Little Island Car

We already knew before we arrived in Cayman that we would need to buy a car. Our car at home was a lease, so because we didn’t have the proceeds from a car sale our budget was small. A hire car had already been arranged for our first two weeks and we naively thought “two weeks to buy a car? No problem”. There were many, many problems…

Cars in Cayman are expensive, new and used alike. Everything on the island is imported and everything you import you have to pay tax on, including the cost of delivery. For a car this can be anywhere between 29.5% and 42%.

You have to drive everywhere, so a car is essential and this also drives the price up. There aren’t any pavements on regular roads unless you’re in a commercial area. You can use public transport; but when the public buses are mini buses that only seat 12 and you have a double pushchair with a baby and a toddler, it’s not going to be much fun.

There is no online shopping (or almost next to none) and no postal delivery service unless you rent a P.O.Box, so this means going out to the shops for anything you need to buy. What’s so hard about that I hear you cry! There is also no all encompassing shopping centre/mall. All of the shops are in little precincts which consist of around 8 and 20 shops each and these are dotted all over the island. Hence, another need for car. Anyway, less about shopping and more about buying a car…

First we tried the local car dealerships. Yes they had second hand cars, but they were either not in our price range or they pushed the new cars they could import which were way out of our budget.

Then we tried good old We viewed a couple of cars. One was an six year old Suzuki SX4 which was completely sun faded, rusted, needed all new tyres, an annual inspection and re-licensing. The seller wanted $6000 CI (around £5700). The next was a ten year old Hyundai Tucson which didn’t have iso-fix clips for our car seats, the interior smelt pretty bad because of the diving equipment used to carry and for a quick sale the seller wanted $7000 CI (about £6600).

Our next option was ringing around the car rental companies to ask if they were selling off any surplus stock. We tried them all and they had either sold out or we just couldn’t get through to the right person.

Our two weeks with our rental car was almost over and luckily we managed to get this extended for an additional week. Initially I hadn’t been named on the insurance for the rental car so we decided to pop up to the airport to add me on. While we were there, out of sheer desperation we called into all the rental offices to ask in person if they had any cars for sale, including the ones we had already made contact with. We couldn’t believe our luck when Dollar Thrifty turned up trumps.

I had spoken to their head mechanic, Mr Spence, a couple of days before and he had just sold their last compact car. We decided to take look at the eight year old Toyota Yaris he had. Unfortunately it didn’t have isofix fittings for our car seats, otherwise it was perfect. We were disheartened, but Mr Spence told us to follow him to his yard to see if there was anything else. I spotted the little Hyundai i20 I had enquired about on the phone and pointed it out sadly. “Ah, yes a lady bought that one” said Mr Spence, “all I have is this one over here that needs a new part, but it’ll take a few weeks to arrive and then I have to do the work”, gesturing to a little white car against a wall. It was perfect. Only six years old, compact, economical, isofix and only 30k on the clock. Mr Spence went to have a word with the man in charge to see if there was anything they could do for us.

A few minutes later we were sitting in an office around the corner with our knight in shining armour, Mr Robert Smith. We had been in such a panic and thought we were never going to be able to find a car and would have to pay something crazy like $1200 a month to hire a tiny car (the insurances and taxes hike the price up). What a lovely man; he put us at ease, talked to our children, and reassured us he could sort everything out. And he did. As we were leaving he even called to a guy in a car who was leaving the yard and said “Any Problems?” This was a previous customer, who could have said anything in reply. This told us here was a man confident with his service.

A week later we returned our rental to Hertz and we were given a much superior vehicle to use while we waited for our little car to be ready, at an unbeatable price.

Our Hyundai Tucson rental. I loved this car so much.

Three weeks on and we get the call our car is ready. Mr Robert had expedited the part so it arrived sooner and Mr Spence had got straight to work on the car. Mr Robert sent sent Ste a comprehensive list of instructions for our next steps (without this we would have been wandering aimlessly like the chickens that live on the beach).

In the Cayman Islands, there is no singular simple form to fill in and pop in the post box to the licensing authority to become an official car owner. Once you’ve chosen and paid for your dream island car (budget permitting), you will need to take the log book or a copy to your insurance broker’s office in person to collect your certificate. You can then look forward to an long afternoon queuing at the Department of Vehicles & Drivers’ Licensing (DVDL) to transfer ownership and pay for the privilege. Imagine the waiting room in Beetlejuice, but without anyone with shrunken heads. Take a book, a snack, a cool drink and possibly a pillow!

If like us you buy an ex rental you would also need to order, collect and pay for new license plates. Most people don’t travel with tool kits in their suitcases to Caribbean islands so we were able to nip back to DollarThrifty at the end of the day and get these changed over and swap to car registration sticker to our new one. Almost four months later and our little car has been a dream. No problems, cheap to fill and perfect for little parking spaces!

Based on nothing but our own experience of brilliant customer service and excellent value for money give DollarThrifty a call if you’re on island and in the market for a used car or even a holiday rental.
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