We’ve reached the point where we needed to become a two car family again. Our interests and appointments were always conflicting, or so it seemed. About 3 months ago, I began “pre-car” shopping – figuring out what kind I wanted, what the average price should be, etc. I knew it had to be small since I can’t judge distance. My last car was a Mini Cooper. I loved that car but that wouldn’t do well for us in Boquete. It seems that a lot of cab drivers choose a Kia Picanto. The hunt began.
We went to the City to see if we could find one. Car shopping in Panama is not like any place in the US. First, new car lots do not sell used cars. Those are purchased from other lots or private owners. After about 3 stops in Panama, we yelled “uncle” and called the Car Guy Keith.
The second huuuuge difference here in Panama is that the car sales people ignore you. Not like ignore you for a few minutes so you can look around. I mean like if you dropped dead on the lot, they may notice the smell in 4 days or so. Ignored like we were invisible.
Three days in Panama City proved to be unproductive. Keith began the hunt in earnest. He faced a dozen problems, all beginning with me. I had to have a Picanto because 1. it’s small enough 2. it doesn’t have that little dust container that the Spark has 3. it should have low mileage and, finally, 4. I it couldn’t be any shade of white, beige, cream, gold or silver. I would have loved a yellow car again but in Panama, only taxis can be yellow.
After several weeks of looking, Keith concluded (and we agreed) that we should purchase new instead of used. Most good used cars with low mileage come from rental agencies and are boring white. He made an appointment for us at the dealer in David.
Another difference is that because Panama is a small country, there’s only one dealership. Grupo Siliba handles most of the car sales in the country. That means that there’s no haggling – which is good and bad. The worst part of buying a car is the ridiculous haggling games played by salespeople in the US. Last week we went to Kia in David. My choices were what model and what color I wanted. Time consuming but easy.
We got to the dealership before Keith and looked around the showroom. Not a soul came up to us to ask us if we needed help, information, directions to the bathroom, nada. When Keith arrived, he asked for our salesman – who wasn’t there. TIP After waiting about an hour for him to arrive, another woman helped us with the sale.
Another big difference. There isn’t a car lot in David. There was a silver Picanto in the showroom but not one like I wanted. I chose a color using a color swatch. I wanted the cranberry color but that wouldn’t be available until after Christmas. I chose a blue color that she kept saying had purple in it. We gave them them a deposit and proof of insurance and …. we wait. All cars are shipped from Panama City. My car was suppose to be delivered on Friday, then Saturday, then she called as said Sunday.
Another difference. Car lots are not open on Sundays or holidays. November has about 10 holidays so if she didn’t open on Sunday, I would have to wait until the following Friday to pick up the car. But on that Sunday, she came in and with two signatures, I was in a car.
I stopped on the way home to get my Panamanian Rules of the Road book which is mandatory to have in every car. I know my windshield wipers work since it poured rain the entire trip back to Boquete.