Earlier this week I said I'd tell you about buying a car in Vanuatu.


First you need to throw out all concept of what you are used to paying. There is no income tax here, so the government needs to fill the coffers in other ways, and one of them is import duty.


The entire population is only a little over 300,000 and the average income very low so obviously there is no vehicle-manufacturing industry here.


There are dealers who iport new vehicles. Alternatively a lot of private people import low-mileage second and cars themselves, sourcing them at auctions in Japan, Korea, China - and even the USA.


First of all please note that in Vanuatu we drive on the right side of the road so all are left-hand-drive vehicles. (Why, is an interesting story for another day) It is almost impossible to import a right-hand-drive car. Even the government has trouble getting specialist vehicles in if they are right-hand-drive. They were gifted an expensive modern fire truck for Port Vila, but because it was right-hand-drive it took endless debate and carry-on before it could be brought in.


Although main arterial roads are OK, roads in general roads. So most people opt for something more robust than they would have bought back home. Dual cab 4WD is a popular choice.


If you choose to go the new car route, you will visit dealers and choose from familiar and not-so-familiar brands. If they don't have what you want in stock, be prepared to wait 6 months for it to come by ship.


There are also second-hand dealers, or private sellers.


Private sellers advertise on the internet (there are several Facebook Groups to frequent if you are in the market for a good second-hand puchase) there are a few dedicated websites, or in the daily newspaper. Lastly you can ask around, and keep your eyes peeled for the "for sale" signs sometimes placed in the back window of a private car. Garages and mechanics often know which of their clients want to sell, with the added bonus that they are aware of the vehicle's history.


If you are one of my clients I will supply a list of places to look, and if you need me to check it out for you prior to purchase, well, it's one of the things my Stand-In Concierge service does.


Once you have had the vehicle properly checked and you have decided on your purchase, the fun begins.


You need a Roadworthiness Certificate from the Public Works Department (PWD) testing centre. It costs only about 3,000 vatu (under USD30) but until very recently you had to pay for it at the government revenue office in town, then take the receipt to the testing centre (not in town!) and book an appointment for the inspection. Everybody is given the same appointment time of 8am, which means it might not be ready uintil late afternoon. Ask me how I know!


It's a "pot luck" process. I have known of people who had their vehicle rejected because of a (very) small dent. Others who have had one passed even with obvious signs of rust. It depends on how strongly the policy in being enforced that month.


SIDE NOTE: Normally you will be outside the "rush" period of January-March and it will be fine. All vehicle registrations must be renewed before the 30th March for the current year. Technically you should get your new Roadworthiness Certificate and pay for the registration before the end of January, but they always give an extension to the end of March. So the early ones clog up the system in January, and the tardy ones clog up the system towards the end of March.


Back to the story of buying a car... Once you have your Certificate and sticker for roadworthiness, you go back to town and get in line at the place where you actually pay for the transfer fee.


Oops I forgot to mention - you need to find an insurance agent and arrange for the insurance to be paid, and get a receipt.


Back to the Customs and Internal Revenue Office... You need to line up twice - once to get your papers checked and an invoice, and then at the pay window. You better have the vehicle's "Red Book" with you - it's absolutely impossible to get the car registered in your name with this small piece of cardboard.


Finally you walk out and the car is yours!


A lot of people ask me to also take their vehicle through this process for them - at least the first time.


So if you are interested in coming and you want your own vehicle here and you don't want to import your own left-hand-drive one, check this page and get in touch: https∶//in.vu/concierge 


Actually even you want to import your own you might want to ask me to help. There's an insane system for importation too!


Lance in (bureaucratic) Vanuatu