It’s the second time we’ve had to look for a car.  As my readers know, our car went kaput! a couple weeks ago.  Considering the difficulty we had in finding a car, I thought it best to share some of our experience so that others can commiserate and beware.[ad#ad-1]

First and foremost to American drivers: if you do not drive a manual, you’d best learn. Unfortunately for me, I’m too old a dog to learn a new trick.  Not that I even have a UK license yet.  I can’t even do that as I’m waiting for other things.  The fact that I have to lose my passport for three weeks has prevented me from starting this process – I have had to keep it handy for other purposes.  But, back to the point, automatic cars are hard to come by, unless you’re willing to pay for it.  We have too tight a budget.  In fact, one dealer told us that for the price we had in mind, we would have to find a very old car and/or a large car.

Our last car was not big by American standards (1.6L), but in the UK, it is moderately large.  It was not as fuel efficient as the majority of small cars on the road, but it served us well.  The problem was that we put a lot more miles on it than we had expected to.  It must be all those winding roads.  For a car used to a quiet, gentle existence, it was like doing 6-months hard labour in its dotage.  We had paid 350 GBP for the car – it was well worth it. 

Even before the dealer had put in his two-pence worth about our budget, we could see that we would not get what we wanted.  We wanted a more fuel-efficient car that was reliable and had enough space for the four of us to get from point A to point B.  Anything remotely resembling that was a manual.  Of the automatics, they were of the 2L models or bigger.  That’s not to say that we didn’t find any smaller, fuel-efficient cars under 500 GBP (our limit).  They were either snatched up before we had a chance to view them, or they were not worth the price.[ad#ad-1]

We mainly searched the Friday Ads, until someone put us onto Ad Trader.  Seeing that cheap economical cars were selling like hot cakes, we had to act fast.  We had nearly settled onto a Proton for dirt cheap until we figured that we had to get an MOT very soon, as well as tax.  That brought it up to our budget and we were somewhat sceptical about the reliability as well as the availability of parts, should the inevitable happen.  On the same day, a new ad appeared on the Ad Trader site; we went over the next day to look at it.  It was a Renault Clio, with MOT and tax.  It was over our limit, but we managed to get them to reduce it a bit, so that we were only over by 50 GBP.

We had been renting a car for the past week – a newer Ford Mondeo that has been well-used with 180K miles on it.  It was powerful, smooth and had a blessedly cool air conditioner (great for the heat wave we just passed), but it ate a lot of juice.  We were desperate to get a car so that we would not have to rent it for another week.  Though we do miss the air conditioner – we were spoiled in the US.

Americans have traditionally scorned French automakers, but we just brought the Clio home and it is performing well.  In fact, it has more miles on it than our last car did when we bought it, yet it rides fairly smoothly.  So, this American will have to reserve judgment for later.  We have always owned Japanese cars, so this is a first for us.

It is funny that I had expounded on the lack of potholes earlier in my British experience.  I did mention that there were a few potholes to be found after our winter storm, but it was nothing in comparison to the US.  The potholes we have experienced were mostly off on the sides of the roads and in parking areas in the Ashdown Forest.

But now, it appears that some council areas in the UK are full of potholes.  Yet, these councils refuse to have the holes filled in.  In fact, they are using them as speed deterrents.  Can you imagine that?  Of course, residents are angry because of the dangers to cars and their passengers.  Not to mention the number of accidents that would occur as people swerve to and fro to dodge these potholes.  As I mentioned before, if we were to have potholes in those narrow country lanes where high hedges and winding roads obscure your view of oncoming traffic, we would be in serious trouble.

Had I spoken too soon?  Are there many potholes out there that I am not aware of?  Perhaps we are just fortunate to live in an area where the councils believe in providing good roads.