Posted on 02 August 2009.
See below why our recent article about Ecuador car rentals aroused more than just comments about cars.
That message evoked a strong reaction to change… a change that must take place… a change where resistance is futile and in many places a gesture that degrades our chances for happiness, health and a life of ease. See why below.
We Americans do love our cars.
I have kept my little Suzuki Samari going for 22 years now… and hopefully will be driving it for another 22 years…. or more.
Four wheel drive from flowers. What fun!
I was not surprised that my suggestion in the Ecuador car rental article “get a driver rather than rent a car in Ecuador” caused some panic.
You can read that article at car rentals in Ecuador
Beware those who try to separate Americans from their cars! This caused one reader to worry so about the cost of cars that he wrote:
Hi Gary, what about importing your own car, or buying one there?
From what you are writing, the living seems to be very inexpensive, that is until you want to travel on your own. Try that on $1000 month or a fixed income.
All that shines is not gold. Reading between your lines these past 3 months I have come to conclude that there are lots of “hidden” costs in living in this 3rd world country.
I have lived for decades in many similar countries, and even worse, however never have I encountered such car costs as you describe. These are by far the most expensive car rentals I have heard of. Doesn’t make sense living there unless one wants to walk or take taxis everywhere. An independent person would be doomed to frustration. No, thanks…this was the article that opened my eyes.
This reader jumped to some incorrect conclusions. The gist of the article was that people who visit Ecuador should hire a car and driver.
The car rental situation is quite different for a tourist than for someone who has moved to Ecuador, learned the system… knows the roads and is not trying to see the country in a limited time period.
Many people who live in Ecuador have cars. Cars are not that expensive…. especially new ones partly assembled in Ecuador.
Gas is really cheap ($1.50 a gallon) and mechanics very inexpensive.
We recently looked at buying a four wheel drive Land Rover Challenger in good shape for our hotel. The asking price was $15,000. But we wouldn’t drive it.
GoEcuador says: It is now possible to obtain a used car in good condition beginning at $4000.
I just posted an entire report about prices of used cars for our Ecuador Living subscribers. If you do not subscribe to Ecuador Living and want that report on Ecuador car prices, learn how to get that report here.
Plus that reader says he is independent because he has a car?
He forgets the fact that this means he is very dependent on cheap gas… something he may not have for long.
In Ecuador, the cost of hiring a driver can be less then renting a car and may even less than owning your own car. The availability of drivers with cars can eliminate the idea that we become dependent on others if we do not have a car.
One small piece of technology altered the automobile driver equation… the cell phone. In Ecuador most people have cell phones. A number of drivers we and many others rely on have cell phones. A car is always just minutes away from a call… no parking… no insurance… no maintenance… no getting gas.
Another reader wrote:
Thank you! We would purchase a locally manufactured ‘middle of the road’ (pun) vehicle. But I’m worried about drivers, accidents, tickets, gringo-problems with the locals and the police as well as the various other road condition, speeders, etcetera other issues. (We have both driven over 45 years in various countries with no tickets – I’m not worried about our driving.) We plan to relocate to Ecuador – probably suburban/rural area (but near enough to a city with a bilingual school) so will need a car daily for commuting our daughter to school, shopping, and more. How can it be affordable to take taxis all the time instead of owning a vehicle ourselves? Please let me know how others do it. Do you and Merri drive in Ecuador? Thanks.
These notes conjure several important points about change from living in Ecuador or anywhere abroad… points that go way beyond cars.
These readers, like so many readers who contact me, projected the old American commuter ideal onto an imagined lifestyle into Ecuador.
This mental error is understandable. We Americans are car junkies.
I am living proof.
Like many Americans I obtained my driving license on my 16th birthday. Shortly after I found a job and bought my own car… a 58 Chevy Bel Air just like this.
That was a great car and I just about lived in it. We boomers in high school were judged by our cars!
I initially carried the burden of the car mentality with me when I left the USA. I have driven in some crazy places during my time… jungles… war zones… deserts… swamps. We’ve had our car robbed in Nice … had fender benders in Djakarta and on roundabouts in London and Rome. Merri had her car bombed in the parking lot of the Picasso Museum in Barcelona…along with everyone else’s car there. (Long live the Basques!) Plus I have had a couple of cars stolen and some serious smashes in the US. I live with the effects of a broken back, whiplashed neck and busted knee from driving an Austin Healey Frogeye (see below) into an 18 wheeler truck .
