Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Commercial Warning

Think of this post as a retail advertisement and you won't be far wrong.

Our vehicle purchase in Panama was everything we hoped for and a lot more: intimidating, pleasurable, educational, frustrating, exhausting, exasperating, disappointing, entertaining, and ultimately satisfying.

Buying a used car in Panama is similar to in the U.S.A., including the price; cars here are no bargain. Oddly, many transactions are in cash. The banks only give loans for cars less than three years old, and even then, only if you have income, which we do not. So the dealers used-car lots only have recent late models. We were hoping for something closer to 4-5 years old, preferably a Toyota or Nissan pickup. While here we have noticed a large number of Mitsubishi, Isuzu and various Asian makes new to us. The Toyota Hilux is extremely popular. It's known as a serious work-horse of a truck, and it was our first choice. We have been a Toyota family for 10 years, and have never been disappointed with the brand.

Finding an automatic transmission proved difficult. Those available come at a premium. We stopped at several dealer lots to discover fine vehicles out of our price range. Then, driving through town, stopping at random lots, we found the true used cars. Some seemed promising. After witnessing the driving habits of the locals, it was a bit surprising how readily the lot owners allowed a test drive - nobody ever asked for a driver's license. But off we went with, usually, clouds of white, blue, gray or pitch-black diesel exhaust and apprehension spewing as we learned they come with only a 90 day warranty. The dealers have 6-month warranties on engine and drive train.

We were stumped. How could we find an automatic 2000-2005 Toyota Hilux with a good warranty within our budget? We stopped at the Auto Market in December and a saleswoman named Amoy Reyes followed through (imagine that - in the U.S.A. or in Panama!) on Cindy's inquiry by having their English-speaking General Manager, Ricardo de la Guardia call us. He said there were 2 automatics on the lot. When I voiced our price range, there was a bit of a pause, but he suggested we come down to take a look.

Luis Salazar, his picture is at the right, was with us during our test drives of both the Nissan Frontier and the Toyota Hilux. After a fast squirt of fuel at a station we were off. The Toyota felt a bit more solid on the highway. After some back and forth, Ricardo came down and we up, he agreed that having a mechanic take a look was a good idea. Luis went with us to the local Auto Centro and for $26 they said 4 things needed attention, which Ricardo took care of. So we had a deal.

We love our Hilux - it seems to be in excellent condition. It looks quite new, especially for a 2005, and there is no smoke of any color spewing out the back of it. It already has a nice dent in the back bumper, so we won't stress too much over the next ding it receives. During some detailing yesterday, we discovered some peanuts under the back seat (it has a double cab), so maybe it was a family vehicle rather than a work-horse construction vehicle. We hope so.


  1. Have enjoyed your journey throught the process of house acquisition, car purchase and banking..
    it was everything I thought it would be except the banking....seems strange to not be able to
    walk in and establish an accout....we are in the process of selling our home in canada and when that is completed, we will visit your are to rent for a couple of months....to see if we are suited or the move, also going to Costa Rica and the Dominican republic....thanks for
    the ride..
    Herbert C. Wyness

  2. Herbert -
    Thanks for your comments. And best of luck with your explorations - I hope you find just the right place. -Cindy