We are into Month 2 of our car rental.
For our first three years here, we made do with taxis and the occasional one- or two-day rental, nearly always job-related: A car to get me to a match in Al Ain or Dubai, for example.
However, after we moved to the new place, further from the office, our taxi fares went up, both for trips to work and trips downtown. And, also, with my new job came a prime parking spot — one my predecessor had declared “the best at Abu Dhabi Media” … and the idea of not being able to take advantage of this wonderful parking place actually did have something to do with (yes, it’s twisted) finally renting a car.
For a month. Which is now two.
And how is it going?
First, let’s identify the car: A bottom-end Mitsubishi Lancer. Gold. A 2011 model, but already a piece of junk. Still a bit smoky from previous renters. Four-door, electronic windows, a radio, a puny engine that goes from zero to 60 in about a minute.
In a country where “car culture” is particularly strong, and the preference of any self-respecting motorist is a high-end European sedan or an enormous beast of an SUV, it’s almost embarrassing to be tooling around in a Lancer. But it beats walking. Usually.
Actually, it is convenient on several levels. No more trying to be on time for our cabbie. No more trolling for cabs in the middle of streets or in the middle of nights. In the heat.
The ability to run several errands consecutively is convenient, as is the ability to leave stuff in the trunk of the car while you move on to the next errand.
Gas is inexpensive (about $1.67 a gallon), and we don’t drive great distances, so it’s not as if we have done any maintenance. And some friends and colleagues have found it handy for us to have a car, because we can give them rides here or there.
Leah has done almost all the driving, so far, because I still have not replaced the UAE driver’s license lost to the Barcelona pickpocket back in October.
She is more than occasionally agitated by other drivers here, who are at least as aggressive (and perhaps less adept) than those in Southern California. She also finds it difficult to locate a new address while driving the car, and then there is the matter of Abu Dhabi having instituted, in many parts of the city, meters that need to be fed about 50 cents every hour.
What’s next? We are considering buying a used car. Something potentially handy comes on the market every day — expats buy cars, drive them for a year, leave the country and want to sell quickly and for cash.
A small Peugeot or even a Ford Focus without too many miles might do the trick. (One step up from the bottom.) We probably can get one for about 18,000 dirhams (about $5,000), and hope it doesn’t break down while we are here.
We have done the math, and if we were to return to our previous rate of cab usage, we would spend about Dh18,000 in a year. So after that, we would be ahead. In theory.
The rental car may become an owned car.