Should you take your car when you retire abroad? | Retired

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Owning a retired car can be a liability, an expense, and a problem. So when you move abroad, consider whether you really need your own vehicle. In many of the world’s most attractive places to retire, you could live happily without a car and travel wherever you need to or want to walk on a daily basis.

However, there are some places abroad where it would be difficult and impractical to try to get along without owning a car. Then you need to decide whether to bring your car with you from home or buy one when you get to where you are going.

Determine if your current vehicle is suitable. You may not be able to easily drive or maintain your current car in another country. For example, in Ireland the steering wheel of your American car will be on the wrong side. Also consider the quality of the roads. You don’t want to ship a minibus to a seaside city in the developing world. It won’t be up to the roads, and you will have to constantly replace tires and align the front. In rural Latin America and the Caribbean, you need a four-wheel drive truck or SUV.

Consider the cost of shipping a vehicle. It can be expensive to transport a car to another country. If you have obtained retiree visa status in your new country, the duties associated with importing your car are usually waived, but this may not be the case in all countries.

Get a new car when you get there. If you want to own a car in your new home abroad, it may be easier and smarter to sell your current car and buy another in the new country. The key is to be at least as careful during the buying process as you would be at home. Don’t buy the first car you see and don’t buy a car without having it inspected by a local mechanic you trust.

Here are five things to remember when buying a car in a foreign country:

Even if you speak the language, take a local store with you. Everything, including buying a car, has a different protocol from country to country. Find out how much you should expect to be able to negotiate on the sticker price and what warranties or extras are standard. In Panama, used cars purchased from a dealership should be guaranteed for at least one month. A local knows these standards.

Expect buying a car overseas to take more time and effort than in the U.S. In the United States, it is possible to shop and even buy a car for whatever price you want to pay without leaving your home. In the rest of the world, this is not the case. You have to invest the time to visit different dealerships, comb through the newspaper classifieds, and pound the sidewalk looking for “for sale” signs in car windows.

Before choosing a car, research the repair costs. Different makes and models of cars are more or less common in different parts of the world, which means that for some cars in certain places it can be difficult to find mechanics who know how to fix them and what parts are needed to perform the repairs. . In places like Panama and Nicaragua, repairs are generally much cheaper than in the United States because the labor costs are much lower. You can have a flat tire repaired at a gas station in Panama for $ 2. On the other hand, the standard of typical repair jobs may not be what you expect. Mechanics, especially in countries like Panama, Nicaragua and Belize, for example, prefer to weld broken parts rather than replacing them.

Know what to carry in your car. In Panama, you must keep a road emergency kit that includes flares in your vehicle at all times, as well as the current edition of the National Driver’s Manual. You can find these books for sale at drugstores and at newsstands across the country. If you are stopped for any reason, the traffic cop may ask to see these things.

Meet the requirements of local drivers. You will likely be able to drive in your new country for a period of time with your US driver’s license, typically three months to a year. You will need to obtain a local driver’s license in your new country before your ability to drive with your US license expires.

Many countries allow you to exchange your US license for a local license or just confirm that you have a US license and then issue a new one to yourself. You may need to have your US license “authenticated” at the local US consulate before the country’s authorities accept it during the exchange. However, in some countries you will need to qualify for a new license based on local requirements. For example, to get an Irish driving license, you have to pass written and road driving tests. Take care to study and practice for the exam. Some rules of the road in your new country may surprise you, such as who has right of way in a roundabout in Ireland.

You pay an annual fee for license plates and vehicle registration anywhere in the world. However, in some countries these fees must be paid in person, which adds an extra step to the process.

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