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Buying a Car

Now that I am licensed, ID’ed, and ready to get out and about I thought that it was time to look at buying a car. This is not an easy task and one should consider the principal of caveat emptor and, as a buyer, beware of buying something that is not as it appears.

I started the search for a new car by looking long and hard at the range of second hand and new vehicles that are available in Qatar. a few things became apparent; dealers will advertise new car prices (in Australia they do not); there is a bewildering array of vehicles of varying ages and mileages available; there is a fundamental choice to be made as to whether or not you want a four-wheel drive or a “standard” sort of car; and there are very few vehicles on which you can get a warranty (I don’t recall seeing any second-hand car warranties advertised).

Being a four-wheel drive fan for probably thirty years or so and given my enjoyment of camping and fishing the choice as to whether to go 4WD or not was a simple one. The question for me was “which 4WD?” After much soul searching, some advice from my brother-in-law (who has worked in the car trade for most of his life) and after sitting in a various vehicles to get a “feel” for legroom and personal fit I decided on a Toyota Landcruiser. I have no doubt that this was the right decision for me but it is important if you decide to go down this route that you are aware of the pitfalls should you choose to go second hand.

Landcruisers are incredibly popular here (I counted 30 going through the lights from left to right during one signal change) and they are driven hard if they are taken off road. They also undergo some fairly punishing treatment during Qatar National Day when people celebrating will run the engines on full throttle until the cars repeatedly backfire. Not recommended treatment for an engine I believe. IF you decide to go for second-hand vehicle you must get the car checked out very thoroughly or go with a vehicle that has been with a caring owner from new. I’ll leave the reader to work out who might qualify as a “caring owner”.

All that said, I decided to go for new. Not as easy as it sounds!

Some web sites to search for cars include carsemsar.com, qatar living, and thecarsouq.com. You can also visit car dealers all along Salwa Road and scattered around other parts of town as well. Without going in to detail I can relay the following information:

Cars will often be advertised misleadingly as “New”. A new car should generally have less than about 20 kilometers on the odometer. Anything else is not new. The ones I looked at varied from 20 to 1,600 and after some pressing I found the latter had “only been driven on Qatari National Day by an old man who would not play with the car”.

“New” cars are frequently advertised with incorrect year/model designations, I saw one 2011 model advertised as 2012, and several 2010 models advertised as 2011. The “bargains” of course turned out to be the cars with earlier manufacturing dates. The way to check is that the Toyota cars have a piece of paper glued to the front windscreen (inside behind the rear-view mirror) that is affixed by Toyota and shows the place and exact date of manufacture. There are no permanently affixed compliance plates like we have in Australia.

I suspect, although I have no proof that rewinding the odometer may occur occasionally, I don’t think this is a jail-able offence here as it is at home.If you are buying a new car look for tell-tale evidence that it has been used before, dust and dirt in cracks and crevices, mud under the guards, and all those sorts of things. Buy a car that is inside a showroom, not out on the street.

Actually buying the car is not difficult. You get a formal quote from the dealer (you should not need to leave a deposit as a reputable dealer will treat the quote as an indicator that you are serious) and take the quote to your bank. Your bank will then issue a formal purchase order and typically this specifies that you will pay 20% and the bank will pay the remaining amount. You take the purchase order back to the dealer who will organize insurance for you (around 3.5% of the value of the car) and hand over the keys. The insurance system is simple and elegant. You insure the car (not the driver), hence anyone can drive the car and is insured to do so. This makes transferring the insurance easy when you sell the car as you sell the insurance with the car effectively.

That done I am now the proud owner of a Toyota Landcruiser G, it is a comfortable ride and despite the oft-debunked myth about four wheel drives being safer than other cars, I do feel safer, largely because people keep clear of me! Hopefully I will be able to share some photos of the car as we do some more exciting things.

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