So I have experienced the good and the bad of cars.
When Merri and I bought our first hacienda in Ecuador, the seller threw in a really great, old Land Rover… gray… perfect leather seats but so old it had only three switches… one for the lights, one for the windshield wipers and one that apparently did nothing. You could (and we did) start that vehicle with a hand crank. The heating and air conditioning system was a flap in front that you could either open or shut.
We loved that car and I drove it exactly once… from our hacienda to Calacali… about a hour ride with only 15 minutes on a paved road.
The rest of the time we had our driver drive us. This provided one more job in a country that needs employment plus gave Merri and me time to talk… look at the scenery and not worry about parking and all the rest of the hassle that comes with driving.
That is the only one time I have driven in Ecuador in all these decades.
Now let me add… I have always been a driver.
When I lived in Hong Kong I had a car… a great little Sprite Frogeye. Like this…
I loved that car in Hong Kong but hardly ever drove it. I took the peak tram, the Star Ferry, taxis… the trolley and even jumped on the bus from time to time.
Have you ever tried to park in Hong Kong?
Ditto for London. I had a number of cars… first a little MG Midget like this.
In 1970, I drove that MG from London to Rome with my wife and two children… one still in diapers… a mistake… having not learned about the luxuries of Eurorail.
Then I had an Audi… a Peugeot… a BMW… and a Triumph Spitfire.
Yet I rode my bicycle many miles through London traffic from my home is Chiswick to my office on Artillery Row near Buckingham Palace. I was often stopped by the police and even ticketed for riding my bike on a short cut through Kensington Gardens. I also regularly used the Tube.
Have you ever tried to drive in London?
Plus riding the bike every day eliminated having to drive the car to a gym… a double savings.
Here is a point about change that goes beyond cars.
Americans are car addicted because of the nature of America.
Americans need and are highly dependent on cars because everything is spread out, gas has been cheap, there is little public transportation and labor is expensive.
This set of conditions does not apply in all countries. Cars are an asset in the USA but they can be liabilities elsewhere.
Why in a time when the environment is at risk through pollution… energy prices are rising… and roads are becoming more and more congested… would one want to stick to a lifestyle that revolves around one car per person if that is not the most effective lifestyle?
The one car per person mentality is old thought.
We really need to move onto the new.
Due to high labor costs, Americans have become hooked on DYI. Yet when we move to a country with great, low cost labor… it makes sense to take advantage of these conditions. Everyone gains.
When we can do good, why not create a bit of employment and save time, energy and money… why not sit back and enjoy the ride?
Hundreds of my readers have moved to Ecuador. Almost none have chosen to buy a car because they really are not needed in many places there.
In Cotacachi we walk. Our friends who have moved to Cotacachi report losing weight, feeling better and having more energy… in part because they walk more instead of driving.
Taxis are very inexpensive. Most trips around town are a dollar and they come quickly to a cell phone call. Though Merri and I do not use the buses, many of our friends do. The system works well. If we need to take a trip away from the village, we have a number of drivers who have excellent vans and cars who charge between $55 and $70 to take us wherever we want to go. A ride is available at any time night or day… with one cell phone call. Usually on a long furniture shopping trip to many places nearby, we might spend $10-$15….plus we have the advantage of the driver’s help, no problems parking, etc.
We have eliminated the cost of the car… gas… maintenance…. insurance…. parking… security.
Many US and Canadian readers write to us asking about cars…. big refrigerators… washing machines and dish washers. These are all products that have evolved from North America’s spread out, low energy, high labor cost, nationally distributed, highly preserved food lifestyle.
In many countries you do not need these expenses and burdens. You can walk daily to the market and get great fresh food. This is fun!
Why have a huge fridge? Merri and I love visiting the market. We searched for the tiniest fridge we could find. We live just like we lived in London for all those years. Every morning out on the streets looking for THE perfect vegetables, fruits, etc. and then enjoying a morning coffee and back home with everything for lunch! What fun!
