Saturday, June 5, 2010

The Great Honda Civic Hybrid Escapade

While the selling of our Civic Hybrid initially brought great relief in last our week in Vermont, you will eventually see how it eventually played a big role in the craziness of the move.

16 months ago, we bought a 2003 Honda Civic Hybrid for $11,000. It was a nice little tan car, getting about 45MPG, with tinted windows that we found especially helpful when driving with a young tot in the back seat. We bought it rather impulsively, when Erik’s 1993 Accord died a deserved death with 250+K miles on it. We thought “we like Hondas, we are environmentalists, we will buy a hybrid”. A quick search on Craig’s List found one for sale in Burlington, and off we went.

16 months later, we need to unload two cars as we head to Norway. Norway has incredible import taxes on cars: 105% of the value of the car. Neither one of our cars, the hybrid, nor our 1999 Subaru Forester are worth that. We’ll buy a new (ish) one in Norway. Additionally, we have a large (ish) dog: 80lbs of Weimaraner/Lab muscle who requires special space in our vehicle. The Honda won’t cut it, and the Subaru is too old.

 So, we’ll sell the Honda, and drive the Subaru to Minnesota for our month long stateside furlough, with the dog riding shotgun (the rest of the car filled with possessions that will be filling my in-laws last remaining corner in the basement).

As I said, 16 months later, in May 2010, our 2003 Hybrid is now worth $8500, or so says the Blue Book. We think we have two potential buyers—one Dartmouth med student, who backs out when she finds out on an Internet search that 2003 Honda Hybrids have transmission problems. We haven’t had any transmission problems, so we aren’t too worried.  In preparation for our second potential buyer—one of Erik’s fellow ecology grad students—we take the Honda to the dealer to run a 40-point inspection to prove it is a solid car. The report comes back with it passing 39 points, but the 40th is that it needs the start up clutch re-burnished. Our second buyer looks through our records (something we haven’t exactly had time to do) and points out that this procedure was actually done back in August, 2009. 

A quick call to Honda tells us that if you’ve already reburnished the clutch once, that the next step is to actually . . . replace the transmission. And a new transmission will cost us  . . . . $4900. Keep in mind our car is worth only $8500.

Our second buyer backs out, not to our surprise. We are beginning to freak out—with our movers arriving in approximately a week—and consider the possibilities of parking our Lemon in our friend’s driveways, having them sell it, donating it to charity, or perhaps staging a major accident. Has anyone ever prayed that their car just get totaled?

Instead, on a Saturday morning we list it on Craig’s List for $3500—5K off our original asking price—and clearly state that the car “needs transmission work”, with every intent that we will explain the necessary work over the phone once the potential buyer has been intrigued enough to call.  Within 30 minutes of placing the online ad, Leon, a Russian from Albany NY (3 hrs away) calls me, begging me not to sell it to anyone else. His other car was totaled, he needs a car for work, he has cash, he will come that DAY and buy it. We get at least 3 other phone calls with the HOUR, and several emails, and Leon calls at least a half-dozen times to confirm that we have not sold it, and are holding it for him.  I am VERY clear with Leon that this car will eventually need $5000 worth of work done to it, but yes, the car does seem to run just fine now.

 While I was not privy to the actual interaction or transaction between Erik and Leon the Russian, a quick peak out the window as I put Greta down to bed at 7:30pm confirms most of what Erik and our friend Chad reported. Leon and his Russian-only speaking friend arrive, resplendent in very Eastern Bloc style dress, converse quickly in Russian, turn the car on, lift the hood, but do not test drive it. They give Erik $3500 in cash (Erik checks each bill for a watermark secretly in the house before handing over the title), and they sign a Bill of Sale provided by the Vermont DMV website, including a mileage statement.  A bit of foreshadowing: Leon elects not to sign the title when we give it to him, stating he might have his wife sign it instead. Doesn’t seem like a big deal to us, but whatever . . . . We wonder out loud what kind of shady deal this car is going to be a part of in the future, but for now it’s sold, and we have bigger things to worry about and at least $3500 in our pocket.


  1. Hi!

    We are moving to Norway and contemplating bringing our Toyota Hybird. Now that you have been in Norway for some time are you still ok with your decision of not taking one of your two vehicles. The way I see it is, my hybrid cost $25,000 in Norway it cost $40,000. I think the taxes would be about $10,000 to import the car (that is what I found on I wrong with this?). Since the car is paid off and in great shape, $10,000 is better than $40,000... with your experience do you have any advice for us?
    Thanks for you blog!!!

  2. Hi there--

    Thanks for reading.

    I would check again--and again--on your calculations on import taxes. We found that import taxes were 110% the value of the car. Yes, 110%, or 105% something ridiculous like that. Basically, Norway wants you to spend your money on their cars, one way or another.

    I don't have the link off the top of my head of where we found that information, but from talking with others who have recently moved here from the US, no one else has brought their car for the same reason.

    Let me know if you have other questions! Good luck with the move--it is stressful, no matter how well it's done!

  3. Emily,

    Thanks. Yes, that is what I thought. My husband (Norwegian) seems to think it is a lot less than that.... but then again he has been in the US for four years now so he is out of the loop! That says a lot if the Americans there you know have not brought their cars over. I am sure everyone did a lot of looking into it before making that decision. We will probably part with our vehicles as well (*sigh) and buy a car in Norway.

    By the way, we too have a dog ... well two of them! I know crazy... but they are our "kids." We are looking into all the immunizations, etc. from what I have seen, there is no quarantine in Norway ( is that right?). I am dreading the flight over for them...poor pups :(

    Anyway, thanks for your blog! So very helpful!

  4. We had american friends who moved here 7 or 8 years ago, and they brought their vehicle, and Norway changed the tax shortly thereafter. Yeah, I think there is no way that the tax is only 50% the value of the house. The government essentially wants you to "buy" a car in Norway, either through taxing your own, or buying a real one. I will say I have not seen a lot of hybrids on the road, but they might be less popular up here where winter cars are more necessary (than say, in Oslo).

    And you're right: no quarantine in Norway! Although. . . . our dog was quarantined for about 4-5 days because they couldn't read/find her microchip. But that's a story for another day. I do plan on writing that one some day, because it was a HUGE stressor and a good lesson for anyone who is planning on moving here with animals.

    Remember with traveling that most airlines won't fly your animals if the temperature is over 85 degrees, so plan your moving dates accordingly. And certain airlines, like Icelandair, are not familiar with the idea that some places in the world are actually WARM, and so don't have any written policies in place on their website (vs. some like Delta, which have pages and pages and pages about flying with animals), so it takes a lot of investigative work to get that information (like actually driving physically to the airport to ask people at the counter what the policy is). I'm not saying that Delta is better than Icelandair for that reason at all. We flew Icelandair, and were very satisifed with how they handled Tika. It also is one of the shorter flights over there, which I think was important.

    Good luck! Where and when will you be moving?

  5. Good to know! Thanks!

    We will start our research on the airlines.... great tip. I look forward to your blog on the microchip situation. Our dogs are chipped so I hope they can read it and we don't have a similar situation!

    So we are looking to move Aug 2012 to Lorenskog (North of Oslo). We have a year to plan and get the immigration paperwork started. I also have to go through SAFH.

    Thanks again!!!