Buying a car is already a stressful (and exciting) process. But buying a car abroad in a foreign country?
Now that’s taking the stress (and excitement) to a whole other level…
Car-less in the USA.
When we finalized our plan to move from the USA to Austria, our car situation was the first to be analyzed. We each had a car that we adored and both of them needed to be gone by the time we departed for Salzburg in July.
Erin had a little Mini Cooper – with the license plate R2DTU (yes, he loves StarWars!). And I had my bright red hatchback that had taken us on more adventures than I could describe. But we were moving to Austria, and sacrifices needed to be made.
It was time to say goodbye to our 2 loyal friends…
Sadly for Erin, 5 months before our departure, R2 was the first to go. Then, in the very last week, my bright red beauty was next. Now, before I continue, you should know we LOVE our road trips. So many memories in the past 9 years of our relationship, have involved getting lost in new places by car. Giving that up was a weird (and emotional!) experience.
But despite our love for road trips, we never planned on buying a car abroad. We thought that if we could walk to the train station, we could get anywhere!
After all, it’s Europe right?
Our scooter phase!
Having no transportation whatsoever ended about a week into our lives abroad.
We quickly realized that we needed to get around by ourselves. It would help us make new friends (so we didn’t have to rely on a chauffeur), run to the store when we need to, pick up groceries and transport them easier, and of course get to more awesome places faster!
So the first thing we invested in? A scooter! (so European of us)
You can buy a used scooter in perfect condition for about 500 euros. Then, it costs about 170 euros to register it and another 180 for scooter insurance. 850 euros was a lot, but it would change our life here for the better. Plus, scooters are way too much fun, especially in Europe!
It was the perfect first investment in our new lives here. We could easily sell it if we needed to, and since our initial Visa was only for 6 months, anything more didn’t make sense just yet. If (and when!) our Residence Permits were accepted, then MAYBE it would look into buying a car abroad, but definitely not until that point.
…but a scooter can only go so far (or high!)
As the months went on, especially as the weather grew colder we started feeling kind of limited in our ability to get out and explore. We realized that Salzburg is surrounded by endless mountains, so not only did weather limit our adventures, the land did too!
We couldn’t exactly get up mountains with 2 grown adults sitting on one little scooter. Even on the smallest hills, 10 miles/hour was pretty much the fastest we could go!
If you could imagine us slowly creeping up hills in our little scooter. We caused our fair share of traffic jams, especially when we had to literally lean forward to make sure we didn’t stop mid-mountain! It was definitely a sight to be seen…
Of course when we were looking for an adventure on cold and snowy days, we could still walk and use the train. But there is SO much to see outside of Salzburg. All the little villages throughout Austria are our favorite part about living here, and some aren’t as accessible by train.
And as for our big trips, instead of flying all the time or taking trains, we could drive. Living so centrally in Europe, we’re surrounded by millions of places to explore, all of which we can drive to within just a few hours. We HAD to take advantage of that!
With a car, we could see so much of our country and SO much of others too.
It was time to reevaluate (which we find ourselves doing a lot since we moved abroad!)
Adjusting our priorities…
After weighing the pros and cons, re-budgeting to see if we can even afford a car, and lots and LOTS of research, we made our decision. The freedom, new possibilities and ability to see so much more of Europe was all the convincing we needed.
After our Residence Permit was approved, we were going to invest in a car. And we knew this little European adventure wagon would take us on road trips we could’ve only dreamed about until now!
Buying a car abroad? Where do you start?
We had no idea how to move forward with the next step – actually finding and buying a car abroad! Luckily, one of Erin’s relatives here in Austria is a mechanic, so we put him on car watch. All we needed was a car that could safely get us around. One we could cheaply fix, would last for about 2 years and not drastically lose value, so maybe we could resell it.
And just like that, about a week into our search, we found our car!
An elderly lady here in Salzburg who rarely drove her 1997 VW Jetta was looking to sell it. There was literally 43,000 miles on this car and for 2,000 euros cash, it was ours! It also happened to be an automatic (rare find here in Europe!) and a diesel engine, so great on gas. Both 2 major bonuses, since I could actually drive it (I never mess with stick shift) and filling up our tank wouldn’t break the bank during our long road trips.
But before we gave in, we had to research the other costs that would result in owning a car again. It’s not just the cost of the car that concerned us. It’s everything that comes with owning a car. We’d have to register the car, we’d have to get car insurance and we’d also need to maintain it…
How we evaluated cost…
- 2,000 euros cash
- 1,100 euros for car insurance for the year (which also included renters insurance for our apartment)
- Gas (luckily it had a Diesel engine)
- Maintenance cost (VWs are like the Toyotas of the USA, so they’re cheap to fix here in Austria!)
