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Should You Own A Car Overseas?

Should You Own A Car Overseas?

A government group recently recommended that states lower permitted blood-alcohol levels from 0.08% to 0.05%. Most of us hit 0.05% after two drinks or so, depending on our weight and other factors.

Supporters claim that lowering to 0.05% will save lives. Apparently, at this level, drivers become about as distracted as if they have the music on too loud–which can cause accidents. Those against the proposed new limits, including restaurant and bar owners, claim that 0.05% criminalizes social drinking.

I became convinced long ago that drinking and driving don’t mix. Once I studied the issues, I decided to quit drinking altogether. I gave up driving, too, for other reasons (mostly because I hate driving).

You, too, may think you want to give up driving. You may decide you like to drink more than you like to drive. You may also be fed up with buying and selling cars, insuring them, crashing them, repairing, maintaining, lubricating, washing, parking, putting gas in them–and even driving them. You may be tired of parking tickets, speeding tickets, license and registration costs, and, as mentioned, blood-alcohol checks.

One solution is to move overseas and live without a car. In general, you’ll find it far easier to live without a car in most places overseas than in nearly any place in the U.S. And, you’ll find you have plenty of company: tens of thousands of other expats around the globe live without cars.

If you move to Latin America or Southeast Asia, or big cities in Europe, you’ll find that many locals live without cars, too. Since the locals use public transport and taxis, you and other expats will, too.

Not all the big cities love their taxis, though. Take Paris and Buenos Aires, for instance. Both cities are about the same size, each with a metropolitan population of some 13 million, including an inner core of about two million. Yet last I checked, Paris has only 5,000 licensed cabs while Buenos Aires has over 55,000, plus many more private cabs called “remises.”

Why the difference? In Paris, only tourists and business travelers take cabs, often for transfers to airports and train stations. In Buenos Aires, everyone uses cabs all the time–they’re plentiful and reasonably priced.

Paris and Buenos Aires also have excellent public transportation, as do many other large Third World and European cities. They may be crowded and noisy, especially at rush hour, but at least you can get around cheaply and easily.

I’d guess that the majority of expats who live in Buenos Aires, Cuenca, and Panama City, and in Bangkok and Hanoi, live without cars. In fact, in almost every expat community I can think of, including Chapala/Ajijic and San Miguel de Allende, a fairly high percentage of expats (but less than a majority) live without cars.

Without a car, you save money, avoid hassles, and enjoy a glass of wine or two at dinner without breaking the law. You also avoid a seldom-discussed problem expats with cars face: dealing with local laws and customs and with theft and crashes.

Over the years, I’ve heard many expats and tourists complain about problems overseas. In the majority of cases, those problems had to do with their vehicles. Expats crashed, their cars broke down, they couldn’t find parts.

They had to pay a fortune to import their cars, then another fortune to import parts.

Sell the car before you go, and you leave these problems behind.

Paul Terhorst

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