Wednesday, April 24: I listed my 2008 GMC Terrain for sale on April 1, just as I planned. I was worried about the whole process because 1) I’m always a worrier and 2) I’m a foreigner in Oman and don’t know all the ins and outs of doing business here. So, as you can imagine, my stomach was tied in knots as I went through this process. All I could do was take steps that I thought would lead me to my goal and keep my fingers crossed that everything would work out as it should.
The hardest part was determining a price because Blue Book values as we know them in the United States are not applicable here in the Gulf. The price is determined solely by the market. I looked at similar 4-wheel drive vehicles with prices ranging from 4,000 rials to 5,600 rials, with higher mileage than mine. But I knew I had paid 5,550 ($14,421) for mine in November of 2011 and I’d put 60,000 km on it in 18 months. I am a good and gentle driver, but I often took the car off-road into wadis and up mountains in less than ideal driving conditions.
I had done all the proper servicing through the GMC authorized service garage, but I also knew there were some problems with the car: 1) One was the small dent on the front driver’s side of the hood, which was there when I bought it. I didn’t know the origin of that dent and so couldn’t answer potential buyers’ questions about it. 2) The tires were questionable, but my friend Tony looked at them in December and told me that the tread was good and the tires were perfectly good. Mike also looked at them when he was here in January and agreed that the tread was good and I didn’t need to replace them.
3) The last issue was the electrical system of the car. Before I first bought the car, I took it to Precision Auto for a computerized test. They told me a few minor problems that needed fixing, but they also said that there was some kind of electrical problem with the car. However, they couldn’t determine what it was. I could tell that in a small panel in the dashboard, the date and time didn’t work. My CD player and radio worked, but I couldn’t advance through tracks because the button didn’t work. But everything else seemed to be just fine, so I never bothered with checking it further.
Mario told me the way he got a value for his used car when he sold it was to go to the Toyota dealer and pretend he was interested in buying a new car. So I took his advice and went to visit them. Of course, it didn’t help that I had originally bought my car from this same Toyota dealer, so they knew the whole history of the car. This is life in a small town in Oman.
I told them I was looking to buy a Toyota RAV and that I wanted to know what value they would give me for a trade-in. The same guy who sold it to me asked how much I owed on the car and I told him 2,600 rials. After a couple of hours of thought, he called me back and told me he’d give me 3,000 ($7,795) on a trade-in!! I was shocked at the low value, so I called my husband Mike in Virginia and told him the situation. Being the finance guy that he is, as controller for a large government contractor, he did an extensive analysis with detailed spread sheets telling me the dealer would mark up the car about 20%, up to about 3,600 rials or more. Thus I should expect to get about 3,400 in the private market. He said I’d do well to get my loan paid off and recoup about 1/2 of my down payment of 1,400 rials. So the ideal sale value would be about 3,400 rials. Because I know everyone wants to think they’re getting a good deal, I raised my asking price to 3,700 rials ($9,614).
I started by telling my students, who immediately texted their uncles, brothers and fathers with the news. I put up an ad on Dubizzle, an online free advertising site for the Gulf. I sent an email to everyone in the Foundation Institute at the University of Nizwa, with a link to my Dubizzle ad. I put up flyers all over the university. A number of expats at the university told me my 3,700 asking price was a very good price.
And the calls started coming in.
The barrage of calls I got in the first two weeks were Omanis calling or sending text messages: “What is your last price?” I quickly got annoyed with this question about the “last price,” as I was certainly not going to tell them my last price. After all, who really knows what their “last price” is until they decide to accept that price? The last price always depends on the seller’s level of desperation — how quickly the seller wants to get rid of the vehicle. My last price in June, when I am due to leave, would certainly be lower than my last price in April, when I still have several months to go.
At first, in answer to this question, I would say, “I’m not going to tell you my last price. You can make me a reasonable offer and I’ll tell you whether I will accept it.” But I quickly found this was a waste of time. They’d make me an offer of 2,500 or 2,700 or 2,900 or 3,000 and then refuse to budge. So I finally started answering that my last price was 3,500 ($9,094). That immediately eliminated the people who were wasting my time.
The other calls and texts I received said the following: “I’ll give you 2,500 rials ($6,500) upon inspection of the car.” I got so many of these calls, I figured out that these were Omanis looking to buy the car at a low price, then mark it up and resell it. I got to the point where I cut these people off, either by not responding to their texts or telling them in the phone calls that they were way too low so there was no point in wasting time talking.
The first person I showed the car to was an Egyptian pharmacist who works in Birkat al Mouz. When he took the car (with me inside) on a test drive from the Lulu Hypermarket, he almost wrecked the car before we even got out of the parking lot. Then he drove the car at about 150 km/hour on a road where no one should be going that fast, looking at me and talking with his hands and swerving over the line. I kept having to yell at him, “Slow down! Watch out! You’re going too fast!” When we finally returned to the Lulu parking lot, happily unscathed, he said, I’ll give you 2,800 right this minute. I said no. I said 3,500. He came up to 2,900. I said 3,500. He said he wouldn’t come up anymore and I said I wouldn’t come down. So we parted ways. A week later he called and asked if I changed my mind. I said, I’m not yet desperate. Call me back in June and if I still haven’t sold it, I’ll consider your offer.
