Buying a car in New Caledonia

Moving to New Caledonia? If so, a number of questions will come to mind. One of them concerns transportation. Is it best to bring or buy a car on the island, for example. Rely on public transport or bike everywhere?

Truth be told, it is fairly hard to get by without a car, though it can be done. The bus system has improved in Nouméa, with new, green buses which run regularly. There are some bike lanes as well. But if you are looking to do any travelling on the island during your stay, a car is a good investment.

We’ve been in the market for a used car for 2 weeks and started our search in earnest last weekend. Having lived in Paris before landing on the island, we did not own a car to ship. Shipping your car is also possible. There is only a tax of approximately €1,500 to pay once it arrives.

There are a few sources for used cars in Nouméa  (new cars are also available at dealerships, but are out of our budget – as cars are 20% more expensive here than in Europe):

We started via responding to posts on line. We saw five cars in one weekend and were amazed at what people were selling. Two had recently been in accidents and had missing hubcaps, broken side mirrors, dents. One had just had a lot of work carried out on it (this did not instill confidence in me for some reason). One was in great condition and was priced accordingly. One was too small for our needs.

There are a number of car accidents in New Caleonia due to drunk driving (only 30% of those who consume alcohol limit consumption before driving a car; on the weekend, 16% of drinkers who get behind the wheel of a car have had 25 standard glasses of alcohol). Drivers also drive without insurance. Car seats are not required. All this adds up to the need to be very careful on the road, and in our minds, to have a solid car (though truth be told, solid car or not, accidents and death happens more than it should here [76 have died this year alone in alcohol-related accidents]).

All this in mind, we decided to also visit car dealerships. They didn’t have much in the way of what we were looking for (comfortable, five doors, good-sized trunk, relatively low kilometrage, excellent condition, under €10,000). We found a few options however. The advantages with going with a dealership include:

  • Revisions are carried out by the dealership – including the changing of tires, passing technical tests, work carried out on the engines, as needed, etc. before the car is purchased
  • The car is guaranteed for 3 months (parts and labour)
  • The “carte grise” is included

Price-wise, it was more expensive to go with a dealership, but in the end, we wanted the reassurance that the car we were buying was in good condition. We were not sure we could guarantee that, buying from an individual we didn’t know (and having seen cars in pretty rough condition). We also need to be able to resell our car in a few years when we leave the island. We felt that purchasing from a dealership would make that sale just a little easier, given the guarantees that come with a dealership.

So, today, we bought a 2007 Peugeot 307 (just like the one pictured) from a dealership, and are very happy the search is over.

What have other friends done on the island? Some have brought their cars with them. Others are considering foregoing a car. Yet others have bought cars from their predecessors. There are a number of options for buying a car here, which is a very good thing, indeed.

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