Cars are expensive. In Europe they are WAY more expensive than back in the states. After pricing out many options and gradually acclimating myself to this new reality, I finally found a really good deal on a Peugeot. The French government runs a special program for tourists and diplomats that lets them lease a car without paying taxes. This practically cuts the cost of the car in half, meaning that the car is only 20-30% more than it would be in the US. The only problem with this program is that a tourist can get a car for a maximum of 6 months. With 6 months rapidly approaching, this means that I have to find a new car. My original plan was to have my wife get the car for the second 6 months. Unfortunately, the French government frowned on my new plan, and I was assured that any such attempt by my wife would end up with the car being rejected at the Spanish border. This has me back to pricing out the expensive alternatives.
Another problem with European cars is that lots of them are diesel. Now diesel is less expensive and gets better gas mileage than unleaded gasoline (all good) but it can lead to confusion. How bad can that be? Unfortunately I know the answer.
In Scotland I rented a large 8 person van. We were meeting my parents and I wanted to be able to zip around the countryside together. This worked great until the last day when we headed to the airport to catch a late night flight to Dublin. We had some extra time so I thought that we would save a few bucks by stopping and filling up the tank. My first problem was that I couldn’t find the gas tank. After walking around the car a few times, I even asked the attendant if she could help us. I’m not sure if I wanted her to find it, or not to be able to find it, thereby proving that I wasn’t completely inept. I guess the best would have been if she found it with difficulty, but that was not to be. No, she didn’t find it right away. She couldn’t find it either. (I know what many of you were thinking). My father finally solved the mystery by going to the owner’s manual where we found out that, between the driver’s door and the passenger’s door, the thin upper panel could be swung to the side to reveal that gas tank. This gas stop was already not going well, but it was going to get worse.
At this point I picked up the unleaded nozzle and headed for the car. I then hesitated and asked my dad, “It would say something on the gas cap if this was diesel, right?” To which he answered, “It couldn’t be diesel without them telling you.” Dads are not always right.
I now know the answer to what happens when you put half a tank of unleaded gasoline in a diesel car. You can go for about a mile and a half and then the battery light comes on and the car will no longer move. This happened to us in the fast lane of the highway about two miles short of the airport. Luckily we were heading into a roundabout so cars tended to be slowing down, but it was still an awful place to leave the car. We also lucked out in being able to flag down an empty cab that could ferry us to the airport. With two cab rides and my wife getting dropped off by a tow truck, we were able to just make our flight to Dublin. The only thing left to do was to pay off my inflated credit card bill.
As a final note, while waiting for the tow truck my wife noticed that the Hertz van rental required you to prebuy a full tank of gas. Stopping at the gas station was completely unnecessary. To her credit my wife has only ever mentioned this to me once. (Thanks sweetheart)