More car woes (just not mine)

Today seemed to be the day that everyone else in my household’s cars decided to chuck spazzies.

I had a message from a friend staying with us to say her recently purchased car (as in purchased Friday three days ago) was playing up again (after already having been to visit the mechanic on day 1).

Then J called me on the way back from LAX to say that Brandon had stopped at an intersection and wouldn’t start and required a tow. She called me for my expert advice on dying cars given that Esmeralda has had two overheating issues and three tows. My advice was to call AAA (the equivalent of RACV or NRMA etc) and join up. With AAA you get four free tows of up to 7 miles each year. It’s an absolute necessity here.

So I guess if you are looking at buying a car in LA (and America) I have the following advice for you:

  • Cars are not as reliable as they are back home. The reputation cars have at home doesn’t necessarily translate to that of cars here.
  • If buying a used car, always buy a certified pre-owned car. This basically means the manufacturer has gone over it with a fine tooth comb and gives it a seal of approval.
  • Get a warranty. If something is going to go wrong, it WILL go wrong in the first month. I have at least three examples of this!
  • Find a good mechanic and check their reviews on Put their contact details in your phone so you can ring them if you experience a problem and so you have their address to give if you need a tow.
  • Have a pool of contingency cash so you aren’t caught short when something does need to be fixed.
  • Don’t skimp on insurance. It is expensive, but absolutely essential.
  • Pony up to put the good gas in your car. Chevron is the most expensive, but is also the best quality. Whilst I am shopping for the cheapest gas for Esmeralda, I am putting in premium to keep her turbo engine happy.

If things go wrong, don’t despair. Everyone has a story of car woe. You arrive in LA and you have car issues. It seems to be de rigour, so don’t let it get you down, soldier on and things will get better.

Essential skills for buying a car…

…are Spanish language skills.

Gin, J and I went on a tyre-kicking tour of LA which took us to Florence-Graham, a predominantly Hispanic part of LA. They were checking out a red 1994 Jeep Grand Cherokee listed by Jose on behalf of his mum. I always thought good mechanical minds, or excellent negotiation skills were important in buying used cars, but it seems that so is speaking someone’s language.

After a little test drive, they said they needed to think about it, so we went for a little cruise around the block and found a grotty old car yard called Almazen Kar Sales. We pulled into the lot and got out to have a look around. An old man came up to Gin and said “Hablas espanol” so I came to her rescue and started having a conversation with him about finding a car. He was a little difficult to understand because he was missing quite a few teeth.

When I told him of Gin and J’s limited budget, he got a lady from the office, who could speak a little bit of English but you could tell she felt far more comfortable in Spanish, to show us some cars on the other side of the fence. This woman was wearing tight jeans, a jewel coloured knit jumper and had hair and make up that looked like they’d come straight out of a Mexican boutique like the one called ‘Fancy’ that I went to in Merida, Mexico, last year.

The cars there were really rough, and not as good as Jose’s mum’s car, and a lot more expensive. So we continued our tyre-kick after the lady whispered that we might find something more suitable in one of the car dealers on Alameda Avenue.

So we followed her advice and went to a yard on Alameda where the older gent was very proud to tell me they had three businesses, a chicken shop, a mechanic and a car dealership. They were really helpful in saying that for Gin and J’s limited budget, they would be better off going for a private sale and looking on Craigslist.

Gin and J about to buy a car from Jorge

So it was back to Jose’s to check that the seats folded flat and another little ride around the block. Following this, Gin and J negotiated a bargain with Jose interpreting for his dad Jorge. All this while, I remained in the hire car with Karen the GPS lamenting my own lack of luck in finding wheels. When the girls got back in with uncontrollable smiles at purchasing new wheels, all grinchy-ness left me and I was over the moon for them.

We drove off to Bank of America in order to get cash for the transaction and then it was back to the house of Jose, Jorge and Maria. This time I got out and joined in the fun, which also turned into my interpreting skills coming in handy as Jorge explained what to do if the alarm goes off. Maria (Jose’s mum) came out to write out the pink slip and was relieved when she looked up to ask a question and I said I spoke some Spanish. Because Maria couldn’t write the amount in words in English, I had to do it. I also found out that Maria’s daughter LOVES Guy Sebastian and has his posters and CD, so we laughed about that. Jorge was also quite impressed at my language skills, but that was when he thought we spoke French in Australia and that I knew three languages.

I never would have thought I’d be dusting off my Spanish today to help buy a car for Gin and J, but it was such a great feeling and I look forward to more Spanish conversations.