I’m finally getting the final pieces of the puzzle in order. My furniture was delivered last week, it fits perfectly into the little apartment I have. It really feels like home now.
I got my drivers license, theory and practical. Using a fully insured rental car. If you want to use a rental car, make sure they actually write the car details on the papers, or you could end up waiting 45 minutes, frustrating all the other 16 year old kids doing their license test. I got 7 points deducted (you can have 30 points deducted before the test ends in fail here). Some minor stuff. I don’t think the practical exam makes much sense to do, but I do understand why the government makes us do the theoretical test. Even though you can perfectly function on the road, it is good to know the different rules.
While getting a drivers license is not so difficult as one might think, getting a car it really difficult. All the great commercials on TV are suddenly gone, all because you do not have a credit history. The way the american system works is they do not really give a shit about how much money you make, or the value of the car. They only look at your ability to pay back credit and this is calculated 100% based on your past repayments of credit. When you just enter the country, you do not have the worst possible score, you are way below that; you are officially a ghost. “A ghost” is the actual word they use for people that do not exist in the credit system, I have heard it many times the past weeks. The result of being a ghost is that your best finance rate is 18%. It does not matter if you take a loan with the car dealer or with the bank. They always come back with 18% (Trust me, I tried). For European immigrants there might be a possibility with BMW, Audi or Volkswagen because they use a European financing firm. I did not check that because maintenance costs of European cars is too high here in the USA (Although I will miss my little Audi A3 very much here).
I ended up transferring money from my Belgian bank account (it is being transferred as we speak). En expensive joke, but not 18% expensive. And will pay my car cash. This potentially saves a bit in insurance costs too.
Last weekend I went out car-shopping. I ended up finding a nice pre-owned certified car. One previous owner, a leasing contract. In theory the best type of previous owner you can get. If you buy a used car, always ask for the “Carfax”, this is a paper that shows you all the registered actions on the car (first time sold, miles at maintenance, accidents, type of contract,…). Most decent dealers will give it for free. If you go shopping yourself, you might want to get the carfax app and pay 50$ for unlimited Carfax checks on used cars.
Anyhow, I found a car and gave the dealer a deposit to keep the car for me till I have the money on my US bank account and started making insurance quotes.
Insurance is a bitch. It is far more expensive than Europe is… Painful. Most quotes I got are between 200 USD and 320 USD a month for 6 months. State Farm seems to be cheaper, but everyone keeps telling me not to go with them because they are very difficult to pay out. Geico and Progressive were close to each other, Progressive being slightly less expensive for me. Just before I wanted to sign up, I got a call from an insurance broker who helped me get a quote at 160/month with a subdivision of Farmers (Not to be confused with State Farm). It seemed allright, but about everything that could go wrong actually did go wrong. On the first documents I received, my Address was wrong, my car VIN number was incorrect (I know I have a funny accent, so I check everything 3 times; a habit I am trying to force myself in but a habit I really really REALLY dislike I need. Then once that was fixed I found out that the guy put me as a first drivers license on 16 instead of 20 (BE)/26 (US), as I told him. This immediately explains the difference. Since I do not want wrong information, I am not getting the car before it is changed and I have the new price, if any. It is starting to stress me out because I really just want to get my car and have it all over with. My conclusion: Stick to the online forms, or force them to send you all the input information before you give your credit card number to pay. Learning money I guess. At least I got the guy to confirm by e-mail that all is OK and I can legally drive the car without problem. And he is going to fix the age thing tomorrow.
Let’s get back to Credit History for a second. All of the credit history stuff you will read tells you not to have too many credit cards because that lowers your rating. However, in order to raise your rating you must show to use different types of credit and the ability to pay those back. If you are not willing to pay 18% interests, there are 2 other possibilities:
You can get a “secured loan”, Basically that means you pay the bank -for example- 10,000 USD in order to get a 10,000 USD loan (no typo). The 10,000 USD depost goes to a blocked savings account that does not generate any interests. On the loan you pay the “normal” interest of 3-4%. Basically you are paying the bank 400 USD (+opportunity cost) to build credit history and you get nothing in return. Needless to say I did not go for that option.
The other option is to build credit history using credit cards. Yup, do exactly the opposite of what you are supposed to do to get a good credit score. Because, the easiest way to a good score is to have a score in the first place. It takes 6 months to get a score, according to what people tell me. I’m curious what that will do…(my guess is not much, since I don’t need credit once I have everything).
Anyhow. It have been rather nice weekends since I arrived in Dallas. There was the Saint Patricks day parade, where I got sunburn and talked with an Irish guy who thought I was Irish too. Not sure if it was because of my accent or the amount of alcohol in his blood. Last weekends I went car hunting in beautiful weather and I enjoyed reading a book at the swimming pool (I got it as a gift from a friend for moving to the USA, it is pretty cool, I’ll write a blog post about it when I finished it -Warning: I read slow and unfrequent-). The water is still too cold to actually swim in it, but sitting in the sun gives me a vacation feeling. Happy times.
Talking about presents I got from friends and colleagues. To celibate that arrival of my furniture we enjoyed beers and went to Arlington to buy a real cowboy hat (a gift from my Belgian colleagues). I wore it for fun at work today and made everyone laugh wearing my cowboy hat in meetings.
I guess that is about the most important things that happened the past weeks in my USA adventure. I’m still cleaning up my room getting trough all the papers. I’m getting tired of all the stuff that is involved with moving to a different country (this has been going on for 8 weeks now), it is time for some rest and time to actually meet some new people here. Start to learning how to play golf.