We designed this trip with a car in mind. What we didn’t know is that we would get so lucky with this one.
Our goal was to get a car that was reliable and cheap. We honestly thought it would be good enough if it had four wheels and started. The preliminary plan was to go to Spain, look for a car as soon as we arrived, register it, get insurance, and go – all within hopefully the first week. That’s about how long it would take to complete the whole process, start to finish, in the United States.
Well, when we went from idea to execution, we were reminded that Spain isn’t the United States. We should have known that there would be more obstacles, of course. But luckily we were able to overcome them by leaning on connections: my mother-in-law! She is a wiz at everything bureaucratic in Spain haha. Not sure if that is a compliment but it’s true.
First of all, as soon as we told her our plan to do this trip, she happened to know someone who was ready to sell their car. The timing could not have been more perfect. It was the classic grandma car that was used solely to go back and forth from the grocery store. It is a 2003 Renault Clio with only 85 000 km (53 000 miles). Better yet, it’s an automatic (a rare but very convenient find in Europe)!
After finding the vehicle, there was the paperwork. Our liaison (my mother-in-law) purchased this car from a Swiss couple who was moving back after living in Spain for a couple of decades. Without going into too many details, the process was complicated by the fact that they had outdated identification numbers in Spain (not their fault; the documents have been updated and they were caught in between). It also didn’t help that they had a different name structure than is common in Spain (one or two first names plus two last names).
Changing the car title is not easy. For those in the States, you’ll easily recall signing a piece of paper stating that the car was sold to X person for Y amount, and with that paper you can take it to the Department of Motor Vehicles to have it registered. The seller removes the license plates and that’s that. Well, not so in Spain, or I guess in many other countries. Instead, the license plate stays with the car, which means there’s risk for the prior owner because they have to trust that you do, in fact, register it under your name.
In this way, there is no title per se but rather the government office owns the registry of vehicles. Because the prior owners weren’t properly registered, the office was not sure how to transfer the ownership of the vehicle from them (on paper kind of non-existent) to us. Turns out you can’t buy a car from ghosts haha.
Our liaison persevered, transferred the title, got the insurance, and even had it mechanically checked. In total it took about 4 weeks, which is a miracle during the month of August (mostly a non-working month in Europe). This would’ve been lost time otherwise. She was able to get it all ready for us, so by the time we arrived, we could get up and go! So grateful for that.
This little car fits our whole life inside, keeps us warm when it’s cold, cold when it’s warm, and has been very reliable so far. We’ll see how it does once we rapidly increase its mileage!