So we bought a car this week.
Owning a car in London sucks. Insurance is expensive, parking is expensive (if you can find parking at all, which is rare), traffic is awful, and the streets are narrow and confusing. So most (normal) people don’t own one.
For us, though, not having one was killing our quality of life. Jieun has to go to the kids’ school 3 times a day, once for drop off (I take one of the kids), once to pick up Joshua after his half-day, and once to pick up Abby. It takes 30 minutes to get there on the bus. That adds up to a lot of transit time, a lot of it with a noncooperative, tired 4-year-old who has trouble walking so much. In contrast, it takes less than 10 minutes to get there by car without traffic. It’s worth the cost.
So we got an on old ’04 Honda Civic hatchback. Some random notes about cars here: the models here are not as in the US. There are bunch of different names (Toyota Avensis?), and the dimensions are all different even on the model names I recognize. Like, the Civic we got is more like a VW Golf than a US Civic hatchback. Makes more sense for a family in the city. Also, the mileage on used cars here is crazy low – the ’04 car we got only has 45,000 miles on it. Also, most cars sold are manual transmission, and a little less than half run on diesel rather than gas (“petrol”). Insurance costs are insane for expats who have no established driving record here. Parking permit costs are based in part on the size of the engine / level of CO2 emissions.
I enjoyed our attitude in buying the car. We don’t really care if it’s nice or whatever because we’re only using it for a couple of years, so our tolerance for what we can stand is pretty high. Honestly, I aspire to live life in general this way. Not caring that much about what I have, recognizing that our time here is only temporary. It’s very freeing.
Anyway, going to experience London driving soon. I’ve rented a ZipCar here twice and had issues both times – first time knocked off the passenger-side rear-view mirror, second time almost killed the transmission as I wasn’t used to the left-hand stick shift. Hopefully we’ll get used to it quickly.