Living overseas, South Korea

Things I wish had known before buying a car in Korea

We got a car back in February and I honestly haven’t spoken about it until now because it was A LITTLE HECTIC.

First and foremost

The main reason I want to document this series of events was because it was a little stressful- for a few reasons. It is no secret that I get stressed over documentation-y/expat stuff (forms just make me nervous).

Fact one: it is way easier to get a Korean license with a valid Australian license.

I learnt this when my license was two months from expiry. I had to fill out some stuff and go to the equivalent of RMS (which involved a bunch of buses and was a real long day), and get a certified copy of my license from the embassy- but all in all it was achievable and cheap.

IF I had let my license expire, I would have been up for having to do an ACTUAL driving test. And the thought of doing another one resurfaces a whole bunch of anxieties I had when going for my P’s as a teenager- Anxieties I would rather not relive. I honestly would have just made the choice not to drive.

The good news is that once you have your Korean license it doesn’t expire for ten years! Plus, it has an English language side on the back which allows me to drive in other countries. This will be especially handy if and when I ever get the chance to visit home.

Fact two: If a friend who speaks Korean offers to go with you to buy the car, graciously accept.

We did not, and I regret it. I had had all of these notions of not wanting to be a bother and thinking we could manage fine ourselves but it would have been a LOT easier to buy a car if I had had a friend who spoke Korean with me.

However, miming reverse sensors whilst sitting in a car with our car salesmen remains a fond memory of mine.

Fact three: Get something from your home car insurer saying you are an ok driver and you don’t crash.

I learnt after the fact that this is handy for reducing insurance premiums. After being with car sales people for four hours, we honestly just didn’t care enough to turn around and wait for this magical document before we bought the car. We had taken a long bus to get to the dealership and we had decided early on that we wouldn’t leave without a car.

Fact four: Make sure you know if the place you are buying it from is cash only

Or, like us, you can get over 6 million won out at an ATM vestibule and count it on a dodgy bench with the car salesmen double checking it for you. We literally paid for our car and insurance with roughly 7k in a paper bag and I think that is very funny.

Fact five: The first drive home will be weird and scary but Kakao maps will save you (most of the time).

I have a vivid memory of Ben and I sitting in the car alone after spending all day trying to buy it. And it was very surreal. We set the maps up and then pulled onto the road and drove. It felt illegal. Had we missed a step?

It is now May and I can confidently drive on the opposite side of the road without having to pause to think at intersections and parking doesn’t make my cry anymore!

Would I recommend getting a car in Korea?

Ultimately, yes. Especially if you’re not living in the centre of the bigger cities. Having a car has made getting around so much easier- and we now have so many fun day trips opened to us that would have been super tricky to do through public transport!

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