Subtitled: The Worst Investment I Ever Made, Quite Possibly in My Entire Life
And not just because it was a used car, although in retrospect I suppose in the short-run I would have paid less if I had bought a new car on an installment plan. But that would have been nearly impossible for me, seeing as how I’m a divorced single mom and my busta paga (pay stub) most likely wouldn’t have ever shown the requisite amount for getting a car loan. Nor would I want a car loan in Italy. I’d be afraid to take on a car loan in the States, why would I risk something like that in the bureaucratic black hole known as Italy?
I’m writing this not to complain, but as a helpful cheat sheet for anyone who might in the future happen to Google “buying a used car in Rome.” Maybe I can help you get a clearer picture of the expenses you’re going to come up against. I wish I had known then what I know now, and thought more about the overall costs of keeping and maintaining a car here in Rome. Had I done a bit more research, I’d like to think I would have decided against buying a car in favor of opting for a taxi when a car ride was essential.
Because, in the end, the only time a car for me in Rome is really essential is when I have to take my kiddos to the doctor (unfortunately, although not far from home, still not within walking distance, especially with a sick kid) or when I go out late at night, not for safety’s sake but more for convenience’s sake, because public transport in Rome is really slow after midnight. Had I calculated potential taxi spending for these occasions, on an annual basis, I’m 99.9% sure I never could have racked up the total amount I spent on keeping a used car in this city.
You may say, “Why not consider Carsharing?” Well, I did, and being that I don’t live conveniently near any of the parking lots (they’re mainly for people who live close to or in the center), it wouldn’t have been worth it over a taxi. I signed up for it but never ended up paying the annual fee.
So, when I got the opportunity to buy a used Opel Corsa from a fellow American expat who was only the second owner, and who wanted to get rid of it quick due to moving back to the States, I jumped at the chance. It cost €1700 and checked out mechanically. It had been garaged for most of its life due to being property left to an ex-wife in a divorce, and the expat lawyer I ended up buying it from had only purchased it to have a car for her husband to drive her to the hospital in for giving birth. (!) So, it was in really good shape despite being 12 years old, and it was a Euro 4 which meant that I could drive it on all except the “eco Sundays” which require Euro 5 or 6. (These ratings refer to European emission standards.)
Before you buy a used car in Rome, consider the following:
1) Transfer costs (Passaggio di proprietà) (Mine = €480 one-time fee)
When I bought this car, the owner and I went through an agency to process the title and registration transfer. This is because, if you attempted to do it on your own at the DMV, I’m quite sure you’d never make it out alive. My transfer cost €424 in taxes and state costs, and €56 in agency fees. Costs vary by car.
2) Insurance (Assicurazione RC Auto) (Mine = €956/year paid in one lump sum)
If you’ve never been an insured driver in Italy, you’re basically totally screwed. They use a rating system and even if you’ve been driving since age 16 everywhere else in the world and an insured driver the whole time, it doesn’t matter, because in Italy they have no record of your good driving history. Therefore you start from scratch, in “Class 14” (they’re called classe di merito) which is the highest insurance risk and therefore the most expensive. The average quote for annual insurance for my crappy ass car in Classe Quattordici was around €1750 (that’s nearly $2,300 or about $190 per month).
If you’re an expat, you might qualify for Clements Worldwide, which is luckily where I ended up getting my car insurance. It averaged out to about €80 a month but they required the annual payment all at once.
3) Annual vehicle tax (Bollo auto) (Mine = €156.20/year)
This tax is paid annually and calculated based on your car’s emissions rating (Euro I, II, III, etc.). I need to get my car junked now because it’s broken down beyond repair and would cost more than €1,000 to get repaired, only probably to end up breaking down again. Apparently it WAS in great shape when I bought it, but then driving it created a problem. (!!) So in order to junk my car, not only did my mechanic say it would cost roughly €100 for the junkyard service, but, he said, “You’re missing the proof of your vehicle tax being paid.” I’m thinking, great. I had no idea I had to pay this and nothing ever came to my address to tell me. So I go to the ACI (Automobile Club of Italy) and ask for a “visura dei bolli” which basically is them looking up in their computer if vehicle taxes have been paid for my car.
THREE YEARS HAVE GONE UNPAID.
