It's been almost three years; I think it was time. Three years that I've been without a car. Yes, a Motoring editor without a car; kind of an oxymoron (who you calling a moron?). But with a combination of the impending summer and finding a fantastic car for a great price, I took the plunge: I just bought a used Alfa Romeo Spider. What a beauty. After exporting it from Dubai, I've finally got it all registered and official last week. I was elated driving out of the registration car park that day. And not just because I was now the owner of an Italian sports car (no, it's not a Ferrari, but you can't argue the fact). I was also giddy with excitement because I was finished - at least, for now - with the seemingly endless process of car registration.
As many of you already know, exporting a car between emirates and getting it registered can be an arduous experience, punctuated by the bureaucratic equivalent of "death by 1,000 cuts" - Dh10 here, Dh200 at this kiosk, Dh20 for this paperwork, Dh100 for this. It was a never-ending stream of cash from my wallet. But the costs of owning a car, as I'm being reminded of again, don't just come from my back pocket. After spending a few hours at the registration office in Dubai, I spent two hours in Abu Dhabi to get the Spider certified, only to find out it needed new tyres. Fair enough. But I gave up on two more trips to complete the certification and registration - I just couldn't spend the four hours out of my day that it would have taken on those attempts, judging by the packed waiting areas and long queues. On the third attempt, early one morning, it was done. And it only took me three hours.
Thankfully, there are companies that will do the registration for you - for a small fee, of course. But that cost is worth it when you consider the aggravation avoided and time saved. Hey, I'm worth it. Unfortunately, in the case of a minor traffic accident, there isn't anyone to do the leg work involved. Recently, a friend had a small fender bender, and she's spent a total - so far - of around six hours, waiting for police, shuffling to the insurance office and registration office (to pay a fine, only to find out there wasn't one) and then back to another insurance office to get estimates for her car. And, it will only take four days in the shop. Insh'allah.
Now, I know there are some things that you just have to deal with. But can the processes not be streamlined somewhat? At the very least, Abu Dhabi needs to open its registration offices on the weekends, and, like some in Dubai, have them open till midnight. When you think about it, the time lost in dealing with these necessities doesn't just impact the driver. Look at the big picture: lost time cuts into productivity at work, which affects the entire economy. How many millions or billions of dirhams are lost by the thousands of people taking time off work or out of their day, every day, to deal with the responsibilities of owning a car?
Am I confusing you? Not by the facts presented, but by the idea that the Motoring editor of this esteemed publication seems to be down on cars? Don't worry, dear reader; while I can see the impact of owning a car can be detrimental to my busy social schedule and my not-so-sizeable bank account, the freedom and exhilaration that come with driving are just too much to live without. There can be improvements to the system, yes, but there will always be responsibilities that car owners will have to put up with.
And every time I look at that sexy Italian parked outside, I feel the time was worth it.