Sunday, May 10, 2015

Buying a Car in Astana

If you're looking for advice on how to buy a new car in Astana, then this is not the place for you.  I did buy a new car; however, Russian-speakers did most of the work for me.

A few years ago I bought a 1992 Subaru sedan from co-workers, at a cost of $5000.  Compared to other used cars I'd seen on sale in Kazakhstan, it was an okay deal.  Cars here depreciate in value very slowly.

I got quite used to driving this car around, and it typically went 6 months without needing repairs, but I never felt confident driving it outside of the city.  I have co-workers who have a similarly old car, and they do long-distance drives in it, and they always have the number of the towing company with them.  One time, they were driving between two national parks in Kazakhstan when the car broke down.  They tried to push the car to a nearby village, but since they were in the middle of nowhere, they weren't able to get to one.  They called the school's administrative assistant, who called them a tow truck.  In the end, it took 18 hours and $800 to return to Astana.  Which is less than the cost of a brand-new car, but more hassle than I want.

So I decided to buy a brand-new car.

A Russian co-worker was also looking to buy a new car, so he took me around and gave his advice.  He pointed me towards a Renault Duster and a Skoda Rapid.  A Renault Duster is cheap Russian-made SUV with 4-wheel drive.  A Skoda Rapid is a Czech car and not a 4-wheel drive.  I really wanted to be able to confidently drive around the countryside in any type of weather and on all sorts of horrible roads, and in the end I decided to go for a pricier yet more reliable car and went for the Skoda Yeti, a Czech compact SUV with 4-wheel drive and plenty of good reviews on the Internet.

I am SO happy with my car.  Being compact, it's actually the same length as my former car, so maneuvering it isn't that tricky.  But it's higher off the ground and, well, new, so I'm a bit more confident driving it around!

The buying process was a pain.   My co-worker submitted the paperwork, but it took over a month before I got it.  We were told at one point that if it took any longer, we could sue the company.

Then, the car finally arrived, and they called us to ask what extras we had paid for.  Apparently, they didn't have the paperwork with this information?  I hadn't asked for anything fancy, but I did request the system wherein you can remotely turn on the car (and warm up the engine and battery during the cold winter months).

I had purchased the car in October.  My friend recommended that I not buy winter tires from the car company, as they were too expensive, and it had seemed like a smart idea in October.  But now it was December, the roads were icy, and I didn't feel comfortable driving my brand-new car on these roads without winter tires.  But, the car company wasn't able to change tires at their place.  It was a big hassle, and our administrative assistant did most the work, but finally, the car company agreed to tow the car to another place and change the tires.

I requested the afternoon off work and the administrative assistant and I went to get my car.  It was across town, in a very crowded area (near Artyom), and when we got there, one part of our paperwork was wrong.  We waited forever and pleaded forever and finally were told we just had to leave and come back tomorrow.  Then, someone said, no, we could get the car now - hurray!  Then, someone said, wait, there's a new discount we can apply to your car, it was over $1000, so definitely worth it - but that meant we had to change our paperwork and come back tomorrow.  So we left empty-handed, but feeling a little bit richer.  (I forget the exact price of the discount, but it was more than the price of the winter tires).

The next day, I had to take the afternoon off work again, and we went with the correct paperwork and then had to drive to the other side of town (by Metro) to pick up the car.  I was so nervous driving my brand-new car, especially since it was higher off the road and just different in general.  I drove to get gas, drove the administrative assistant home, and drove home.

The next day I had to leave work early again to register the car, get license plates, and get insurance.  Another long drive through lots of traffic.  And the license plates here cannot be screwed on; they snap into place.  Which cannot be done in cold weather, as the plastic pieces holding them in can break.  So we could not put the plates on the car.

So I got pulled over for having no plates.  I showed them my plates and explained in broken Russian that I did have plates, just didn't know how to put them on!  They let me go, since technically you can drive a new car for a few days without plates.

The next day, my Russian co-worker helped me put on the plates.

I love my car!


  1. Any new adventures in 2016? I am fascinated by your adjustment to life in Kazakhstan

  2. No new adventures! I've been here so long nothing is new anymore. I guess I should move.... but I like it here so much!

  3. The buying process of getting a car is a pain almost anywhere, but it does seem a bit more so in Russia. It's crazy that it takes a month to complete some paperwork that could have been done in a few days if they would have known what they were doing, but congratulations on the car!

  4. Hi eslough, i want to buy a new or used car in Astana as a foreigner, do you remember about process of buying a car ? If you can share i will be pleased. Thanks.

  5. Hi! Unfortunately, I had bought from a co-worker the first time, and had a lot of help the second time, so I don't know that many details! I know for used cars there is a car auction, but I don't know any more about that. People also advertise their cars on as well as other sites - foreigners often advertise via the US Embassy newsletter (but these are often with diplomatic plates - not custom-cleared, so taxes would be insane for someone who's not a diplomat).

    For my new car, I just looked at different dealerships and then picked my car, and our school's administrative assistant & accountant did all the paperwork. It was an intense process, and I had to go to the dealership a few times to sign things, we also had to take it for a technical check and to get the license plate (this was slightly outside of Astana, to the north) and then we had to get insurance.

    Sorry I can't help more!

    1. Thank you , today i'm gonna visit car bazaar and looking for an agent for paperwork . By the way my wife is German teacher in Astana.