Monday, January 26, 2015

New Wheels

Last month David and I discussed getting a newer car. While our 2001 Isuzu Rodeo was in good shape, we thought maybe something a bit smaller, newer, and with less miles would be a good thing. We jotted down what we thought we might want:

  • RAV4 or equivalent (we had a RAV4 in the States and found it a great size and very dependable)
  • Model Year: 2006 or later
  • Less than 125,000 miles (our Rodeo had 162,000)
  • Four door

Now here in Corozal, you are not going to find a plethora of car dealerships. Matter of fact, you won’t find any. People buy and sell cars in a variety of ways. There is a spot down by the seawall, as you enter town, where a variety of used vehicles can be perused. Some folks paint dollar signs and a phone number on the back window of a vehicle they’re looking to sell, and others post pictures and details on Facebook.

I already was familiar with one of the Facebook sites, Corozal Auto Center, as the owner of the business and I had corresponded on another matter. Just for giggles, I thought I would see what his company had to offer.

When I pulled up the Auto Center’s Facebook page, the very first post was a four-door RAV4 with 83,000 miles. My jaw dropped. David was working on a remodeling project in our spare bathroom, and I yelled for him to take a look at what was on my computer monitor. He couldn’t believe it either.

We arranged to take a look at the car on New Year’s Eve. After taking it for a test drive, we thought it had definite potential. There were lots of bells and whistles that we didn’t need, but the air bags, including side curtain ones, were an added bonus (see the post about driving in Belize). Two days later, and with the owner’s permission, we had our mechanic take a look at it. He let us know that other than a minor part that needed to be replaced, the car was mechanically sound. That left contending with the cracked windshield. 

Now cracked windshields are par for the course for the majority of vehicles in Belize. But we thought it might be nice to have a car without one. Also bear in mind that as far as we know there is no business in Belize that sells windshields, factory authorized or otherwise. You have to bring one in from Mexico or Guatemala. David had already checked with a window tinting business here in town that said they could install the new windshield.

It turns out that the owner of the RAV works in Guatemala and could procure a new and authentic windshield and it would be in Corozal by the end of the following week. The final price for the car and the windshield were agreed upon and arrangements were made to meet at the Ministry of Works building in Ranchito on the following Monday to transfer the title.

Monday rolled around and we all met at the Ministry building. The title transfer took about an hour. This is due to the fact that all the paperwork is filled out by hand, in triplicate. And we came to find out that when you transfer a car title, you need to get new plates.  Of course, this means you have to take the old plates off. The Ministry didn’t have any tools to lend to make this happen. So David drove back to our house, grabbed tools, and removed the plates from the RAV.

Once the title and plate transaction were complete, we verified again that we would have the new windshield by the end of the week.

We decided not to drive the car right away, because it didn’t seem to make sense to affix the new registration and insurance stickers to a windshield that would be replaced in just a few days. And as we still had our Rodeo, it wasn’t like we didn’t have wheels.

The week passed and no word about the windshield. David texted the guy who was to supply it. Well, it seems there was some delay at the border and we should probably have it by the middle of the following week. We decided to gently apply the registration and inspection stickers to the existing windshield and start driving the car. By the following Wednesday, still no windshield. More texts were exchanged. Seems the windshield finally made its way into Belize, but the person who was to drive it to Corozal had some delays.

A couple more days passed, then around 9:30 PM on that Friday, David gets a text saying the windshield was in town, and he could pick it up right then. Ummm, no. Instead arrangements were made to pick it up the following morning.

David drove the RAV, with the windshield stowed in the back, to the window tinting place in town. The owner was out, but his son suggested maybe it would be better to repair the crack in the existing glass and keep the new windshield as a spare. He let David know that his dad would call us to discuss options and pricing. David drove home, picked up his bicycle, drove back to the window place, dropped off the car and pedaled home.

About a half hour later, David got the call. Ummm, it seems that since the RAV has side curtain air bags, the repair guy wasn’t able to replace the windshield for fear of setting them off. The replacement needed to be done by factory authorized technicians. To the best of our knowledge, there is no Toyota dealer in Belize, which means the window replacement would have to be done in Mexico. And to make matters even more interesting, if we opted to have the existing crack repaired, it would cost the same as having a new windshield put in (if it could have been).

David hopped on his bike, made his way to the window place, picked up the car and the new windshield, and drove home. We carried the glass into the shop, then he got back in the car, went back to the window place, retrieved the bike, and came back to the house.

Needless to say, this whole plan wasn’t going too well. In the meantime, our friends, Colleen and Bruce, decided to buy our Rodeo, which was a step up from the 1996 Rodeo they had. 

Soon the day came to transfer the title for the Rodeo to Colleen and Bruce. As they live in Corozal Town, that meant the transaction needed to be done at the Town Hall.

Happily enough, there was no line when we arrived at the Hall and everything is computerized. The bad news was that they didn’t have any title forms. Okey dokey. So while the actual title transfer was entered into the system, there was no paper to prove it happened. That meant Colleen and Bruce would have to go back in a day or two to finish the process, including getting new plates.

It turned out that it took more like four days before the title forms arrived. However, the Town Hall didn’t have any new plates, but they knew what the new plate numbers would be. To rectify the situation, the clerk noted on the back of the title what the new plates would be and gave it an official stamp.

And what about our windshield? Well, we know there’s a Toyota dealer in Chetumal, Mexico (about 10 miles from our house). A friend of ours, who lives in Mexico, graciously agreed to talk with the dealership to see if they can do the window replacement and what the estimated cost would be.

I’ll let you all know how the windshield saga goes in an upcoming post. In the meantime, little did we know another car adventure was waiting for us and would give our guardian angels a workout. 

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