Thursday, February 06, 2014

Buying a new car overseas is no laughing matter.

Husband and I just bought a new car. Overseas.

It was a pain-in-the-ass, nail-biting, exasperating endeavor.

You know how in the states, you wander on a car lot by accident and end up driving home a new vehicle a few hours later? HA, not in Italy!

The whole process took 24 days beginning on December 23rd with Husband kicking tires and putting $300 down on a 2013 Ford Focus. The $300 held the car for 10 days (can you hear my ironic laughter?).

U.S. Military members and civilians stationed in Italy don't pay Italian Value Added Tax (VAT) or import fees on POVs. Because of this we are only permitted the registration of three vehicles TOTAL in the span of a three year tour. That includes motorcycles too. So let's say you bought an old junker here to toodle around in and decide you want to upgrade... you're in a pickle if you have reached your three vehicle max. If your motorcycle is in pieces on the garage floor (like in our case), and the check engine light is on in your mini-van in a country where they don't sell said van and don't know how to work on it (like in our case) and the clutch is going out in your third car and it's not worth the cost of the repair (like in our case)... you are out of luck (and transportation) unless you jump through some serious hoops to get that three car rule waived.

This was where we were right before Christmas. We were seriously scared. We weren't scared because we didn't have the money for the car, or crappy credit... no, we were scared because the previous year we attempted to buy a fourth car and we were turned down by Vehicle Registration.

So, back to the hoops...

We decided to take a leap of faith this year and sell our old Fiat before tried again to register that fourth vehicle at Vehicle Registration. To increase the likelihood of approval we figured if we had only two cars actively registered and tried to register the fourth vehicle, our chances would be better.

The Fiat sale actually went pretty quick. We used our local Facebook Car Sale Page Vicenza Beaters. We priced the vehicle fairly and had a verbal sales agreement within 24 hours of posting the ad.  This was Friday, December 27th.

Husband, thinking time was of the essence (laughing here again) and wanting to get the car off our books, ran the Fiat down to Vehicle Inspection to have it inspected before we completed the sale. They required him to replace a tire before approval so he rushed out to find an open tire store but hit town during riposo. Luckily, he found a place open at 3 p.m., had the tire put on and rushed back to Vehicle Inspection before they closed at 4:30 to get the OK TO SELL stamp on his paperwork.

All this heart-racing rushing around ended up being for nothing, because when Husband showed up at Vehicle Registration at 9 a.m. Monday, December 30th, he found out the buyer needed his original insurance paperwork and his emailed pdf copies weren't sufficient. Because of the holidays, he wouldn't receive it until the Thursday after New Year's. ARGH!

There was also the matter of money changing hands. What do you do with a check for several thousand dollars? In the states you would deposit it. Here, mailing it takes 10 days, you can't scan it and deposit it - it exceeds the daily limit for scanned deposits, you can't cash it unless you bank locally here. We ended up doing a bank transfer because luckily the buyer banked at USAA as did we. Transfers are done between accounts with no fees. These are the little details that you don't have to deal with in the states.

So Thursday, January 2, the sale of our junker Fiat was finally accomplished.

To register a fourth vehicle here, the clincher is you must write a memo to the Italian custom agents. This memo, begging for the privilege to own another vehicle in Italy without VAT tax, lists each vehicle you own/owned and the current status of each vehicle. It is then sent to Naples for approval or denial. Our memo was turned down last year so this year's version had to be compelling. Husband wrote it, and I amended it with embellishing adverbs and adjectives that made our situation sound truly desperate (which it was, actually). We emailed it Friday, January 3rd and crossed our fingers.

We were definitely fretting that our request would be rejected and we would end up with only one broken, gas guzzling mini-van for transportation. But as luck would have it (or perhaps it was my fantastic writing skills), on January 9th,  we heard back that our request was approved and we could buy the new car. We let out a big sigh of relief and went forward with the car loan and told the dealer we were good to go.

You would think at this point, we could drive away in the car... but no.

There was the matter of checks clearing (the bank's), our debit down payment clearing (I don't know why it took three days), Italian customs had to inspect the vehicle, original insurance documents had to be presented, the car had to be registered and road tax had to be paid. WHEW. I'm skipping lots of detail here because it's just plain boring. It did take another 6 days to get all this stuff done.

Mission accomplished! and guess what, at this late date, Husband was away on a business trip so I drove that brand new zippy Ford Focus, laughing and high on new car smell all by myself for 10 more days.


Anonymous said...

Congrats on the final success. Glad to see a new post on your blog. We have really missed you.
Love, Richard & Kathie

onelove said...

Hi, we are moving to Vicenza in October, also military. We were told we could only ship one vehicle overseas. I'm surprised you had 3! Did you buy your motorcycle and fiat after you arrived? thank you for the story :)

~ Kellie

Paige Hollingsworth said...

Yes, it is not easy to buy a car outside of our country. I have bought a car in 3 different countries and America is without fail the easiest. Buying a new car definitely makes some things more difficult, but getting a used car is actually not much easier because you have to figure out everything about registration and stuff.

Paige Hollingsworth @ Baldwin Motors Lincoln