- 180 euros to register the car
We factored in the cost of taking the train back and forth into Salzburg, the cost of train and transportation when we venture to our countries, and of course our happiness in Austria. Plus, it would give us an asset here in Austria that we can sell if we find ourselves in a bind. It had to be done.
The big 4-wheeled purchase.
The day arrived and it was time to officially buy our car in Austria. Something I never thought I’d be doing, especially not in my previous life!
Luckily, Erin’s uncle did a complete maintenance check and fixed any potential issues it had. He even helped us amp up our ’97 sound system, so we could jam out properly.
We were getting a mature (better word than old) but reliable car with low mileage in perfect condition for 2,000 euros. It was perfect! We signed our contract, set up our car insurance, registered the car, got our plates and were on our way. Buying a car abroad in Austria = mission accomplished.
WHAT A FEELING!
To be driving around a new country in a car that WE just purchased (and fully paid off in cash) felt SO badass! There’s no other way to describe it. Even just putting an Austrian license plate on our new Austrian ride was exciting!
As soon as we pulled out of the dealership, we knew we made the right decision. We had the biggest smiles on our faces. Instantly, in that moment, our lives here reached a whole new level. Having a car not only meant easier travel, it also meant having a familiar setting everywhere we drove. No matter how unfamiliar our surroundings were, we would always feel comfortable.
The road was our new playground.
And that road meant endless new experiences in countries ALL throughout Europe.
And now that we have a car…
Life in Austria is a million times better after buying a car abroad. There is absolutely no comparison. Not only are we planning as many road trips as possible, we can also run errands when we need to and visit friends without requiring them to pick us up. (A definite plus in the whole making new friends abroad process…)
So far, we’ve used our new car to explore SO MANY destinations right here in Austria. We’ve journeyed to Innsbruck, Hallstatt, Sankt Giglen, Sankt Wolfgang, Mondsee, Attersee, Hintersee and Linz. Getting lost in random little villages along the way.
AND we’ve driven over the border to cities within the Czech Republic and Germany. Discovering new places that we would’ve never found if it wasn’t for the freedom of the road.
Of course to make up for the unexpected car purchase, we had to adjust our travel ambitions for the year. We quickly came to one decision that truly made our car worth the investment.
Aside from the long distance trips we’d already planned (Malta and Amsterdam), ‘Driving Distance Destinations ONLY’ had to be our new rule moving forward.
2016 – the year of awesome [ROAD] trips around Europe!
Luckily, Salzburg is centrally located (a big reason why we moved here). There are endless amounts of fabulous countries, all within an 8 hour drive. Italy, Czech Republic, Hungary, Germany, France, Greece, Switzerland, Croatia… I could literally go on forever!
And so we made a new goal for ourselves: explore as many countries as possible via car! Not the most terrible goal of all time, right?
The travel opportunities were opening up in all directions. As of now, Slovakia, Germany, Italy, Liechtenstein, Croatia, Slovenia and more of Austria are already on the list. We’ll see what other crazy adventures we can come up with (and afford!) as 2016 continues…
Okay, so why am I telling you this?
Well, whenever we experience something completely new abroad, we have to share it you, of course! Any experience we have is another step in adjusting to life in a new country. But other than that, there were also lessons learned in this whole ‘buying a car abroad’ extravaganza…
The important of re-prioritizing and making adjustments abroad.
You think you know until you actually know because you experienced it.
We never predicted that we’d need a car in Austria. We thought the train was the answer to all of our problems. But what we learned is that train travel and transportation costs ADD UP! Even to just get to Munich (which has trains every hour from Salzburg), we’d have to throw down at least 80 bucks round trip. Our car would take half a tank of gas (20 euros).
There will be MANY situations and feelings that require you to make adjustments after you’ve moved abroad. It’s important to try and accommodate them rather than ignore them. Let go of any preconceived notions and trust yourself and how you’re feeling at that moment in time.
We were missing something in our lives here, and the freedom to go where we want to go and see what we want to see was definitely it. Our budget had to be adjusted and our travel schedule had to be reanalyzed to make it happen, but it couldn’t have been more worth it.
A new-found appreciation for material things.
After not having a car for a while and then buying a car abroad, we realized that we have a greater appreciation for what we used to take for granted in the USA.
Erin and I both had a car when in Washington, DC. It was what we apparently needed to live our lives… We appreciated it, but it kind of felt like an automatic requirement in life. Then we sold both cars and had zero. After our move to Austria, we bought a scooter and now we finally have one car again.
And this one car feels about a million times more awesome than any other car purchase we’ve made. Why? Because we worked for it!
Buying a car abroad in Austria was SO much more than just the purchase.
It symbolized all of our hard work. It represented a moment in time where ALL of our efforts paid off. The point when our lives in an uncomfortable place finally became comfortable.
We are proud of ourselves, appreciative for what we have and SO excited to take our life here to the next level.
A new chapter begins for us here in Austria… Where the sky (or the open road) is the limit!