We hoped, as we exited baggage claim in San Jose with a few hundred pounds of luggage, that someone would be waiting for us with a sign bearing our names ready to take us on a car search. No such luck. We piled our stuff against a pillar outside the airport and waited. After about 10 minutes a guy with a handle-bar mustache, sporting a hoop earing showed up to the gate with “Angie” written on a white board. “Angie” didn’t believe that it could be her, but after some urging approached and found that, in fact, it was Russell, who we had exchanged several emails with in an effort to hire him as a car expediting service. We shook hands, relieved and Russell pulled the car around. Thankfully, it was big one. We spent the rest of the afternoon between three dealerships that bring used cars straight from Korea test driving Hyundai Gallopers.
The first dealership we went to was washing the vehicle we were to test drive as we pulled in. The engine was immaculate, new hoses, everything wiped down and glistening. The inside was the same. We took it for a drive and found that, in general, it rode quite well though the shocks and steering felt a bit loose. I figured that this was going to be how the rest of the day would go: looking at recently cleaned and touched up 11-year-old cars, not knowing where dents and dings had been and then being surprised when the sloppy ride didn’t match the slick appearance. It didn’t end up that way.
The second car we drove, at a different dealership, ran out of gas halfway up a hill on a narrow road with a bridge at the bottom. After the salesman tried for 15 minutes to get it going again we walked back to Russ’s car and went to the next dealership. We found a couple suitable cars there, and after the mechanics tried several batteries in each one, test drove two. The others we wanted to test drive they couldn’t start. Apparently, these cars haven’t been used in at least a month and the dealerships don’t like to put gas or good batteries in them in case someone tries to steal them. That’s all well and good unless you’re trying to buy one and can’t test it because it won’t start or drive for more than a few blocks. Russ dropped us off at our hotel planning to get back at it the next morning.
Russ picked us up around 8am. We headed back to the dealer and spent the next three hours test driving cars (20 minutes) and waiting around( 2hours, 40 minutes). Once we decided on one we liked, a ’96, Russ took us around to the bank, the lawyers and back to the dealers. Yes, you need a lawyer to buy a car, and a phone and pretty much everything but groceries. Russ dropped us off at the hotel again around 6pm with a plan to pick up the car on Monday afternoon or Tuesday after it passed inspection and got temporary tags.
The car wasn’t ready by Monday. They told us Tuesday by noon. We closed on Tierra on Monday with John there. Everything went smoothly. Russ showed up at the dealers at 8:30 on Tuesday to see how things were going and push them along. He spent the whole day there mostly waiting for paint to come so they could touch up rust spots. Our plan was to find a futon and leave around noon to get to Tierra by 4pm. We found a futon, which Russ loaded into his vehicle along with all of our other luggage and headed over to wait at the dealers. We drove out in our new/really old Galloper at 7pm, got lost for an hour and a half and then headed for Tierra. We got to our new home around midnight and went straight to sleep after unpacking. Tuesday we woke up at 7am and cooked breakfast for our first guests. So far, so good and a big thanks goes out to Russell who made the Costa Rican car buying process go as fast and smooth as possible.