Another long line of Omanis at the university asked to test drive it. The car has always been noisy and make a kind of shimmying noise, but some of these people were commenting that the tires were not good and that was what was making the noise. I said no, I had been assured by several people that the tread on the tires was good. They said, no, in Oman, because of the heat, the tires can have good tread but they get very dry and hard. They insisted that was what the noise was. I heard this comment enough times that I started to think they might be right. I went to see a friend’s trusted mechanic who told me that yes, the tires were responsible for the noise.
On the weekend of April 11, Mario and I were on our way to Wadi Bani Kharous and we stopped in Muscat to show the car to two Omani brothers. They drove the car and made an offer to buy the car at 3,300 right then and there, AFTER they took the car to Precision Auto to have a computerized test done. By then I was getting sick of the effort of selling the car, and sick of the really low offers and it was close to my “last price” of 3,400. When they took the car to Precision Auto, the computerized test showed some problem, as it had when I first bought the car, with the electrical system. They said something about a catalytic something that senses buildup in the exhaust system and said it could present a POTENTIAL problem in the future. By this time, the two Omani brothers had been joined by their father and several other brothers to inspect the car. A whole family affair!! They asked the mechanic at Precision Auto if he could guarantee there would be no problems for 5 years. Of course the mechanic couldn’t guarantee such a thing. They tried to get me to come down further on my price and I said the car was already discounted for the unknown of this electrical problem. The deal fell through and Mario and I went on our merry way to Wadi Bani Kharous.
The next day, on our way back through Muscat, another Omani drove the car and offered me 3,200 and told me to think about it a few days. I told him I would do so, and then we returned home to Nizwa.
In the meantime, one of my colleagues had expressed interest in the car, but she needed to obtain financing. She didn’t give me a deposit, nor did I have anything in writing from her that she would buy the car. Therefore it was impossible for me to hold it for her. She and I had agreed on a price of 3,500, but I had determined that until the deal was done, I would sell it to whoever made me a reasonable offer first and could close the deal.
Finally, last Thursday, April 18, two Omani friends, Badr and Senad, came to look at the car. Senad came because Badr can’t speak English, so he came to translate. Badr had heard about the car from a student at the university who had seen my flyer. Badr, who is from Suwaiq in Al Batinah on the north coast of Oman, wanted the car for his wife. He has four children from 2 years old to 8 years old. When he drove the car, immediately he asked about the electrical panel and I said it has never worked since I bought the car. He mentioned that the tires seemed to be a problem. He asked me my “last price” and I told him someone at the university had offered me 3,500 but she was trying to get financing. However, I said, if you want to give me 3,400 today ($8,835), I will sell it to you now. Badr decided he liked the car and said he would go to the bank to get the money. We had to meet at the finance company to pay off the loan and get a release letter. I would get the difference in cash.
We had an hour to wait until the finance company opened, so I ran home and cleaned out my car while they went to Bank Muscat to get the cash. When we got to the finance company, Oman ORIX Leasing, we found that Badr could pay off my loan, but it would take a number of days to get the release letter from their Muscat head office. The police station is closed on Thursday anyway, so it was impossible to transfer the registration until after the weekend. We agreed since they had to wait to get the clear title, Badr would just pay off the loan We would draw up a bill of sale for the difference of 879 rials ($2,284), and we would meet next week at the police station to do the transfer. However, as Oman ORIX Leasing wouldn’t open again until Sunday (the bank weekends are Friday and Saturday), it would take until Monday or Tuesday to get the release letter. I had the sudden realization that the payment for the Terrain of 141 rials/month had just come out of my account and thus I had no money to rent a car, which I would need to do right away. So Badr gave me 200 rials ($520) of the 879 rials he owed me, leaving a 679 rial balance remaining ($1,764).
When we walked out of the finance company, Badr opened the back car door of the Terrain and ripped off the FOR SALE sign I had taped to the inside window. “Khalas! (Finished!),” he said happily. Then I drove the Terrain and he drove his Nissan Altima to Muscat, where we met at the Clocktower Roundabout. We drove together to a used car lot where someone drew up the bill of sale for the remaining 679 rials. As we were driving, Badr again mentioned that the tires were no good. These Omanis know their cars, there is no question about that. Even though two people I trusted had told me the tires were good, they were Americans who didn’t understand what Oman’s heat can do to tires.
