Owning a vehicle in Turkey

November was all about banks and money, December was all about vehicles as Nick finally got himself a suitable motorbike after a three year search. As a result the next few posts are about vehicles in Turkey.

After all these years in Turkey I still maintain that one of the biggest day to day differences between here and home isn’t the language or the food or the houses, the biggest, in your face difference is vehicles. From buying one, to owning one, to running one, it is very different to at home.

Primarily this is to do with the costs of both buying and running a vehicle. Turkish cars cost loads and Turkish fuel is massively expensive. Cars are easily twice the cost of the UK to buy and petrol is slightly more expensive on our current lavish exchange rate, however average wages are less than half what people earn in the UK and so in real terms cars are probably four or five times more expensive to buy and run here.

Cars also hold their value here so there are few bargains to be found on the second hand market and in some cases a second hand car can often increase in value due to changing market conditions – my little Hyundai is now worth 3.500tl more than I paid for it nearly three years ago, primarily because it’s diesel and as fuel costs go up the value of small cars that give good mileage goes up comparatively.

Here are a few bits of info about buying and driving vehicles in Turkey :-

1. Make and model – certain vehicles come into Turkey under special importing licenses and whilst not the most glamorous of makes they are good value for here, so don’t ignore Dacia’s and Tata’s and other manufacturers sneered at by the lads from Top Gear. All parts that have to be imported for high end foreign made cars and bikes will cost a lot. For example, a front tyre for Nick’s motorbike costs between 350-450 Euros here in Turkey, it costs around £50 in the UK and fortunately we can ship them in as gifts for personal use (Merry Christmas – festively wrapped tyre, with a bow) but that means waiting if you have an emergency.

2. Underpowered much! – most cars here will be the lower powered version of what you know from home. My last car in the UK was a 2ltr convertible, you can get them here, but only the 1.6ltr version, which honestly would be seriously underpowered because the car was very, very heavy because of the roof mechanism. You may know the particular make of car you are considering but take it for a serious test drive before you buy or you may spend a couple of years making encouraging hip thrusts on steep hills.

3. Shopping around – You won’t get a great deal on a new car here by shopping around, the car dealerships don’t have a lot of room to manoeuvre due to the taxes and you’ll be lucky if you find a couple of hundred lira difference between them. Shopping around may end up costing you more due to the price of the damn fuel running between garages!

4. Commercial vehicles – some cars are not cars, they are commercial vehicles, the hideous brick with wheels which is the Doblo is one of them. As commercial vehicles they have different rules and restrictions, they need more regular inspections, a lower speed limit applies to them and the tax and insurance costs are different. Just be aware.

5. One year, one license – if you plan to be driving here for more than a year you should get a Turkish driving license. It’s not hideously expensive and is quite a giggle (psychiatrist report required – Turkish psychiatrist “Are you mad”, Foreigner, “Not currently” Tick, stamp, sign with squiggle, done) and whilst most traffic police won’t care you’re prepared for when you meet the one who does care and is going to ruin your week over it.

6. Worshipping the Original – Turks, like Nick, worship at the altar of “original”. Cars will be glowing described as “all original” when they are scratched and dented to buggery because Original allows you to see what you are buying and non original, i.e. repaired/resprayed/welded together hides a multitude of implied sins. Nobody corrects minor dings and scrapes here because any repairs imply the car has been in a big crash and nobody wants that and so their value is reduced if you repair it. As a result when some pillock in a dolmus takes your wing mirror off in the jostle for the lights you just tape it back on and proudly point out it is original come selling up time. Bizarre but true.

7. Standing out in the crowd – For those who have to own vehicles on Mavi Plaka registration plates (foreign residents) only the named owner will ever to be allowed to drive your car or ride your motorbike. Some people will happily swear this isn’t true and anyone in the family/with the same surname/living at the same address can drive it, personally I wouldn’t want to bet my insurance payout on them and their assurances. Fortunately we buy vehicles through our company so a whole level of hassle and ambiguity is avoided for us and anyone with the right license can drive our vehicles with our permission.

8. Notarise this – Notary costs for transfer of ownership are based on the book value of the vehicle, irrespective of what you paid for it and the notaries have huge ledgers detailing the ever so slowly depreciating value of all vehicles in Turkey. Notaries these days tend to do all the relevant checking during the transfer process to ensure all debts are paid and the tax is up to date so it’s not as potentially fraught a process as it used to be but still check yourself that all fines and liabilities are cleared from the vehicle, just for your own peace of mind.

9. Make it officially mine – Following transfer of ownership you have 30 days to register the vehicle in your name with the Traffic Police in your home town and get the registration documents changed. I don’t know how this works with foreigner owned vehicles, I think it’s a bit more involved, but basically I bung my traffic insurance guy a few lira and he runs around doing the paperwork and I turn up at the traffic police office in town at the end of the process to sign and collect the new registration and get stared at suspiciously for being female, owning a company and owning a vehicle, amazing what you can do despite having breasts.

10. Tick, tick, tick, stamp, check, stamp – Any piece of paperwork relating to a vehicle must be double and triple checked to ensure it is correct – cc, colour, make, year of production, your details, particularly the spelling of your name etc. Any changes in the future will cost and you will be the one paying even if they are as a result of an error not of your doing. A friend recently had to cough 100tl because when he took his car for the TUV (the Turkish equivalent of the MOT) a certain box hadn’t been ticked, yet the car had passed two previous inspections without the tick – basically check everything so you don’t leave yourself open to these deeply irritating little expenses.

The second hand car market in Turkey is huge, because every car is always for sale and most people will buy a car and then straight away bung it on www.sahibinden.com the Turkish equivalent of Ebay, at a price higher than they paid for it. They do this with houses too, just on the off chance a nutter with more money than sense comes along.

There are currently quarter of a million cars for sale on Sahibinden, mainly for sale by owner and you can while away many a rainy afternoon sniggering over the pictures and prices on the site. That said, both our vehicles have been bought privately from the site and if you have the patience to trawl and are willing to travel and can get by in Turkish it’s a good way to find vehicles and Nick has actually made loads of friends by chatting to people he met via Sahibinden motorbike adverts.

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