Here’s the kitchen of one of our condo rentals. Do you see a fridge? It is tiny and hidden away. We amble to the food markets instead. Cotacachi market is just three blocks away and we enjoy buying our food fresh from our neighbors.
The market provides these bicycle carts. For 50 cents or a dollar a happy man will ride all your groceries home for you….and put them away if you like!
The food market is fun and we love having a hot fig and cheese sandwich for breakfast. Not a combination most would ever dream of. They are delicious but missed if you are driving your car though miles of traffic to get to the American style super market!
Why pay a premium for imported dishwashers and washing machines when you can have cheerful, happy people do your cleaning and ironing for you? You save time, energy and create employment to help the poor.
Which makes more sense? Spend extra money for a very expensive imported washing machine that takes up space in your home… and requires effort on your part or spend a LOT LESS money letting these two cheerful mothers, Rosita and…
and Rosita Elena…
do your laundry and deliver your sparkling, ironed clothes to you? I love all natural clothes but they do require startch and ironing…and here’s our delightful answer.
You save space, money and help the Rositas support their families.
There is another important point here.
You help the environment. One washing machine that serves 20 families is better on the environment than 20 machines serving families.
Ditto for cars. Even in the USA, car sharing is growing as explained in the Washington Post in an article entitled “Car-Sharing Merges Into the Mainstream
Not Just for Tree-Huggers: Businesses and Universities Help Drive Growth of Flexcar, Zipcar.”
You can see how Car sharing is growing in Germany and car sharing is growing in Japan.
Car sharing is growing in these industrialized countries because labor is still dear. In Ecuador you can car share with a driver!
Plus one more really important point. With rising energy costs, why would any of us think that on a limited budget we can continue to have this wasteful high energy lifestyle? Why would we even want our old wasteful high energy lifestyle? Americans have been warned. Four dollars a gallon gasoline can return.
In fact four bucks a gallon may be low. In Europe gas can cost seven dollars a gallon.
This note is not about cars.
It is about change.
We’ll be seeing more and more change in our lifetimes… coming faster.
We can profit if we adapt to the change and take advantage of new circumstances by living in new ways based on the local conditions that surround us.
Those who try and stick to old ways in a new environment will lose opportunity and ease in life at best. They may even suffer… sometimes a lot.
Change means we may life differently than before. Change means we may even choose to live in a country where we were not raised and born. This change can enhance our lifestyle… improve our health…. relieve our stress… if we adapt and embrace that country for what it is and enjoy its unique attributes.
If we choose to leave one country… why try to reproduce what we decided we no longer enjoy? If you want a mini USA or another Canada in Ecuador… but on the cheap… I expect you’ll be very disappointed coming to Ecuador.
Ecuador is a great place to be… but it is Ecuador… not Canada… not the USA.
Think about the quote by Anatole France about change: All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another.
Through change we may lose the one car per person lifestyle… but gain stronger legs… healthier lungs and cleaner air. We may not be able to jump in the Chevy, go to the levy and drop off the laundry, do the banking and get a Big Mac on the way… but in the change we can eliminate our fear of the meter maid.
Plus that ride can still be provided by a wonderful knowing person… just one cell phone call and minutes away.
Do not get me wrong. I still have cars… three right now in fact… all in the US, a Honda minvan for long drives and our old Suzuki and a conservative Dodge pickup for use on the farm. Conditions warrant each.
Yet I am thinking about creating bio diesel from the farm when change brings the day that gas is not so available or cheap.
We have no car in Ecuador and have never missed one for a second.
If change is bringing a time when the daily one person per car commute must pass… Ecuador is a great place to get started. For car sharing with drivers, taxis, buses and yes walking… Ecuador is a good place to be.
Join Merri me and Thomas Fischer of JGAM and our webmaster David Cross in North Carolina this October.
Learn more about global investing, how to have an international business and early retirement in Ecuador at the course.
Oct. 9-11 IBEZ North Carolina
Or join us in Ecuador and learn more about living and retiring in Ecuador.
Sept. 17-21 Ecuador Spanish Course
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Nov. 11-14 Ecuador Coastal Real Estate Tour
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See why we love Cotacachi Market here.