The last time I lived in Maui, I bought a 1993 Ford Explorer the first week I arrived. I had a guy (who may or may not have actually known about cars) give it a cursory once over. He thought it was pretty good and I liked the price, so I went for it. I had really good intentions in buying the car. I figured I could fit a lot of people in it so they wouldn't have to hitch. I had also created a basketball team and a volleyball team and figured we could use the Explorer as our team vehicle to travel to and from games. Despite all my good intentions, the Exploder broke down after only about two and a half months. It was the transmission and it was going to cost more than I could afford to spend. It sat in front of our house for months until one of my friends offered to take it off my hands. I left the country and only found out what happened to the car when I got back three months later. A few of my friends had been in it, driving across the island when the hood flew up. They crashed into a telephone pole and abandoned the car to hitch back home. They came back about a week later and the car was gone.
When I got back from Bangladesh, I had a notice from some towing company that they had my gray VW rabbit. I don't know how a green Ford Explorer turns into a gray VW rabbit but it was no longer my problem since I had passed the responsibility on to my friend. She called the tow yard and they told her they knew nothing of a gray VW rabbit or my green Ford Explorer.
At home I could never survive without a car but on Maui, it is definitely possible. I also have enough friends here with cars that if I am patient and flexible I can pretty much do what I need to do without hitchhiking. We also have town runs where they take a van into town so we can go to Wal-Mart, Borders,etc.
So, I can live without a car. But I want one! I want the freedom to go where I want when I want. But despite this deep longing, I am wary of rushing into a car after my previous car experience here on Maui. I have been habitually checking craigslist and local newspapers for cars. I don't have a lot of money to spend so my options are limited. Maui is also a lot different from Houston as far as buying a used car goes. I have seen ads that say things like "doesn't go in reverse," "Not running but a real cherry car," "blown head gasket," "windows don't roll down," etc. Also cars are worth more here. People try to sell Toyota trucks for premium prices even though they are 20+ years old.
I found a website online that gives you a reliability rating for used car of various makes, models and years. This gives me piece of mind knowing how a car is likely to hold up. This can't factor in human abuse but it helps. So, I found an add for a 1994 Nissan Sentra with 187,000 miles. At home I would never drive such a clunker, but I am in Maui and it only costs $800. I call the owner on the phone and it turns out he owns "Maui Cruisers." It's the cheapest rental car on the island because its cars look very local with peeling paint and random quirks. He sounded like quite the character on the phone and we arranged to meet the next day.
I got my friend, Kristy to drive me to see the car. It was in a seedy part of the island in what looked like a junkyard with about 10 Nissan Sentras parked there. The only two people we could see were some sketchy-looking local guys. We pulled up and asked the guys where Paul was. They gestured towards a car with its hood up and a stereo blaring Elvis. From underneath the car comes Paul, an older white guy or haole(non-native), he is filthy, covered in grease. He begins to tell us about his business and his cars but only after disappearing under the broken down car for a few more minutes while Kristy and I waited around awkwardly. When he was telling us about the cars, I noticed that he was missing the tip of his index finger, nail and all. This discovery definitely added to the weirdness of the experience.
He showed me the car from the ad and it became clear why no photo was posted. It had the typical Maui paint job- black with peeling white patches from too much time in the sun. This combined with its overall boxy exterior was pretty much a deal breaker before I got in. I may be a missionary, but I still have my self-respect. He showed us the engine, which he insisted he'd serviced regularly. He seemed to know what he was talking about but that didn't change the fact that the battery was held in by what looked like an old extension cord. He also told us that the odometer had stopped working so he thought the car had 200,000 miles or so. Why did he put the odometer reading on the ad if he knew it was wrong?
Kristy and I took it for a test drive mainly because it seemed weird not to. It was during the test drive that we found out that the spedometer doesn't work either. The car also made some strange noises and seemed to have a problem with its shocks. I wasn't going to pay $800 for something that felt like it could fall apart any minute. The seller was persuasive and a bit forceful so I was nervous about what to tell him. When we got back, I said it wasn't quite what I was looking for. He told me that was very diplomatic of me. I felt lucky to get out of there.
And so...I am still carless.
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