Sunday, March 13, 2011

A new-to-us car

Sorry about how late this post is, we kept forgetting to take pictures of the car as was requested by a few people.

J and I finally broke down after Christmas and decided to purchase a car in Malta.  We had been thinking about it since we arrived in Malta in September but we thought that car ownership here would be a lot more expensive than it actually is. For example, insurance for the year is under $500 for a 24 year-old male as a primary driver on a convertible (a lot more reasonable than Canadian insurance costs).

We looked at purchasing secondhand cars here and also read up on importing cars from the UK. There are many car importers in Malta and they seemed to offer much lower prices than purchasing direct from a small used car dealer here. The car we ended up buying was €4500 cheaper through an importer than the price quoted to us at a used car lot for the same year/model. So we imported.

We decided that we’d take the risk and buy a hard top convertible because if you’re going to spend a summer on a Mediterranean island where it doesn’t rain from May to October you might as well work on your tan while you’re driving to the beach.

The car importer was great. They weren’t exactly what I would consider as used car salesmen though. They sent a mechanic in the UK to inspect the cars that we were interested in importing. The first car we selected had mechanical issues so they (very honestly) advised us not to purchase it. The next 9 or 10 cars didn’t have air conditioning, weren’t in good shape on the interior, or their mileage was too high so they also advised us not to purchase them. Eventually they found a car that they were satisfied with importing for us. Before ordering, the importer felt that he should warn me that it may be seen as a girl’s car. The Catholic honesty of the used car salesmen was a bit annoying, but it was appreciated.

Once the car arrived, I noticed that it had a larger engine than what was on the initial car description.  In Malta, your registration fees depend on the CO2 emissions per km, so this meant that I would pay about $100 more in registration fees.  The importer I was working with, without me asking, said that he would talk to his manager and they would cover the increased expenses. I had prepared myself to argue with them over this (as you would have to do in Canada). Maltese business practices are just… different.

J and I went to test drive the car before we committed to purchasing.  My knowledge of how cars work is pretty low and J’s is even lower.  When we went to test drive the car it took us about 10 minutes to figure out how to operate the windows (and adjusting the seats took us about a week to figure out later).  We drove it around and put the hard top up and down.  Luckily it was raining when we test drove it so we were reassured that the roof did not leak.  J asked me if I was going to lift up the front hood and take a look at the engine. I explained that other than looking for how much window washing fluid was there I wouldn’t have a clue if anything looked wrong.  The employee who supervised our test drive told to me that it was a cute car and his aunt had one just like it.  Not exactly the best sales pitch I’ve ever experienced.

Happy with the decision to buy the car we arranged to have it registered in Malta and 2 days later we had a new (to us) car.

The model that we chose is a 2002 Peugeot 206 coupe cabriolet (cc).  It’s a small 4 seater. The two seats in the back are rather uncomfortable but they are a perfect size for our dogs. J’s brother and mom did not love sitting in the back the first week we had the car, especially since we did not know how to move the front seats up at that point. It is blue and came with a matching blue Roxy sticker on the rear window. I don’t think the sticker really helps my “girly car” image. I don’t mind that the car looks like a European Mazda Miata. It’s something fun to drive around for the time being and I didn’t feel like spending a lot of money on a real convertible. So - girly car it is.
Blue Shirt, Blue Car ="I'm really cool."
Within 24 hours of having the car I got into a small fender bender (my first in 8 years of driving). I’m still waiting to hear from the insurance company as to who was at fault, but I’ve heard that it’s normally the non-Maltese party (amazing how that works). I am now more cautious about idiotic Maltese drivers who don’t signal and decide to parallel-park while someone is driving very slowly next to them. 
Custom body contour work thanks to the fine folks on Universita Street
I have learned a lot about Maltese driving rules and the lack of adherence to them in most situations.  Here are a few differences between driving in Malta and Canada that may interest people:
  • You drive on the opposite side of the road than you do in Canada unless you are illegally passing another car or feel simply like driving on the wrong side of the road, which happens all the time.
  • Buses and taxis will hit you.
Don't hit a bus
  • The maximum speed limit in Malta is 80 km/h but I don’t think there is even a stretch of road 1km long where this speed limit is allowed.
  • Everyone loves to pass on solid lines (if lines are on the road) and usually if it’s a blind corner or hill they just beep as they pass you to let the person coming into a head on collision know that they are there.
  • You are not allowed to have your lights on during the day. You get ticketed for this. There are tunnels underneath towns that the “highways” go through where you have to turn your lights on.  When you forget to turn them off after exiting the tunnel people flash their lights at you or open and close their hands like they are doing the chicken dance to tell you to turn them off.
  • If you get “caught” with your fog lights on, you have to provide proof that it is foggy or you receive a ticket. 
  • BMW and/or Ferrari drivers don’t care about tickets or speed limits.
  • There are stationary photo-radar speed detectors in a lot of areas in Malta.  Unfortunately there are posted signs warning about the speed traps so everyone just speeds along until they are next to the photo-radar and then they slam on the breaks on the highway causing more danger than just driving at a high speed would.
  • ATV’s and Rototillers can legally drive on the road (weird).
  • Everyone complains about the rising price of gas, which is expensive at ~$1.60 (Canadian Dollars) per litre, but the furthest you can drive from one point in the country to another without taking a ferry is 32km so it’s not like the volume of km’s is going to cost you that much.
  • Motorcycles, including police, will pass you on the shoulder, sidewalk, centerline or anywhere else they can manage to fit.
  • Single lane roads can be expanded to 3 or 4 lanes wide whenever someone feels like it (which is all the time).
Otherwise we have had a great time with our new car. We are able to see parts of the island that we were never able to get to on the bus, and the luxury of grocery store trips taking half an hour instead of 2+ hours on the bus is wonderful.

J and Fred on the "path" to Fomm Ir Rih bay - a new place for us with a car as its an 8km walk from the nearest bus stop

So to the next group of visitors - start working on your leg flexibility and we’ll be able to squeeze you into the girly car and take you for a ride around the island in something other than an AVIS Hyundai Getz rental.



  1. hi mike, hi jess,

    can you recommend a car importer / dealer in malta?
    or maybe you will share the contact details of yours?

    best regards,

  2. Hi Domenik,

    We used UK to Malta and they were good to deal with.

    I hope this helps!



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