We sold our cars before we moved here for two reasons. The first being that we were in a position to make a little cash off them and it was an opportunity to save a lot of money every month. Between my van and Ben’s car we were forking out $700 a month in car payments (Yikes). Typically when you live overseas you are only there for 3-4 years and people buy cheap cars to last them for the duration then sell them cheap. In Japan Ben actually got his car for free because it was a complete hunk of junk. It actually had rusted holes in the doors so you could see his legs from the outside. Yeah, he is of kind cheap. Our goal with the kids was to buy something more reliable than that but cheap enough that we could pay cash and have no car payments while we are here…leaving us extra money to travel….and that’s really the whole reason we came to England.
The second reason we wanted to buy our vehicles in England is because in the UK they drive on the left of the road using right hand steering wheels. This is how we did it in Japan and this is what I am comfortable with. It always helped me remember going back and forth between countries to keep my body to the middle of the street. It would probably be very awkward for us to drive on the left with a left hand wheel. Fortunately, we were able to pick back up driving on the left no problem! We have already driven and explored quite a bit since being here. I think it took me 3 weeks to work the courage driving in Japan! Then again, there was also a consistent two feet of snow on the ground there and all the signs were in a different language. So driving in the UK is cake in comparison.
Ben has been online constantly searching for cars. He thought a Vauxhaul Zafira would work well for our family and we just happened to park next to a woman getting into hers one day. She let us look inside and told us there was a good dealer in Bury St.Edmuds. We drove there the next day but unfortunately they did not have any automatics on their lot. They are just harder to come by here. I have owned manual vehicles before but I am not as comfortable driving one when I have to use my left hand to shift.
We started looking on auto trader type sites and found an automatic Zafira in a town called Thorrington about 80 minutes away. We called and the dealer said several people were interested so we put down 200 pounds in order to secure that we were the first to test drive it. It was a bold move on our part since we have no idea if people around here do scams like this but in the end it worked out. The vehicle was exactly as described and we were in and out of the dealership in an hour. Say hello to my new (yet old) car! Its a 2005 but has low miles. We chose this style because it small but still considered a family vehicle as it has a third row that can be stowed. Basically like a mini van back home but quite smaller and narrower. It will also be easy to sell when we leave because people around the base will want an automatic of this model and there are not many.
Our next stop was to get the boys situated with their UK car seats. We were allowed to use our US seats for the time we were settling in but if you drive a UK car you must have the UK seats. We stopped by a toys r us in Ipswich and it was basically toy heaven for the boys. Thomas the train galore! This place was huge. They played while I checked out the seats. Their seats are quite different as I found them to be less cushioned. There were less options for the non re-thread harness like you would find in the states. One of the more noticeable differences is they do not use chest clips. Apparently they are dangerous (who knew!). Although, it does make some sense when you look into why they do not use them. I was not impressed by the seats but I did come upon a bright and shiny new Graco Milestone. The manager told me it was brand new and they they had not yet cut the tags off the seat for customers to try out. It is comparable to the Graco forever 4-1. She said “In the States these are massive”. At first I thought she meant they were larger there but she meant popular.
In England you cant simply buy a car seat and drive off with it. They have to bring the seat out to your car and make sure it fits. Just because you like a car seat does not mean it will fit in your vehicle. Your vehicle may be too narrow or short or the seat does not shape well with the car seat base. The manager told me if you do not get your car seat fitted you may not return your car seat to the store for any reason. Thankfully, the Milestone fit well and I purchased two and got out of there before Toys R Us sucked all the money out of Ben’s wallet.
Drivers licence, car, and car seats? Check, check, check. Now its time to set off and do some real exploring!