It seems as though everything in life has a story. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m living in a different country, or if it’s just me, but there are always several steps between point A and point B. So today I want to tell you the story of buying our car here in South Africa. It has been quite the feat, and we are thanking God today that we have a car, in our name, both able to drive it, and that we are no longer using public transportation!
After looking for months online, we realized that our best bet at getting a reliable car was through a dealership. If we were to buy from a private owner, we might get a better deal, but there was no guarantee of the quality/condition of the car. We went to several dealerships, and found a 2005 Kia Sportage. It seemed like the perfect car for us! (We didn’t care about the make or the model, but we wanted a car newer than 2005 that was SUVish) It had just come to the dealership, and when we test drove it everything seemed great. We told Fred, the car salesman, that we wanted it, and then started the paperwork. It needed a few repairs, so Fred told us to put down a 50% deposit, and when the car was in perfect working order, we could come and pay off the rest of the car. 2 days later (and much to our disappointment) Fred called us and told us that he was not willing to sell the car to us. The gear box had a lot of damage to it, and he could fix it for the moment, but it would cause a lot of problems throughout the life of the car. He told us that we needed to come back to the dealership to get the full refund, because his conscience wouldn’t allow him to sell that car to us. Amazing, right? Our friends here were astounded at Fred’s honesty. Car salesmen here are not known for looking out for the client- they are known for looking out for their own pocket. We received our full refund, thanked Fred for his honesty and integrity, and continued the search for our car.
A few weeks passed, and we decided that if we hadn’t found anything by the end of January we would settle for a smaller vehicle. It was a challenge to find what we were looking for within our price range. A friend of ours was taking his car in to get serviced, and it was in an area with lots of car dealerships. He offered to take us with him, and help us look around. We went to several dealerships but found nothing that was worth investing in. We decided to go to just one more dealership before we went back home- the Nissan dealership. Hashim, the salesman, was quick to greet us and said that yes he had 1 car that fit what we were looking for. He showed us a Nissan Livina, which is like a glorified station wagon. It was nice, had low milage, and was within our budget. Isaac was a little reluctant, which Hashim noticed. Hashim then mentioned that a Nissan Qashqai had just (as in within the last 10 minutes) been sold to the dealership. It was 2008 and had been bought new from the dealership, and now the owners were leaving the country so they were selling it back. There were only 45,000 miles on it, and it was in perfect condition. It was also within our budget. Our South African friend who was with us couldn’t believe the quality of the car for the price it was being sold at. We took it for a test drive and decided, yes this is the car we want. Hashim told us, “You guys must be really lucky people, because this car isn’t even the system yet since the dealership just bought it. I know plenty of guys who work here who will wish they would have seen it before you!” We told him, no we’re not lucky people, we’ve prayed and we know that all good things come from God! He is Hindu, so that comment kind rolled off him.
We sat down to do the paperwork and they asked us for out South African Id or Traffic Registration number so the car could be registered in our name. We told them that we didn’t have either, and we were informed that we could put the deposit on the car so that it wouldn’t be sold to anyone else, but that we needed that number (and car insurance) to be able to take the car from the lot. We paid for half of the car and left, now with a new mission of getting that number.
The traffic reg number can take a few weeks or several months to get, depending on where you get the number. We heard that a certain location gave numbers in 5 days, and so a friend took us to that department. When they checked our home address, we were told that we were not eligible to get a number at their location, because we didn’t live within their region. We had to go to the department in our region which has a reputation for taking up to 3 months. Hashim called us the next day and said that the dealership had someone from the traffic reg department that helped them, and that she would be calling me soon to help us get it done quicker. Hashim also said that he would love the opportunity to get to know us out of a business setting, and so we have a pending dinner invitation with him and his wife!
Vilma, the traffic lady called soon after and told me to meet her at the traffic reg department in our area the next day. Before she hung up she said, “wait, I haven’t even asked, how are you getting there?” When I told her we would be going by taxi she said, “Ugh, don’t waste my time! You’ll be late and I’ll have to wait the whole day. Better I just come and fetch you. Give me your address and I’ll pick you up at 8am tomorrow.” What a huge blessing!!! It was funny to Isaac and I, that the possibility of us arriving late because we would be arriving in taxi was a waste of her time, and she preferred to pick us up! The next morning she picked us up and took us to the department. On the way she poured her heart out, telling us about her daughter’s drug addiction, the struggle of raising her grandchildren, her employe that had stolen money from her, etc. It was an amazing opportunity to minister to this lady! Once we got to the department and I submitted the paperwork I was told that I could come back in 2 weeks to pick up the number. 2 weeks is a whole lot better than 3 months!!!
We called the dealership to let them know when the traffic reg number would be ready, and for them it was completely unacceptable. They didn’t want a car that was already sold sitting on their lot for 2 weeks. They did paperwork to allow us to take the car as a rental car, so that even though it was ours, it was under the dealership’s name and we were able to drive it in the city. The only requirement for that is that we would need to have the car insured under our names. We were able to get that (which is another long story for another day!) and then pick up our car. Vilma came for us 2 weeks later and took us to pick up that number. She, Fred and Hashim are just a few examples of how good the people of Johannesburg have been to us. Something that we have seen again and again, is how willing Joburgers (people from Johannesburg) are to go out of their way to help others.
The last step of this whole car ordeal was Isaac’s license. The one thing we did not think about when moving to South Africa was translating his license from Spanish into English. His license is not valid here unless it is officially translated into English. This means that I’ve been the one driving- stick shift with my left hand on the other side of the road. It’s been quite the challenge. Finally, today, Isaac received the translation of his license. I’m not sure whose happier- me to not have to drive anymore or him as he finally gets to drive!! Either way, we’re both happy campers!
So here it is, after 2 months of searching, doing the paperwork, waiting for paperwork to be done, and waiting for the right documents, our car: