car hunt #1

Before we left the States, we got rid of both of our Nissan Altimas. I had a hard time parting with mine, since it was my first (and NS says my last) new car ever. It had a leather interior, heated seats, a sunroof... I hated long commutes, but at least they were in a car I loved.

Fare well, dear friend.

However, shipping a car to the island (from the Northeast) involved getting the car to Miami (not a fun drive), then paying approx. $1800 (USD) to ship it to the island, on top of a 30% duty on the fair market value of the car (including the $1800 shipping fee.) It seemed wrong to pay thousands of dollars for a car that had already been paid in full, plus the drive to FL turned us off. So we parted ways with the car.

Because it's so cost-prohibitive to bring cars to the island, once a car is on Cayman, it pretty much stays... and stays and stays. It's quite common to see professionals driving around vehicles that are 10+ years old. Sure, there are some status symbol vehicles here and there, but they're by no means the norm.  This revelation helped us lower our vehicle budget mindset when shopping.

My firm gave us a two-week car rental on the island so that we'd have time to car shop. We've been having fun driving around a Daihatsu Sirion - a little box of a car that makes it easy to zip around the island, in and out of parking spots and around small roundabouts, with no trouble at all.

Our first thought was to get something tiny, like the '97 cream British mini cooper I found at Tony's Toys (for $7.5K CI), until we had monsoon-like weather associated with Tropical Storm Nicole, and almost every road had deep puddles galore. The low-lying mini, while being a head-turner, was not meant for inclement weather.

I would have loved you, but it wasn't meant to be.

Our next thought was an SUV. The island is overflowing with mid-sized SUVs like Honda CR-Vs and Toyota Rav-4s. We test drove a couple Jeeps, Fords, and Hondas before stumbling on a dream machine: A '97 Land Rover Discovery. Leather (heated) seats, dual sunroofs, great AC (a key feature here!), V8, right-side steering, etc., etc.  NS fell in love. I fell in love. The price was right! NS (of course) talked the seller down from $7.4K CI to $5.5K CI. A steal (even according to Kelly Blue Book)! We were all set to go, pending a mechanic's inspection.  It must have been too good to be true; we talked to three mechanics, all of which warned us vehemently to stay away from the Disco due to frequent, expensive repairs.  Heartbreak! But NS particularly hates high maintenance vehicles; it wasn't the car for us.

While getting let down gently about the Rover, the mechanics told us to stick with cars that had readily-available parts on the island. Sticking with Toyotas, Hondas, Fords, and other American cars was our best bet as these can be fixed easily.  BMWs, Audis, Nissans, and obviously Rovers are hard to get parts for on Cayman, and labor rates are particularly high.  Good thing we left behind the Altimas!

While the Rover was being checked out by the mechanic, we drove to Vampt's new and used car lot to sniff out any possibilities. As it turns out, they had a company car that had just come available. It wasn't new or fancy, but it was cheap and reliable.  The dealer wanted $3K CI for it; NS got him down to $2.5K, and after we found it it needs some kind of part to get the trunk to open with the clicker, we settled at $2.3K.  Folks, I am now the proud (?) owner of....

a '00 Ford Taurus wagon.

Yep.  Forget status symbols; I have a mega-huge trunk!! All of you who plan to visit will thank me.

Oh. Just one slight downer with this car. It's American (not the downer), which means the steering is on the left. Drive-throughs have just become our primary challenge.


  1. Haha, after all the anticipation this is not what I was expecting! But should've known you'd get some sort of steal on a car. So is there a third seat in the way back? :)

  2. I'm pretty sure "Anonymous" is probably Philip. As the child of a Ford Taurus every other year for the past, oh, 25 years owner, and the inheritor of one such vehicle that has been more roomy than most of my friends' and is mostly reliable (if you can put up with its creaks and groans), I am very excited for you! We love practicality :)

  3. My first car (which I saved up for for 2 years while working 2 part time jobs during my university years) was a 1984 Mini Clubman 1275cc (almost a 1300!).
    I paid R6,000.00 (about US$850) for it and sold it 2 years later for R7,500.00 (about US$1,050.00) to pay for my ticket to the States to live there for a year.
    Man, I loved that car.
    His name was Dinkum.
    I miss him.