Friday, March 6, 2015

The unofficial guide to buying a used car in Abu Dhabi

My sweet, sweet ride.

Sure, loads of people write articles titled “How to buy a car in Abu Dhabi”, but the truth is, I when I bought a used car in Abu Dhabi, my fourth such purchase but first in the UAE, and whenever I clicked on any of them, they were short on “actual details that would have helped”.

As is the case with a lot of stuff that expats try to do here, the best way to go about it is ask people who have bought cars what to do, then piece together the procedure from there.

So here is my unofficial guide to buying a used car in Abu Dhabi.

•Find a used car you like. I had been checking the Abu Dhabi section of for more than a year, sort of unenergetically, put off by the lack of pictures, weird omissions in info and strange text exchanges with people once I did enquire. That is all part and parcel of being here and facing language and culture barriers. 

*Once you find a used car you like, and this might take several tries, make sure you can communicate properly with the person who is selling it and they seem not-shady and like you can deal with them. You will know this from their text messages. Maybe you can successfully close a transaction with someone who answers “car in Mussafah, inshallah” when you ask a question like “When can I come and see the car and where is it, exactly”? (actual exchange), but I really did not think I could.

*Also, and this is important for women as well as men, take someone with you when you go to check the car out. We get a false sense of security here in Abu Dhabi, but when I did go see my totally awesome new car, and met the really cool first member of the family who was selling it, it struck me that I was putting myself in a totally random insecure situation and that it was very smart of me to bring a friend. 

*if you like the car, make sure you get a good feeling from the person selling it. And, as my dad always says, if at any point in the transaction something doesn’t feel right, just walk away. 

*Do some Google searches going in, to check the value of your vehicle, for driver and media reviews, for potential problems, and to help you negotiate a little on the price. 

*Negotiate. I think people expect this. I bought a 2008 Volvo C70 convertible (hey, why not when the sun shines every day?), which was priced at Dh47,000. I offered Dh43,000; we settled on Dh45,000. It was a friendly exchange, and it just took a deep breath for me to have the courage to ask. I already knew it was a good price (lucky me, I have a motoring editor at work to consult on my purchases!) but felt that the Dh47,000 price was just begging for a little to be nipped off - a round number. The money I saved by negotiating will pay for my first two years of insurance, too.

*Recognise one totally awesome fact: Most people really need to unload their cars, so you have the upper hand. Also, no sales tax.

*Definitely make getting the car checked out by an independent mechanic a condition of your handshake deal with the seller. (Again, ask colleagues and friends for their recommendations and find someone awesome) I paid Dh500 for this and it gave me incredible peace of mind. Not only did I successfully navigate my first solo trip to Mussafah in six years, I also got a very stern (yet valuable) warning from my mechanic on the convertible aspect: no excessive up-and-downing, he warned. If that roof goes, this car is no good. Message heard. Months later and I am still rationing the roof.

*Once the car checks out, expect the process to take quite awhile longer, because that’s just the way it is.

*Purchase your insurance. You need insurance to transfer ownership of the car. I went through HSBC’s Axa, because I deal with them on my home and travel insurance and they are totally amazing and efficient to deal with. I have no idea if they are the cheapest and I don't care. I did this over the phone, paying via credit card and only had to tell them minimal info about the car (make, model, year, colour) and provide my Emirates ID. The information was then linked to my Emirates ID: I didn’t need to present documents proving insurance when I transferred ownership: they already knew (only slightly spooky). And although I carry printouts in my car now, I think everything is included on my new ownership card. 

*Check the gold ownership card of the person selling the car (or just ask) to see if there is a bank listed on it. If there is a bank listed on it (meaning they once had a car loan for it or still do) they will need to get a clearance letter from the bank for the sale to go through. I say get a bank clearance letter anyway; you just never know.

*Once you have your insurance, and your seller has the letter, you can arrange to meet him or her at the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Bureau on Muroor Road (after 25th, heading out of Abu Dhabi towards Dubai). Make sure you go to the office that is right beside the garage, where they do the testing. 

*Take an Arabic speaker with you, if you can. It’s just easier.

*Your car will be tested to make sure it passes the inspection. 

*After the inspection (the seller will oversee this part) you will take a number and both you and the seller will see someone and that’s where the ownership is transferred. 

*I honestly lost track of the money exchanged (my seller Michael was an Arabic speaker, so much of the actual handover was a bit over my head) but I think I paid Dh300 and he paid Dh100. 

*Unless the seller wants to keep the license plates (I will - how cool will those look in a frame one day?) they can just be passed over with the car. This is easiest. 

*Get the seller to show you special features on the car. I’ve never driven anything this fancy before, there were lots of bells and whistles (see putting the top down above) that I would have struggled to find on my own. 

*Wish each other well and be on your way. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

An extra consideration is that once the car hits 10 years old, you'll only be able to insure it for third party and not comprehensive. You're covered for hitting other vehicles but you're effectively self-insuring your own vehicle after that.

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