It was one of those butterfly effect things - we went to New World yesterday to pick up milk and I spotted an ad/posting board by the front door and checked it out. There was an ad for a Subaru station wagon for sale from someone who was leaving NZ soon. The price had been crossed out with another price hand-written in and then (negotiable) written next to that. So I smelled some desperation. I thought it wouldn't hurt to look at it, so I texted the number and we set up a time for her to drive it by in the morning.
I did some research online for tips on buying and made sure it was priced around its Kelley Blue Book value and would suit our needs. Then I had three nightmares about meeting three different weird people selling their car, so woke up feeling like I'd already lived through the ordeal three times. Not so fun. She drove up and we asked questions about its history and test-drove it around the block. New Zealand requires a Warrant of Fitness (WOF) every 6 months for older vehicles so there's less of a chance that it could be a complete mess since it just had its WOF done. I haggled her down a little on the price which made me happy and we were off to the bank to get the cash and then the post office to change the registration. That's right - you just pop into the local post office, fill out 2 simple forms, send one off to the national vehicle licensing office, and the other is processed right there. Luckily I thought to bring my passport with me which they needed for ID.
New Zealand doesn't require you to buy car insurance since it has a national insurance policy of sorts, but it is recommended that you buy third-party insurance which covers damage to the other person's car if you hit them or in uninsured driver scenarios. After driving the seller out aways back to the farm where she was staying/working(?) and driving to the cattery to check on our cat, we went to the AA office (just two A's here!) and purchased third-party insurance. It was only $137 since the car is pretty old and it's not covering replacement of it. We found out we can use our foreign driver's licenses for a year, so no need to buy a local license as of yet. We bought a membership as well (similar to AAA again) in case the car breaks down and we need some help. Nice to have in a pinch.
D did a good job of driving it all around for the first part of the day. Then I drove it out to an apartment viewing...and while turning right onto a side street from the main road accidentally went into the right lane!! There were a lot of pedestrians on the street corner and lots of traffic, so I was a bit under pressure, as well as a lone pedestrian in the median on the side street, and boy was he surprised to see me going the wrong way! D was raising his voice in exasperation and I hurriedly pulled back into the left lane shortly. Man, with no cars there, it felt so natural. Hopefully I will get the hang of it with practice - it definitely is strange having most of the car to the left of you while you're driving.
Ultimately, we decided to get a car for the reasons cited by other travelers online - New Zealand is really best explored with a car because otherwise you are stuck to buses and trains which restrict your travel to the places you want to go significantly. The Metro bus is limited to the main parts of the city and not super cheap - $2.50 per trip with a Metro card. While gas is around $8/gallon, now we can drive to some of the nearby natural attractions at our own pace and eventually go around the island when the summer comes. Let's hope this Subaru lives up to its brand and lasts.