Now that we’ve been here for a few months and are more comfortable with getting around, I was Jones-ing for my own car to zip around town.
Of course, Theo and I made a sport out of looking. Test driving proved to be so easy here in France that we took everything for a drive! They simply give you the keys and let you go. SO nice to not be pressured and have some pushy salesman in the back seat!
We tested the Peugeot 208, Ford Fiesta, MINI Cooper, Seat Ibiza, Mazda 2, Citroen C3, Audi A1, Renault Clio, Dacia Sandero, Toyota Yaris, and VW Polo. Needless to say, this took a few weeks, limiting ourselves to 1 to 2 dealers per day, no more than twice per week. Of course, here in France, EVERYTHING is closed between 12 and 2, so unless you hit the road fairly early (not in our nature), the shopping window is small if you want to be home before dark.
In the end, we really liked the Ford Fiesta and the Citroën C3. But after second test-drives, I really preferred the Citroën. It was extremely soft riding and quiet for such a small car and rode a bit higher than the others, providing great visibility. And truthfully, after our ‘second sitting,’ we realized our large American frames simply aren’t comfortable in many of the superminis’ seats, hitting us mid-thigh and squeezing our ample back meat! Ha!
Manufacturers have amazing incentives right now and we were tempted to just order a new one (dealers here do not stock cars for the most part), but in the end I found a great used one. Once I decided on the Citroën, I searched through hundreds of listings on France’s version of Craig’s List and found a November 2014 car with automatic transmission (very rare in Europe) and only 10,000 kilometers (6,200 miles) on it! The fact that it was loaded with about every option you could order was icing on the cake. It has a huge panoramic windshield, the onboard computer screen was the larger ‘2015’ size, and it came with automatic lights, windows, wipers, parking assist and rear camera!
In the end, we have a car that still smells new (that’s important, right???) and it’s white (that’s important, right???) and I have a happy husband that didn’t have to experience the instant depreciation of buying a new car (we all KNOW that’s important). Well, truth be told, I have my eye on a very expensive French range for the new kitchen, so I’m trying to save wherever I can to stock up cash for my splurge!!!
If you’re reading this blog and are looking for guidance on how the system works here in France, here are some words of wisdom that we had to dig up the old fashioned way. Know that cash transactions here in France are limited to €1,000, so paying for a car must be made by a certified bank check. Oh, did I mention that prices are not negotiable? Secondly, you must have proof of insurance to drive the car away. The dealer will need your passport, proof of insurance, and proof of ‘residency’ (our rental contract and mobile bill were good enough) to prepare your new Carte Grise or registration. We emailed all of this to the dealer before heading to the coast almost three hours away where I found the car. This was the smoothest and quickest car buying transaction I’ve ever had. They had everything ready for us—I took a little spin in the actual car, looked it over good, we signed, got a few instructions on how things worked, and off we went.
For you car nerds out there, it has a 1.2 liter PureTech 82 engine with 81 horsepower from it’s three cylinder engine. It’s purported to get 63 miles per gallon. I don’t drive like a race driver, so it’s absolutely perfect for me, although it scared Theo with all of it’s get-up-and-go the first time he drove it!
Now I have the freedom to explore brocantes without dragging poor Theo along. If only I was so confident about my French!!!