There is a weekly rag here in QT similar to greensheet, penny saver, etc. It was the easiest place to start looking for a car to buy. The issue current when i arrived had several of interest, and further inquiry found them all to be sold. I therefore made it a point to jump quickly when the next issue was published. One ad stood out, a 98 Mazda Familia, 4WD 1.6L manual with low mileage; 118Kkm, about 80K miles. The owner, a front desk clerk at a motel, said it had been imported used from Japan by a friend, and that he was the second owner in NZ. For various reasons, none the least of which is the ridiculously stringent vehicle inspections in Japan, cars are routinely imported into NZ after they had been used several years in Japan. Bruce test drove it for half an hour, including some highway miles, and we couldn’t find anything to worry about.
NZ has a much more comprehensive vehicle inspection regime due every six months called a Warrant of Fitness, or WOF. One requirement for my car was that the WOF be good at least until i left so i would not have to renew it, and on this car it expired in June. The registration expired in late April. It’s somewhat costly, but can be purchased for three month terms. Amazingly, the first car i looked at seemed to fit the bill. We arrived at a price of 3700NZD, about $3000US, and shook hands. The owner wanted to wait until the weekend to turn it over, because he had a deal cooking for it’s replacement, a car with an automatic transmission more likely to be drivable by his wife.
The next day I texted the owner to get the tag, or ‘rego’ number, and ran it on an excellent online service called Motorweb that pulls from the WOF database. It charted the odometer readings from when the car was imported in 2004 to present, and confirmed no funny business with the odo. It had been steadily but lightly used over the past ten years. I wondered how I would come up with that much NZ cash. We walked into a random bank and asked. The representative said we could try my bank card in an EFTPOS device on his desk, and it willingly produced a large number of bills. I asked if there were any fees, and he said not from his hank, but that my bank would probably charge me. They did, about 3%. I met the seller in a grocery store parking lot Saturday evening, and handed over the dough in exchange for the key, and drove it home cautiously following Bruce.
I had to wait until Monday to register it in my name. This involved taking a one page form with the rego number, my passport information and a mailing address to the post office, and paying a nine dollar fee. Took about five minutes. I wondered what would keep someone from stealing a car and doing the same, but apparently there is a database of some sort keeping track of reportedly stolen cars. A seller must complete a similar form and file it. Insurance is not required by law, but we thought it a good idea. There is an outfit called AA in NZ, with an affiliations with AAA in the US, that sells insurance. It can be done over the phone, but could only be purchased for a term of one year. Happily, they will refund the remainder when i cancel it in two months or so. $20M of liability coverage cost $102NZ/yr.
Tuesday I went to get petrol. The previous owner had left very little. I sympathized when i paid $110NZ to fill the 45L tank. That’s over $8US/gal. After that i drove for practice with Bruce. It is maddeningly difficult to drive on the left side of the road. It requires my total concentration. There is such a force of habit, that if anything else requires part of my brain, I tend to automatically revert to driving on the right. Driving straight ahead isn’t really hard, it’s the turns. Left turns are easy, no oncoming traffic. Right turns are harder into oncoming traffic. It takes concentration to pick an opening, and that takes focus away on turning into the left lane. There is an instinctive red flag that goes off because when you are used to driving on the right, you never cross lanes to turn right. Shouldn’t anyway. I headed toward a right lane once on a right turn and Bruce had to yell at me. Manoeuvres like backing out of a driveway onto a perpendicular road require much more deliberation to avoid backing into the wrong lane to face oncoming traffic.
Wednesday I went shopping for provisions for camping. I packed up the car Thursday, and went back for more provisions. Batteries are really expensive. AAs are about $2 ea. Getting a spare key made wasn’t. Chicken and cheese are a fair bit more expensive. The chicken was on sale, regularly NZ$25/Kilo down to NZ$15, which is about $7US/lb. I’m ready as I’ll ever be. Tomorrow, Friday, I’ll have tea with my wonderful hosts and head for Dunedin and on to Invercargill and Stewart Island on the Southernmost end of the South Island. It is becomming apparent that I will not have time to see the North Island on this trip. I’ve spent over two weeks in the greater Queenstown area, and havn’t really exhausted everything here. Not even close.