...mostly so we could go to Costco.
We really did not intend to get a car when we moved here. In fact, not having a car was one of the things we were looking forward to! But H "met" this British guy online who helps foreigners find used cars to buy, and then we started thinking about all the weekend trips we'd like to take around the area and... we started kind of thinking about it. We both got our drivers' licenses switched over to local ones (which takes almost no effort if you do it within a certain window after arriving) and we decided we'd get a rental car for a Costco trip to see just how hard it was to rent. We always knew we'd want to have access to a car sometimes, so really a lot depended on how much trouble it was to get one.
So we signed up for this (pretty cool) hourly car rental service. You use an app to claim the car (which can be done on the spot as long as there's availability) and the app tells you where to go to pick it up. So we got one that is a seven seater, but is TINY. Like, Corolla size. Basically it was the only readily available option that would fit all of us, so it meant if we were using a rental car for day trips, this would be the one. So H and I went by ourselves and rented it and went to Costco with it to see if it would work for us. Well. It would work. I mean, it did go from Point A to Point B. With us in it. But it took us thirty minutes to walk to the parking lot to pick it up and then it was so tiny that we couldn't fit more than about three Coscto purchases in the back with the third row up (which means no luggage if we have our kids in the car) and then we realized that we could never unload the groceries as one person because there's nowhere to park the car while you unload, it would have to be both of us and then one person get dropped off at home with the groceries (or witht the kids and luggage) while the other returns the car and then walks the thirty minutes back. So, we called that British guy.
To our surprise, he found a great minivan for us! It's really old, but it has very few miles on it, so it was in relatively good shape (but still cheap). It's an "Asian model" which mostly means it's narrower, which is really helpful for parking here. It took us just a few minutes of looking at it and considering the price before we felt like it would be crazy not to get it! Of course, we're sinking some money into it, but we did some research on the market for minivans and it seems like at the rate it's expected to lose value, our per month cost to have it now is pretty reasonable. So as long as we sell it when we leave, it really seemed like a no-brainer! Especially when you factor in that our family is large enough now that we have to take TWO CABS anytime we want to go somewhere in a cab.
It has been such a huge blessing to have it! We've found this wonderful violin teacher, and she teaches clear on the other side of the city. It would take nearly an hour and a half on the subway, but we drive it in 30 minutes every week. Obviously, we use the car to go to Costco. But plenty of times, we've been able to use the car in situations when we really would've been in a hard place otherwise. For example, a month ago, E's teacher called and said she was a close contact of someone with COVID and therefore she wasn't allowed to take the bus home from school! So I needed to go pick her up in the mountains. The bus going up there only leaves once an hour! But no problem, we just drove the car. Actually, the day after we bought the car, M must've been really excited about it because for some reason she thought I was planning to pick her up from school in it. So they didn't get on the bus. I was just about to leave for the bus stop when she texted me something funny about where she was waiting for me. A few frantic calls back and forth with a very worried teacher, and there we were, driving up the mountain. Talk about a sudden crash course in driving here! Of course, having the car created that problem, but it sure was nice to see how it could solve it.
It's been quite a journey for me, especially, learning how to drive here since I've never driven outside of the States (H did drive in our old home overseas, but I was never brave enough to). But I really, really love having it now! I don't use it everyday, many things are still more convenient when you walk or take public transit, but those times when I feel like I can't take one more single step, or it's pouring rain, or you can get somewhere in 40 minutes that would take two hours on public transit, then I'm really glad we bought it!