Sunday, November 2, 2014

Getting a Car in the Netherlands

Getting a car here has been a project.  Thankfully it's a project that was assigned to Josh :)  Knowing that we were going to be living in the suburbs, a car is essential for us here.  Unlike in the US though, we will only need one car, like we had in Barcelona.  However, we managed without a car in Barcelona for 3 years something that just isn't feasible here based on our location.

When we leased a car in Barcelona it wasn't all that difficult.  A friend of mine went with me to do the translations.  We found that private leasing wasn't very common in Spain which limited our choices. This is not necessarily a bad thing.  We ended up going with VW and overall our experience was a good one (though we just got back some money that was due to us back in August which is kind of putting a dark cloud on that experience as we are now at the end of October).

In Barcelona, they asked what kind of car we wanted, told us what they had in stock and started the paperwork.  They used Josh's contract and his W-2 in order to approve us for the lease.  And while it took a few weeks to get the car (because while it was built, it had to be transported to that location), the process over all was very simple.  In fact, they revised our contract several times, REDUCING the price of the lease - on their own volition.  It was a beggars can't be choosers situation where it was "this is the car we have, take it or leave it" kind of deal.  I never even test drove the car before getting it.

Before the kids and I arrived in mid August, Josh had started to do some research on getting a car here and started to look at cars at the start of the month. He spoke with co-workers, made some calls and figured out what our options were.  It turns out, from what we understand, that private leasing is even less common here than in Spain.  We thought we'd have no choice but to buy a car.  It's not that we couldn't buy a car, but the challenges were two fold - the first is that as non residents (though technically Josh was a resident but he wasn't officially an employee here until September) it was going to be impossible for us to get a car loan and secondly, we didn't want to have to deal with selling a car in a foreign country at a later date, whenever that may be.

So an ideal situation was to do a lease.  In the end, if I understand it correctly, we had to go through a third party in order to arrange the lease even though we will pay VW directly.  There were a lot of hoops to jump through and the car had to be ordered - I'm still not sure why it had to be ordered but I'm going with the assumption that it was because we wanted an automatic.  I guess with all the flat roads I probably could have managed in a manual, but it's not what I like to drive.  But the nice thing is that we were able to pick the color and features we wanted in the car... more on that later.

Now given we did not have official residence here until June (for Josh, August for the kids and myself) and Josh's contract didn't officially turn over until September 1, they could not order the car until that time.  We offered to put the required hefty deposit down further in advance (an insult given how little, if anything you put down for a lease in the US) for them to order the car earlier but no, they wouldn't. They drew up the contract and managed to sneak in the order just before the 1st, on August 26 (woah... don't do it too early now!).  But the downside was that it would take 7-8 weeks for it to arrive.

We've had a little (expensive given how little and bare bones it was) rental car for the last few months. It's gotten us from point A to point B and done what we needed it to do.  But we finally got the call about 2 weeks ago that our car was coming!!  And 2 weeks ago I went to pick it up finally!  Given I wasn't with Josh when he ordered it, I had no idea what to expect other than it was a Golf, black and it had a navigation system.

What I didn't expect when I went to pick it up was the "great reveal".  I met with the salesman who had been working with Josh all along and reviewed the features and books that came with the car, the numbers to call in case of a problem, etc.  And then he said to me, "do you want to see the car?" and it turned out it was right behind me in the showroom - who knew???  In Spain they had it in a corner of the showroom but it wasn't under cover and I figured it was only inside because we were in the city center and there wasn't exactly ample outdoor parking nearby.

So anyways, sign and all, my car was right behind me.  And it was covered with a tarp which made the reveal all the cooler.  I know, I'm a sucker for a good presentation!  And no, I didn't get to keep the cover!

What shocked me after the "great reveal" though was something that Josh and I have been laughing about ever since.  When Josh ordered the car, the salesman, in typical sales fashion, kept asking him if he wanted to upgrade certain options.  Some he did, some he didn't.  But what we didn't realize was apparently an upgrade and nor did the salesman ever ask about ... was the rear windows.  They are manual.  We laugh because we didn't even realize cars these days are made with manual handles.  And when you are upgrading your customer, wouldn't you ask "and would you like to have power windows in the back?" if it wasn't a standard item, which apparently it wasn't.  It's not the end of the world but just an ahhhh Netherlands moment.  And since neither of us use the back windows, it's not so much an issue for us. The kids, on the other hand, are less than thrilled.  When I told them that we didn't have power windows when we were growing up and it would be fine, Aidan's reply was "we didn't grow up like that so it's different for us."  I guess I can see where he is coming from but here you go Aidan, a little taste of what it was like to grow up in the "olden" days ;)

And the hammer that comes with the car (one on each side in the front)... again, I'm already a little concerned that this a standard item which leads me to believe cars falling into canals is a little too common!!!

Anyways, we are happy with our spacious little Golf which is a whole lot more comfortable (especially with the million speedbumps in this country) than the rental we had.  We've come a long way from our big SUVs and minivan in the States!!


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