Wednesday, October 22, 2003


October 21, 2003

Finding the car was one thing, but finding insurance was quite another. In making our decision about the car, we used several criteria. One was size. One was convenience for future service. And of course, the usual considerations about price. Certain makes were automatically eliminated due to price. We then narrowed the field down to Fiat and Ford. Both are well represented in our area, and we had recommendations for dealerships for each. When we found the car we are now buying, a Ford Fusion, there was no brochure available in English. Some things don’t need translation, like AIRBAGS or ABS, but somewhere along the line we might want to know about the car in more detail. I have written to Ford in Great Britain in the hopes that they will mail us an English language manual.

Being the internet guru that I am (not!), I decided to do a Google search to get more info on this particular model. Size-wise, it is in between the Fiesta and the Focus, but is not manufactured for the US market. gave me ONE site in English. It was a review from an auto show in Los Angeles in 2002. Apparently the reviewer did not think that Ford had accomplished the “fusion” of small car with SUV as they had intended. But still, no hard data. I found a site in French that offered crash test results, but couldn’t figure out any of the symbols. The majority of the sites were in German. Anyone who has used the translation service on Google knows that the translations are very often wildly incorrect. So I tried, the British version. I found one review from a newspaper. I then searched the Ford website in Britain, and found a bit more info about the car. Bottom line: it wasn’t easy, and it sure wasn’t comprehensive, but we decided to buy anyway. Now for the insurance part.

In Italy, apparently the size of the engine, and the car itself, has more to do with the cost than the person who is driving. BUT, there are different levels of insurance, and since we have no driving history in Italy, we will be placed in the highest level. We have no idea how many years it will take for the premiums to be lowered to a level reflecting our (hopefully good) driving record. Wendy was going to call two or three insurance companies for us on Monday morning. While at the bank discussing the possibility of a car loan, Corrado told us to check an internet company that he used. He said he had been with them for three years and was very pleased, especially with the prices. He told us he had just been involved in an accident that morning, so he is about to find out just how good their service really is!

The website was, the internet branch of an existing insurance company, RAS. Once again, we tried to translate the site, this time using Babelfish. Maybe it’s worse when you are working with a site that uses industry-specific words, but for us it was very difficult. It was obvious that many of the words and phrases were not translated correctly, so we tried our best, alternating between the original Italian site and the translated site. After completing the form as best we could, we submitted the information, and came up with three prices for the different levels of coverage. This is what makes everything so difficult for us right now. Of course the fact that we speak so little Italian is definitely a problem, but the fact that we don’t understand how things work is really the biggest hurdle. Just knowing how things normally work, and possible options. I would compare it to trying to buy an apple. They say “you need an apple”, so you say “okay”. What you don’t know is: what kind of apple do you want? Red? Green? Tart? Juicy? Okay, say you get part that. You know an apple costs 10 cents. The other things you may not realize are that maybe you want the apple peeled. Or sliced. So how much more does that cost? Is it worth it? Would you rather have apple juice? How about applesauce? Perhaps you would like to take the applesauce and make a cake with it. Then you have to weigh the various options and costs…easy if you have grown up in the culture and are fluent…not so easy if you are a stranger!

So we are still struggling with the car loan, and the car insurance. The Postal Bank says they will loan us the money to buy a car, but they want us to have Art’s pension check deposited directly into our Postal Bank account. We know we don’t want to do this…it’s way too expensive to do that each month. We would prefer to wire money from the US to Italy twice a year, in larger chunks, or to wire dollars to our dollar account and change it as we need it. The current US administration’s economic policies are really hurting people like us, whose income is generated in the US. This afternoon we will go to the bank and meet with Wendy and Corrado. The branch bank no longer makes car loans. The loans are now handled by the home office in Florence, and Corrado doesn’t think they will speak English. My advice to anyone contemplating a move to a foreign country…learn as much of the language as you can before you leave the US! Next, find someone who has lived here long enough to understand how things work.

Well, the Postal Bank called this afternoon to say that in order to receive the loan, Art’s pension must be directly deposited into our Postal Bank account. That takes care of that! And at Cassa di Risparmio di Firenze, we completed the paperwork, and now must wait for an answer from the home office in Florence. They said we will know by Friday. Hopefully we will not have to produce proof of my pension too, since I am not receiving one. If worst comes to worst, we will say the paperwork is still being processed and I will show them my postal retirement information. Hopefully, we won’t need to do that. We had planned to pay cash for the car, but circumstances have delayed some money that we were expecting in December. Now we are forced to apply for a loan.

More bad news. The salesman from Ford called to tell us that the dealership is moving in a few days. He didn’t want us to be alarmed if we came by and they were gone! They are moving to a new location that is just a few minutes from the old one, but the bad news is that they will no longer be across from the chocolate factory! That could be a deal-breaker for me!


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