In fact, when the car was sold to me, a whole year was already past due. So that fee from three years ago, I now owe, and it’s up to €191,57 due to the penalties assigned each year that went by, and possibly even 30% more coming up because after three years they send it to a collection agency.
The April 2011-April 2012 payment which I should have only technically owed €40 on since I only owned the car in Feb, Mar and April of 2012, but, hey thanks former owner for slapping me with those charges unbeknownst to me, is now up to €188,73.
And, the April 2012-April 2013 which I have to pay even though I haven’t even driven the car since last October when it broke down, is now €165,40.
If I manage to pay all of these charges by the end of this month in order to get the car junked, thank God I’ll avoid paying an additional €156,20 for this year through April 2014!
Yep, I about had a heart attack. €545,70 out of nowhere. That shit totally sucks. I was saving for my tattoo and a trip to Amsterdam to get it and now, effing back car taxes. Moral of the story: get a visura dei bolli before you buy a used car. All you have to do is go into an ACI and give the license plate number.
4) “Revision” exam (Revisione) (€45 at the DMV or €64,80 at an authorized mechanic/once after first 4 years for a new car, then once every 2 years)
If you’ve ever heard anyone talk about the “bollino blu,” it’s now part of the overall revision process. Basically every two years you have to take your car in for the revisione to have it checked for road safety and pollution output.
And, if you lose your documents, like I did, God forbid. Cost of replacement for the libretto di circolazione and certificato di proprietà (registration and title, respectively) is roughly €100. That’s because my used car had the “old” libretto which isn’t “duplicable” … forget about it.
And, if you accidentally drive on a “green Sunday” like I did (I know, my bad, but it can happen), you stand to get a ticket for about €45 if they stop you.
And, if you accidentally hit a parked car or any other kind of automobilistic mishap, which frankly is most likely going to happen sooner or later if you drive in Rome, whether you’re the best driver in the world or not, consider your insurance costs going up, or, paying out of pocket to the other car’s owner for body work, etc. I had to do that because I am a shitty parker, and it cost me €400 and that was even off the books at my friend’s friend’s body shop. CHE PALLE, BALLS BALLS BALLS.
Now, if that isn’t enough for annual expenses, and even if you never encounter any of the extra annoying expenses I did due to my own negligence, please consider the cost of fuel. I hardly ever drove anywhere, and ended up spending about €50 per month. That got me one full tank per month in an 8-gallon tank. Gas here is around $9 on average per gallon.
Maintenance. In one year I spent €50 for an oil change, €300 for service from a rip-off mechanic who did a bogus repair, and I also spent €100 when I finally took it to the dealership for a “diagnosis” in which they told me the repair costs would be in the thousands and frankly wasn’t even worth it (and I got a second opinion as well from a trusted mechanic friend of my ex-husband’s). So in maintenance I easily spent nearly €500, fuel costs probably ran about another €500 in the approximately 10 months of actual usage I got out of the car itself, add in a €10 car wash every couple of months, because frankly in Rome your car is going to get super dirty after like one day and shamefully dirty after only a month, and you’re easily at nearly €100 a month in fuel, yearly maintenance and repairs, and if you add in all those other expenses? Excuse me while I go retch.
Folks, in one year I spent an ungodly amount for a car that I barely used and that is going to cost me over €600 to junk. Perhaps my experience is unique. However my guess is that it is not.
This is one of those moments when I really wish that I could be happy about Rome’s public transport or live in a city like Amsterdam where everyone rides bikes. But just yesterday in this week’s copy of Internazionale (best magazine ever in Italy, I highly recommend it) the editor commented that in Rome there are 978 vehicles for every 1,000 inhabitants, and this includes newborns and over-85 year olds, and that Rome has 41.5 km of underground rail, compared to London’s 460 km, Paris’s 200 km, and even Milan’s 84 km in a city that’s 7 times smaller than Rome with half the population. I know what you’re thinking, oh but it’s impossible in Rome, too much archaeological stuff underground. St. Petersburg got around their problem by digging deeper. (Ok, so I’m not an archeologist, but come on.) Even Naples has 30 km of underground rail with a city 11 times smaller than Rome and 1 1/2 times fewer inhabitants.
I dunno, folks. If I could go back in time, I would never buy the car. I would spend for a taxi, which in Rome is still relatively inexpensive as compared to other big cities. Sigh. Sigh. Sigh.