Why are cars so expensive here?

One thing that was really hard for me to understand while living here in Ukraine was why cars here are so expensive and why so many missionaries choose to have their cars imported all the way from America or other countries in Europe. This is the rule – every single missionary I know that has a car has had it brought over from America. Katya and I were the exception to this rule when we bought our Fiat Doblo in Ukraine, which you can see here at camp:

Unfortunately, that car turned out to be a lemon. EVERYTHING on it broke, from door handles, to battery clips, to the hood release, to the transmission, to the computer and the natural gas system (gasoline is terribly expensive here!), and finally to the engine failing.

I bought the car because several of my friends assured me that it was the very best thing I could get in our price point. At the time, we had about two and a half thousand dollars. We bought the Doblo for $3800, borrowing the rest of the money from the owner. Once the car was breaking down and no longer safe to drive, we sold it miraculously for $2800, after putting in about another $800-1000 or so in repairs.

What kind of car do we need?

We believe that the best thing for our family would be a small- to mid-sized SUV (ie. a Ford Escape or Nissan Rogue Sport), because of the ministry we do, the size of our family (Katya’s mom and sister included), and the condition of the roads in Ukraine. We also obviously want something reliable.

We live over an hour away from church by bus and want to minister in other cities. Aside from making ministry easier, having immediate transportation in a country that’s experiencing a war (you never know when you might need to flee to the border), and just helping family, we just want to be able to get out of the city once in a while. We’ve recently seen the need to “get away” more often for our own spiritual and emotional health.

Here’s a comparison of what you can get in Ukraine vs. America for the same price:

USA (Ebay):

Ukraine (AutoRia):

As y’all can probably see, the same car in Ukraine can cost up to about 30%-50% more, depending on the year and model. Also, because of the condition of the roads here and the general “car culture”, cars in America are usually in better condition, even when they are priced less.

The Loophole

Some of our friends here have found a way to “hack the system” with the car market. They buy salvaged cars at auction in America, ship them to Ukraine, register and repair them here (which is generally much cheaper than in America), and then sell them. This is one of the ways that we could get a car.

We have the $1200 from the stimulus money that everyone got earlier this year. That would be just about enough to have a car shipped from America to Ukraine. The rest that needs to be paid for is the cost of the car itself, any repairs that it will need, and registration. Oops… I forgot to talk about that.

Registering a car in Ukraine

Another thing about Ukraine that needs to be taken into account when talking about the cost of a car here is registration. That can be anywhere from several hundred to several thousand dollars, depending upon the year of the car, its emissions certification, and the size of its engine. The system is supposedly there to protect the environment, but it’s actually just turned into one more way that corrupt people in power extort the little guy. To get around these regulations, it’s best that the car you’re importing have the following:

  • The size of the engine should be 3 litres or less
  • The car should be newer than 2015
  • The price of the car also affects the price of registration, but I’m not in the market to try to register an expensive car
  • Lastly, electric cars get a discount

All of that to say, please pray about this. If you would like to help, please click here to contact us.

P.S. There are friends of ours that have recommended that we get a local, Chinese car, like a Geely. I’m still looking into that. However, even with that cheaper option ($4000-6000 vs. $8000-10000 for a Ford Escape), we cannot afford one that would be in any kind of good condition.

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