Friday, November 6, 2009

Ah, the Car Saga

This morning, as I said in an earlier post, I took the boys outside to play in the mud. This morning was overcast and a bit cooler than usual. To give you perspective, however, we are still running the air conditioner. Wyatt, though, chose to go outside in this getup (yes, those are sweat pants):

Apparently, my four year old has already acclimated himself to life here. Hopefully, this means he will also find it easy to move back into a colder environment when we are done living down here. I can see all of us freezing in 60 degree weather.

It's what's behind him, however, that I wanted to really talk about. That's the front end of our car, which arrived on island last week. Originally, we had planned to leave it in West Palm Beach for awhile. We had been told we could get a free parking spot near the terminal there, so we weren't anticipating any issues.

However, upon arrival there, we found out differently. Oliver went into the office there to request our parking space. They told him there was a waiting list, so he would have to make different arrangements. They had no real options outside of this. The guy he talked to actually suggested we leave it with one of our friends in the area. You know, in case we actually had friends in WPB.

Needless to say, we freaked out about this. We had less than 24 hours before our flight left. After combing through our list of nonexistent friends in the area, we spent some time online trying to find a reasonably priced place to park the car. The last thing we wanted to do was just leave it at the airport in long-term parking, as we weren't sure of its safety and doing that would cost $13 a day. That was going to add up.

Unfortunately, that's exactly what ended up happening. There just wasn't enough time to come up with a better alternative. We got on our flight, and just crossed our fingers we would be able to get back over fairly quickly and take care of it.

What really frustrated me the most about all of this is that the place to drop the car off to have it shipped was up near Orlando. If we had been told there was a waiting list when we first asked about this, we could have just changed plans, dropped it off the day we left Disney World, and rented a car for the last couple of days in West Palm Beach. Instead, we were left trying to get a flight back off the island to then make a two hour drive back up to Port Canaveral.

To make a long story short, they got Oliver on a flight back to the U.S. a couple weeks after we arrived. We ended up paying about $150 in parking fees, but he was able to get it to Port Canaveral, then catch a flight back to Andros the next morning without further incident.

In the long run, I think it's worked out better for us. We were thinking about buying a second car and leaving it in Florida, but didn't because we couldn't find one at our price point with the madness of the Cash for Clunkers program. I've never in my life been so surprised at being turned away when we were prepared to pay cash for a car. It was aggravating, but now I'm so grateful it happened. We would still have a car sitting there costing us much money because it would have been stupid to have two cars here when we barely need the one.

Also, after looking at what it costs to have a car licensed and insured in Florida, it's going to be a lot cheaper to just rent a car every few months when we fly over there. After deciding to leave our car in WPB, we had planned on holding onto our Washington plates as long as we could, as it's a lot cheaper doing it that way versus turning into Florida residents. However, we are now doing it all through the Bahamian government as required, which is even cheaper.

Speaking of Bahamian insurance, we had to get insurance before we could get our car released. We were finally able to find someone to drive us off-base to take care of that two days ago. It was our first foray outside the gate since we moved here. We pulled up to the small grocery store....and got our insurance from the cashier. There is a desk in the corner of the store where she took care of that. Luckily, no one else came in and needed to buy anything while Oliver was signing the paperwork or she would have had to juggle both at the same time. The whole thing was pretty funny.

So, we now have our car. We still need to get our Bahamian plates, but hopefully we'll be able to take care of that this afternoon. We're not too worked up about it, though, because we mostly want it for off-base trips. AUTEC is only about a mile square, so it's easy to walk most places. Oliver works on the opposite end and doesn't plan on driving much as he can take the base taxi, which is free. I will probably only use it to buy groceries and going to the beach, which is a good trek with two kids. We won't be buying a lot of gas because of this, which is good.

Oliver took a pretty hefty pay cut to come here. COLA is offsetting some of it, but I'm relieved to discover that lower costs on pretty much everything but food will take care of most of the rest. Internet, cable, and phone (except long distance calls, which are expensive) are all included in our housing, so we don't pay extra for them, and a lot of the things there are to do here for entertainment don't cost anything, either. If we had taken shore duty in Virginia, which was our second choice, we would have had a much harder time.

As a side note, when I called USAA to cancel our car insurance, they told me we could sign up for a policy that will cost us $5 a year while we are overseas. It will cover any rentals we get, and will keep us from appearing to have had a huge gap in coverage, which would have resulted in higher rates. I think being able to use USAA has got to be one of the best benefits of being military. I've never had anything but positive experiences with them.

3 sonar pings:

MOMSWEB said...

You know you're writing a book don't you? Your military travel experiences are unusual, unbelievable, yet the stories are the reality of your life. Military families would definitely benefit!

Ana said...

Haha, I actually am writing a book! It's just fiction, not this blog. Thank you, though; I appreciate the nice comment! I do hope another military family benefits from my writing. I know I have benefited greatly by other military blogs I've read. It would be nice to return the favor.

Mrs. 2nd Lieutenant said...

just wanted to second the USAA amazing wonderful customer service comment. I've had them since I became an adult (my parents had it), and it was great, and its continued to be my best choice now that we're Army.

they are just so helpful, so accommodating, and their products are always what you need.

lol, sorry, i'll get off my USAA soapbox. and no, i don't work for them :-p

ps. you were going to pay CASH for a car and noone was interested? ridiculous!