The Russian Roulette of Island Cars

One of the first choices you’re confronted with when you move to a Caribbean island is figuring out how you’re going to get around. Though the island is tiny by comparison to many other places, things can still be a bit more spread out than you’d anticipate. You wonder, Should I buy a car? A scooter? Take the bus? Or just commit to walking and always being more than a little sweaty wherever I arrive?

In my transport decision-making process, I learned pretty quickly that my fellow students on the rock tend to sell their cars for astronomical prices. Recently, I saw a post on a Facebook group where the students tend to sell random things and one of them had a car listed. In the description for this 1992 Hyundai Elantra, these were just a few of the car’s *selling* points:
  • NO power steering
  • NO functioning windows (can’t go up or down)
  • NO functioning air-conditioning
  • heavily worn tires
  • some cosmetic damage

island car for sale_WWLOR

Now guess how much the student was selling this 24 year old vehicle for?

$8,500 USD!

That’s right, that is in US dollars.

And the craziest part is, apparently I’m one of the few that are actually shocked by this. The other students seem perfectly willing pay up for it because they feel the need for their transportation to be a car. Meanwhile, I can’t help but remember that that is about the same price as a brand new car back in the States.
Now, I do understand that the cost of living in St. Kitts is naturally quite a bit higher for the simple fact that everything has to be imported into the country and must be taxed through Customs. When you see that just one used tire can run about $95 to $100 USD (a brand new tired can be anywhere from $150 and up) and you consider that tires tend to also wear out sooner here due to the uneven paved roads, the completely unpaved roads, and the constant heat and humidity, you understand why having a car can be so expensive beyond just the initial purchase price. Having a car here, even a really rundown one, is a luxury.
Perhaps others feel the need for a mode of transportation that is completely their own so they do not have to rely on others (or maybe they don’t even like making new friends!). But with that choice comes the risk: you can buy a ridiculously overpriced car and when you finish up school and leave the island in about 2 1/2 years, you can try to sell the exact same car, just a few years older, for the exact same price you bought it for. Sometimes you win and don’t experience any depreciation on your “investment” and sometimes you lose and end up being the one who deals with all the inevitable issues a 24 year old island car is bound to have at some point in time. A little island-style Russian roulette, anyone?
The way I see it, forking out the cash for one of these illogically priced cars simply isn’t worth it. So I’ve chosen to alternate between walking to school or taking the Kittitian bus that drops me off right at the school or even at the store. The bus fee is equivalent to about $1 USD each way; in the grand scheme of things, trading in a little convenience is much cheaper than spending thousands of dollars on a car that may or may not break down in a few months and cost me thousands of dollars more to fix it (if it’s even fixable).
Besides, taking the bus gives you the peace of mind that no car has the power to take you down the rock’s rabbit hole of drama. And you never know – you might even make a few friends along the way. Yup, the bus life is the best life for me these days. That is, until I’m able to get myself a car like Fred Flintstone’s – now there’s a car I could count on to reliably start each morning… once I’ve had my cappuccino, of course.
Flintstone care_WWLOR

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Tifaney Jones

About Tifaney Jones

From the good ol' southern state of South Carolina, Tifaney is currently attending Ross University's School of Veterinary Medicine on St. Kitts. She plans to be there for another 2 1/2 years. She's living the dream, as some would call it, and some days, it is true. Learning the anatomy of a dog and all that entails while at the same time learning to adapt to a different climate can be difficult at times. But does she regret her move? Absolutely not.

Tifaney is pursuing her dreams of becoming a veterinarian, living in another country, and learning a different culture that's different from her own. While scary, amazing, and nerve-wracking at times, she considers herself very blessed for all that is currently happening in her life and what the future may hold.

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3 thoughts on “The Russian Roulette of Island Cars

  1. I agree with your decision , you’ll meet others on the bus and at school you’ll meet others who have car at school.I lived on a rock with a medical school (at which I used to study in the library b /c it was quiet and open till 11:pm)!.I never saw a listing on island of a heap of junk like that scam artist was trying to pass off as a sellable vehicle.+on SXM we had I’m emissions controls so it would have never past the standards even w a case of rum to boot! Good thinking on your part. HOPEFULLY THEY DON’T LET the goats on the bus like in So. AMERICA (Although u may find your 1st pt. There)lol.

  2. We have been on our island since September and our move is permanent. We priced island cars and decided to import one from Japan. Lots of stress at the port picking it up but a good decision overall as it was much cheaper than an island car.

  3. I’ve been in Nevis for almost 8 years. Ours was a permanent move versus your school time there. We brought our jeep and truck in, and even with a returning citizen something or other, our vehicles doubled in price. We have a 2002 very basic jeep wrangler and at 2005 Ford F 150. It is amazing the costs of a vehicle, and we still don’t have one that will fit more than 2-3 people.

    We rent to students in Nevis, and many of them find someone that buys a car and it becomes a shared vehicle among the students. I guess they share expenses and when the car is available, plus the buses. You are probably much better off doing what you are doing. I would like to bring a vehicle in from Japan, but no need for someone there such a short period of time. I hope you enjoy and come over to Oualie Beach for a break:-)

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