Thursday, January 29, 2015

Buying a Car in Myanmar

I've typically purchased cars new, direct from the dealership.  Yes, more expensive and yeah, yeah, yeah you lose money when you drive off the lot.  That's the advantage of being single.  I can make irrational financial decisions and only have myself to answer to.

My last car, though, was about 6 months old and I bought it from CarMax.  This isn't a CarMax commercial but it was a great process.  Two incredibly patient men (one a salesman, the other a friend) walked me around the lot, went on test drives with me and were just generally awesome.  I had a similar, although much faster, time when I sold the same car a year later, back to CarMax, at a fair price.

In Myanmar,  there is no CarMax.  Cars here have been limited due to government controls and since there's more demand than supply, prices are ridiculously high for even used vehicles.   The government is now allowing more vehicles in but prices are still crazy.  I've been looking at 20 year old beaters that I'd pay about $500 for at home.  In my Myanmar home, they're more in the $6,000 range.

Another difference is that you don't go to a car lot to look at cars.  There are such things, I actually saw one but there are dozens of men waiting there to sell their cars.  My local friend advised me not to get out of the car.  Seeing my foreign loveliness, they'd mistakenly assume I'm rich and willing to spend.  Wrong on both counts.

Instead, a taxi driver that I've been using recently has been brokering deals for me.  He shows up after school with a car for sale and the guy selling the car (for someone else).  I check it out and give it a thumbs up or thumbs down.  It's kind of becoming my new hobby.  I may never find a car I like but I'm meeting a lot of nice local guys.

Today had to be a salesman's nightmare.  He showed up with a 1992 Toyota Corolla.  Diesel.  Sounded like a semi.  I test drove it.  Hmm, I could turn the steering wheel about 90 degrees without the wheels responding.  Plus, it was an automatic but the gear shift moved at will, rather than locking into place.  The salesman said he could fix both of those things.

His worst moment though?  I turned the car off after I drove it.  He couldn't get it started again.  I was gently ushered off to my apartment while the menfolk got jumper cables and a school vehicle to try to get it going.  I was chuckling as I walked up stairs and then I started guffawing out loud.  I heard cows.

What's worse than a car that won't start in front of a prospective customer?  Trying to jump it on a narrow dirt road when a herd of cows strolls by, acting like they own the road.  The cows were not pleased with the vehicles on their road and were loudly telling the cars and men to get the heck out of their way.

The last thing I heard as I went into my apartment was mooing cows.  I didn't hear a car starting.  Hopefully it will be gone by the time they bring another car by tomorrow afternoon.

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