.K….O.K.”

“It’s O.K.?” I questioned. “No need to change?”

“No, no. Is O.K.”

O.K. I moved on. At least I tried.

Paul took me to the first dealership so that we could take a look at a Mitsubishi Pajero with a smaller engine than the one we saw earlier in the week, reducing the asking price. He also expected me to drive….on my first day with a PNG license. I tried to explain that not only was I not sure about how I would drive on the right side of the car in the left-hand lane for my first time ever, but that I did not think it wise that my first time driving on the wrong side of the car on the wrong side of the road should be in a car that is not only not ours but one that currently belongs to a dealer. “This is a you-break-it-you-buy-it scenario,” I said but Paul insisted they would have insurance to cover any damage I may have caused.

Halfway through our test drive, after being guided by our dealer to a residential area with much less traffic (at my imperative request), Paul left the vehicle and insisted that I drive the SUV. So I did. Apparently I am better than Paul. I did quite fine. I just really like to use my windshield wipers when signaling.

Back at the dealership, we examined the vehicle inside and out, learned about the security features, were quickly shown how to place and remove the second- and third-row seats and realized that whoever sits in the back will be elevated and have no leg room whatsoever. We got a better price, stated we would make a decision within 24 hours and headed down the street to see the Kia people. The end of the tunnel was near.

Paul advised the sales team (I thought for negotiating power) that we were interested in the Sportage and that we had a solid offer on a Pajero from the other dealer. I was perplexed because I didn’t think we were interested in the Sportage. We both liked the Sorrento.

Unable to take a Sportage for a test drive because the floor model had been sold, we were advised to come back in the morning when a new one would be delivered. So we left.

Paul at some point realized that the Ford dealer was not the dealer with the Tucson (OMG there was another dealer?!) and stated that he did want to see their inventory, so we walked in and spoke with yet another dealer. We looked at two vehicles similar to an Explorer and my heart set on a used Range Rover hiding in the back. Though the price surprisingly beat every single offer we received, we decided not to pursue the Rover because we would not have a warranty more than three months; the Pajero had a two-year and the Kias each had a three-year warranty offered. Nuts. I have wanted a Rover for years and what better place than PNG for the blessed off-roading tank?

Friday morning we were back at the Kia dealer. I was done with car buying and ready to make an offer. Instead, Paul unbeknownst to me decided to announce that we would not actually be making a decision until Monday. Pretty sure I had a minimal reaction to that statement but I really wanted to look at him and say, “Whaaattt? I thought we were deciding today! I thought we were done!” I, playing the role of the supporting wife standing next to the frugal, never-too-much-research, must-try-them-all, stress-on-breadwinning husband, just stood there and played along.

We drove the Sportage around the neighborhood, down by the Yacht Club and made a turn back. Though Paul wanted me to test drive the car, I advised that I completely trusted him and that I was fine in the back like I had been most of the week. And that was true. I trust him to know which vehicle is more comfortable, which performs better and which will be the best option for us moving forward.

He fell in love with the Kia. But the Pajero is bigger, tougher and will, according to Paul’s assumptions and research, have a better resale value. But the Kia is more comfortable and performs better on the typical roads on which we will be driving. But the Pajero is bigger, tougher and will have a better resale value. But the Kia has a longer warranty and a lower purchase price.

It’s Sunday night. Tomorrow is supposedly D-day. The decision: we are buying the Mitsukia.

1 comment:

Elizabeth Wonner said...

I have a Sorento (my second one) & love it.