Shipping a car is harder than it has to be…

First, before I get into our shipping experience, I want to address the international car insurance situation. If you have USAA, and are going to a country that USAA covers, you’re lucky. It’s painless (or so I’ve been told). We had to switch to Clements International, and while the process was easy, I wasn’t expecting to have to shell out 50% of the premium up-front. Their payment policy is 50% up-front, 50% 90 days net. What made me feel better about it was that they offer the local liability coverage that we needed, and I was able to add that to the rider. So $975 later, we had insurance and a temporary binder.

Our vehicle was picked up on Wednesday by a company that will deliver it to the port in Miami, where it will be put on a boat and make the sea voyage to the DR. This was not a particularly pleasant experience, as the representative from the company was not the most helpful or customer-service-oriented individual I have encountered. I was told to call on Monday to confirm Wednesday’s pick-up time, and after leaving 3-4 voicemails on a phone that I wasn’t even sure was his (i.e. generic VM greeting with only the phone number), finally got an alternate number from my wife. I called this number at about 3:30 p.m., and finally spoke with the gentleman who was upset that I didn’t give him a chance to return my call, since he had “just gotten into work.” Um, okay. Next I was told that I had to leave my plates on my car because they were “really busy and couldn’t guarantee there would be plates available.” How about no. I explained to him that we only had a few days left in the country, and couldn’t afford to risk not being able to turn in our plates before we left in order to cancel our registration. He insisted that he’d send them back via courier later in the day or via overnight parcel. I said I’d check with State’s Transportation Office to see if this was acceptable.

My wife spoke with State, and they told her that under no circumstances should I leave my plates on our car. We were told that it was the responsibility of the shipper to provide the plates, and if we had any problems to call. Wednesday comes, and I’ve cleaned out the car, gotten it washed and vacuumed, and taken the plates off in preparation for transport. The window I have is between 12:00 p.m. and 1:00 p.m. I get a knock on the door at 11:15 a.m. and it’s the shipper, mad-as-hell because he’s been “calling for 20 minutes” and I “wasn’t picking up my phone.” I ask him what number he’s been calling because we gave both my wife’s and my cell phone on the forms. I also looked at my phone and didn’t see any missed calls, so I’m curious. He gives me a number that is so far off of either my wife’s or mine that it’s funny (i.e. a 310 area code – and we’ve both got CT numbers).

Mind you, I’m not expecting this guy for at least another 45 minutes, I have my kid covered in his fingerpaints and magic markers, and I’m expected to drop this all and go down with him to deal with the car. I tell him to give me 5 minutes, and I’ll meet him next to the car. I clean the kid up a bit, and head downstairs. He asks me, “Where are the plates?” I tell him that State said to take the plates off. He gets a little annoyed and says, “Like I told you yesterday, we’re really busy, and we’ll send them back to you.” I tell him that I’m not comfortable not having my plates in my possession after the car’s gone. He goes around the car doing his inspection report, all the while on his phone with someone and blatantly complaining about me. I watch as he goes to his car, opens the trunk, selects one of at least 6 license plates from the trunk, and affixes it to my car. Nice.

Regardless, the car is gone, and I will be reunited with it in about 2 months. If it weren’t for the fact that cars are so expensive in the DR (and we’d basically have to purchase one sight-unseen), I’d have bought our car there.

On an up note, we got a lot of work done on the car, got some new tires, etc., and it will be ready to take on the challenges of the streets of the DR. Hopefully, my Boston driving experience has prepared me for the worst, and I’ll come out on the other side with only some nicks and scratches on the FJ Cruiser.

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2 thoughts on “Shipping a car is harder than it has to be…

  1. First, that sucks! Wow! Second, I am glad you write about it and let us read it because it helps to prepare.

    If DR is anything like El Salvador, Mexico, or Guatemala as far as driving…GOOD LUCK! Stop signs are only for show, pedestrians get yelled at for trying to cross the street, lots of honking, and everyone for themselves. ; ) I remember this from my youth visiting these countries.

    Good luck and I hope you keep us posted on your adventures.

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