So I went out and bought a Kia Optima.
As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been car shopping. Unfortunately I live in an area that is pretty spread out, so it is hard to walk to the grocery store, restaurants, and the like. Therefore it is in my best interest to buy a car. I only have two requirements:
With that in mind, we visited Yongsan and didn’t have any luck in our search. Through my coworker Kevin, we found a used car dealership that had some pretty decent cars that we wanted to check out. So yesterday we drove up to Osan to SK Encar to check out what they have to offer.
Now, I need to clarify. As an expat with the visa that I have, I cannot buy a car from a Korean national. We have a pool of cars we can choose from, and typically they are beat to the ground. We call them “base beaters” because that’s just about as much as they are good for- beating them on base. Record history? Yeah, take a hike. So that led us to Osan.
Luckily SK uses a system by which it checks out all the cars via government licensed inspectors. Exciting, right? Not really. This does provide a complete history of the car, however. We end up looking at a few cars and frankly the quality was quite good, so we made a deal and left. By “we made a deal,” I mean Kevin made a deal with the guy in Korean and I just sat there and nodded my head up and down every time they said “Kia.” It’s one of two words that I understand in Korean, the other being hello. Maybe I should learn a few other words, like “bathroom” and “beer.” Those would also be helpful.
By this point you’re probably saying, “but Warren! I thought you can’t buy a car from a Korean!” And you would be correct. However, Kevin slyly found a loophole that through extra paperwork we can register a car we buy in Korea as a SOFA car. (SOFA stands for Status of Forces Agreement- it’s the agreement the US has with the Republic of Korea (ROK) that gives us regulations, immunities, and protective power in this country)
So today we went on a very long journey to buy our cars.
By very long, I mean excruciating.
I firmly believe that the US government purposely makes things complicated in order to inflict pain and suffering upon its constituents. Registering a car is proof of this.
Anyway, I digress. So the day before after work we ran over to buy insurance. You can’t drive a car off the lot without insurance. So we sat with this super old Korean dude who looked up our rates in some giant book of his and quoted us on insurance. I will be paying around $500/year, which is 400% cheaper than insuring my S2000 in the states, AND Korean drivers suck. So how they do it is beyond me, but thank you sir for the cheap insurance, I certainly appreciate it!
The next day, today, we embarked on our adventure. We first went to the post office to buy money orders. Did you know you can buy a money order for 35 cents? The only problem is that money orders can only be in increments of $1,000, and they get mad when you try and get more than $2,000 in money orders. Needless to say, they were mad. Then you walk over to the bank and cash your money orders. The bank apparently can only cash out $2,500 in money orders a day, so they got mad at me too. After pissing off both the post office and the bank, we went off base and exchanged our money for Won and started heading up to Osan. As an aside, the dollar is devaluing so we get less and less won every time we go to the money exchange. When I first got here I exchanged at 1,080W per dollar and today I exchanged for 1,040W per dollar. Thanks a lot, America.
We took a taxi to the train station and took the subway to Osan and took a taxi to the car dealership. Upon arrival we signed a mountain of paperwork, did a quick test drive, and negotiated in some free gas and an oil change. Scoooore. The bad news is by the time we left it was 2:30- a waste of the day. We headed back home with our new cars and started the process of registering our cars.
In Korea you have to register your car based on the city it resides in. For example, we bought in Osan. So we have to register in Pyeongtaek. You also have to register on base. You can’t get on base without registration. So we had to go to a temporary inspection area and have dogs sniff our cars, get out and stand against a wall while they searched the cars, all while a Korean guard is standing there with a 12 gauge shotgun looking at you. It was quite pleasant. Then you have to show all your paperwork and get a temporary pass on base. Then you go out that gate and go in another gate, and head over to the auto shop where they “inspect” your car for $20. This inspection consists of making sure your lights, blinkers, horn, and wipers work. I’m not kidding. It was the biggest waste of $20 I’ve ever had. I probably would have had more fun lighting a $20 bill on fire.
So that’s where our day ended because we ran out of time. Tomorrow we register at Pyeongtaek city hall, and go back to base and get our base registration. What a run around!
And well, here’s the moment you have all been waiting for- my trusty steed. This is the last time this will ever be clean, so enjoy it while it lasts.
As an aside, I have no idea why relocation allowances should be taxed. Yes, I submitted as a lump sum but why should I be taxed on relocation at the same rate as I am for income? -__- Upsetting.