We have been renting a car since we first landed in Montreal. After over two months of this money-draining necessity, the time finally came to buy our own four wheels. But, in a new and unfamiliar country, where do you start?
Looking around some second-hand car places did not fill us with confidence either. At one we visited, we said we wanted to take a look at a Jeep, but the sales guy said no; he didn’t think we should have a Jeep, and therefore steered us straight past them to the Nissans. We tried a couple of times to go down the Jeep track, but it was as though he was immune to our inquiries unless they were over makes he wanted to sell us. This tactic annoyed me immensely, and as a result, I ‘lost’ interest in his spiel: two can play at that game, buddy. It’s one thing suggesting cars, and informing us how they perform, fuel consumption, costs of parts and repairs, yada yada yada, but it is quite another not even letting us look at one so we could make our own minds up.
We were predominantly looking at 4x4s. T is working quite a way out of Montreal next year (about 94km - 59 miles - round trip) and in the winter, with snow, ice, spray etc it’s just nicer being higher up. In the end, the Ford Escape (it goes under the guise of ‘Kuga’ in England) seemed to be the one in our budget that most appealed to us.
I am still very much in my European-car mindset and was pulled towards Volkswagen, Audi (mmm…TT and R8…ahem) and BMW, but these are a little out of our price-range. So, until we win the lottery, we will stick with Ford.
Through a friend of T’s in Munich, we were introduced to a guy who works at a Ford dealership here. We went and had a look at what he had in, and out of the Ford Escapes we opted for the red one over the beige one with it’s beige interior. The guy, J, helped us no end; giving us a fantastic deal, sorting out payment problems (see below), and above all, not being pushy – and he let us look at what we wanted rather than trying to sell us a Mustang or transit van. I cannot tell you what a relief it was to have someone really look out for us and not feel that he was trying to pull the wool over our eyes to make a quick buck.
The payment issue: as we don’t have the credit rating and history to enable us to buy a car on lease or any of that easiness, we have had to put it on our UK credit card. But there was an upper limit of what they could let us place on it. Thankfully, J had a talk with his boss and explained our situation and so we were able to go over this limit, but had to pay the charges incurred. The other car places we had visited had claimed there was no problem using the card, but when we enquired further they too had a limit $3-4000, and wouldn’t accept any more on the credit card.
So we bought the car and went to pick it up a few days later when it had been serviced and winter tyres installed. We had our own car!! The final major thing on our list had been bought; we could now concentrate on living out here!
The morning after we collected it, on his drive to work T noticed the light on the dashboard regarding the ABS stayed on, so on his way home he took it back to the dealership to get the mechanics to look over it. They scheduled an appointment for the following week to get it fixed. Less than five minutes after T left, there was a loud banging in the car - the ABS had permanently kicked in making the car un-drivable – so he had to pull over on the grass verge, walk back to the dealership in the snow and get someone to come out and look at the car. They took the corresponding fuse out which seemed to fix the problem for the short term and enabled T to get back home.
Still not the end of the story…
The car was supposed to have been checked thoroughly by the mechanics only the day before, so we asked for the report from this check. This also reminded us to ask for the car report that shows if it has ever been in any accidents, which we should have seen when we bought the car. It hadn’t been in the file which J had thought strange, but he wasn’t too worried as it was part of Fords philosophy not to buy second-hand cars that had been in accidents. He asked for another copy to be sent through to him and was going to forward it on to us when he received it. On the Friday morning (the day after T broke down, two days after we had bought the car), T was working from home, when we got a call from J. Problem. He had finally obtained the report, but it wasn’t good - the car had been in an accident, which had resulted in $13,000 worth of damage to the bodywork. It wasn’t structural, and I know bodywork is expensive to fix, but we couldn’t help but think it must have been a pretty major bump to cause all that damage, and therefore made us uneasy about what may have been weakened in the car structure. Besides, when it came to wanting to sell the car in the future, the accident would flag up and put buyers off, reducing the price we would get for it. J was so apologetic and couldn’t believe our car had fallen through the net, and advised us to bring the car straight back to the dealership and either get a refund or exchange it for the other Escape they had in stock which was exactly the same: model, year, mileage, price…yup it was that one - the beige one.
We decided to exchange for beige, and so, whilst this car was being serviced the company paid for us to have a rental car over the weekend. Soon, we would have a car!
T went to pick up the new car on his way back from work five days later.
Nearly the end, but there is a little twist to the story – I couldn’t make it up even if I wanted to…
I got a phone call at 7.30pm from T who was at the car place picking up the car. There was a little pause at his end of the line when I answered, followed by a "You'll never guess what....". They had just tested out the neat feature of being able to remotely start the engine (so on cold days you can start the car by pressing the button on the keyring from the back door and let it warm up whilst you have your cornflakes – necessary when it’s -30 outside). The engine started just fine, J put the key in the ignition (both sets of keys were on the same keyring). They continued the walk round the car to check everything was ok. Little did they know, this neat autostart feature locks all the car doors… Both front doors were open; T was one side of the car, J on the other. J closed his door; T closed his door. Lock. J tried to open his door. T tried to open his door. They both uttered the same expletive. The had managed to lock BOTH sets of keys in the car, with the engine running.
No problem, the car has a keypad on the outside of the drivers door so you can type in the code in such circumstances and it unlocks the door…but that code was written on a piece of paper…and that was in the glove box…of course.
They ended up having to get the breakdown recovery people to come and break in the car to get the keys out. An hour and a half later, T left in the car. At least the beige-mobile was warm for his journey home!
But, it has now been almost a week and we still have the car, no ABS locking on, no nasty surprises with the paperwork... It has also passed the road trip test when we drove to Quebec at the weekend.
So, fingers crossed, this really is the end of the story…