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The great car search | Print |  Email
Friday, 25 January 2002
Our first priority: to find a used car small enough for the roads.

Because we intend to stay in Ireland long-term, our first priority was to buy a used car and get rid of the rental. Janis had booked a rental car over the internet for a two-week period and had gotten a really good deal. But when I started to pack the car, and only two of our eleven suitcases filled the entire trunk, it became clear we needed to upgrade. The car agency had only one suitable car left, an Opel station wagon that carried with it a daily surcharge of 15 pounds. Good grief! That just created more urgency.

We also started house hunting, and thus the Great Real Estate Search began. This kept us sidetracked for many days as we searched high and low for a suitable farmhouse with two acres of land (our original vision, which is subject to change). We covered most of South Kerry and West Cork going down countless farm tracks and getting lost on a lot of them. What we did learn on the treks, though, was to find a car small enough to handle the narrow roads and tight parking spaces.

When I say that Irish roads are narrow, that's an understatement. In the Scottish Highlands we had become familiar with "single track roads," which we originally thought were merely someone's driveway and not possibly a road. Here in rural Ireland, those are both a driveway and a two-lane road, without the bother or expense of erecting signage much less constructing actual passing places. And the live verges of grass, weed, bush, tree and open drainage ditches make it narrower still.

There have been many times when we've approached a farmhouse and I've mentally prepared my apologies to the farmer for pulling into his driveway by mistake, only to have the road continue on between his house and the barn, and a few others, for many miles. And I'm amazed at how I'm no longer in terror when I see another car approaching at a moderate clip of 40 miles per hour! Somehow, this works.

I assumed we would get a used four door Toyota Corolla just like we had back in the States. I was imagining dependable transportation with room for visitors and their bags, and versatile enough to handle loading supplies by putting the rear seats down. But the rear seats don't go down in sedans (here called saloons). They do go down in the hatchback version. But Janis was intent on a smaller car. The tiny, but four door, Nissan Micra had caught her eye. But Randles Motors in Killarney suggested that that particular style would ride too close to the ground for the type of farm roads we imagined traveling on. Good point.

It also crossed our minds that we might need to get a small van instead, so that we could really fetch supplies and the occasional small farm animal. But that was too expensive an option. We finally realized that we might need two cars, one a small buzz around car and the other a larger version, especially if we ended up with jobs in different directions. But which one should we get first? We looked for both.

Car sales are somewhat different here. I'm constantly thrown by a business also being the proprietor's house. That is often true of car lots as well. The closest one to us was Kilgarvan Motors and we started there first. Ultimately our journey, via car availability and trusted recommendations, took us to most of the dealers in Counties Kerry and Cork, including: Cronin Motors in Mallow, Macroom Motors in Macroom, countless dealers in Killarney, and even a few in Kenmare. When we had decided on one car we took it for a test drive, only to be dismayed with the way it handled.

By the time we made the second round of dealers, we had run out of time and patience. We finally bought the first car that met our basic criteria and which handled well on the road. We got a 1994 three door (hatchback) Toyota Starlet with fold down seats. If we were going to pick up any relatives at Shannon Airport, we'd need to take two trips (unless they came with only handbags). But it suits our needs - and the tight rural tracks.

© Gary Hetzler 2002

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