I handed over the keys and all the paperwork on the Terrain to Badr, keeping a copy of his ID card, the bill of sale, the receipt for the loan payoff, and the mokia (registration) for myself. I also had his phone number. We agreed to meet at the police station in Nizwa the following Wednesday morning, April 24, to do the transfer. He attends Master’s degree classes at the University on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, so that seemed to be the perfect arrangement.
After all of this, he kindly dropped me off at the airport where I went directly to Budget Cars and rented a turquoise Suzuki Celerio for 150 rials/month. That is $390!! Outrageous! My car payment on the Terrain had only been $141 rials a month, and that for an all-wheel drive!
Of course the unfinished deal left me with a lot of discomfort. I thought right away that both Badr and Senad were honest and upright people. It was just a feeling I had. I would have never felt that way dealing with that Egyptian who drove my car like a maniac. I was slightly worried that Badr might never show up to pay me the remaining balance. However, I had all the documents in order and could go to the police if he didn’t show up. My bigger concern was that when we met again, he would have had the car for a week and might decide there were more things about the car he didn’t like. I was afraid when we met again, he would try to wiggle his way out of paying the whole 679 rials on the grounds that he found repairs that needed to be made.
Then we had a water debacle at the university. On Saturday, the beginning of the work week in Oman, there was no water in the university. As you can imagine, this started creating back ups in the toilets. Disgusting, yes. On Sunday, the situation was the same. The university decided to cancel classes for the week; however the administration insisted the teachers continue to come to work. As you can imagine, this made for some very unhappy teachers. I will write about this in another post.
This situation threw a glitch in my plans to meet Badr in Nizwa because if classes were cancelled he would have no need to come to Nizwa on Wednesday. However, when I communicated through Senad, he told me that the Master’s classes were not cancelled, so Badr would still come to Nizwa. During the week, I obtained the release letter from the finance company and transferred the insurance to Badr’s name, so I was ready to go on the final deal. In Oman, unlike in America, the insurance is on the car rather than the person, so when the car is sold, the insurance goes with it. I had just renewed my insurance for 175 rials in January of 2013, so the insurance was good through January 2014.
On Tuesday and Wednesday it started raining in Oman. This is tantamount to a blizzard in the USA. When it rains here, everyone is afraid to drive because of flooding wadis. Many people are killed as they try to drive through raging wadis and get washed away. Apparently, the wadis in Al Batinah, where Badr lives, were quite problematic as the rains in the north had been quite heavy on Tuesday.
As I walked into the Nizwa police station through a steady rainfall on Wednesday morning, Senad called to tell me Badr wasn’t able to make it out of Suwaiq because of flooding wadis. He wouldn’t be coming to Nizwa after all. He suggested we could wait till next week, but I wasn’t happy with that. I wanted to close this deal, get my money and be done with it. I was already feeling so much anxiety and I didn’t want to go another week feeling this way. So I suggested that if Badr could at least drive to Muscat I would meet him there. Senad called Badr and he agreed to try. We both headed on our way to the Royal Oman Police in Muscat.
In Muscat, there are four or five police buildings across from the airport and I wasn’t sure which one I was supposed to go to. I drove through several parking lots looking for the Terrain. I called Senad and asked if Badr was driving the Terrain so I could look for it. He said, no, Badr is driving his Altima because the Terrain is in the shop! Gulp! I panicked, wondering what was wrong with the Terrain. I again feared that there was some problem and he was going to try to pay me less than we agreed for the car.
When I finally met Badr at the police station I knew all my fears were in vain. The first thing he did was proudly show me pictures of the Terrain on his phone. The dent on the front hood had been repaired and repainted and the car looked like brand new!! His excitement was infectious. I said, “How much?” He said 30 rials! That was nothing. He added that he also put 4 new tires on the car. I was afraid to ask, but I did anyway: “How much?” He said 350 rials ($909)!!! I was shocked. He said he needed to make the car perfect for his wife. It was so sweet!! He was as excited as a little boy who just got some brand new toy.
He asked to see the papers. I gave him the manual, which I had accidentally removed from the glove compartment when I cleaned out the car, and showed him the release paper and the insurance document. I asked about the money and he had the 679 rials bundled up in a rubber band. I counted it in front of him. He told me he had a friend in the police so we didn’t have to take a number; we could get in right away. We sat down with the policeman and the transfer was done in two minutes. Badr showed me pictures of his children, glowing.
What a perfect ending for my GMC Terrain. I couldn’t have sold the car to a nicer person, someone who I know will love and take care of that car like it’s a precious gem. He obviously is a caring person – to his wife, his children and his possessions. I’m so thankful that he turned out to be the next owner of my much-loved little GMC Terrain that has enabled me to explore all the terrains in Oman!!
Finally, after leaving Badr in Muscat, I drive the long 1 1/2 hours to Nizwa in the pouring rain. Here’s some very rare video footage of rain in Oman.
Ma’a salama (مع السلامة) ~ Goodbye in Arabic ~ to my dear traveling vehicle! I hope that my little car will give him and his family as much happiness as it gave me.