Do cars care if they move to warmer climes?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Apr 01, 2008

Dear Tom and Ray:

We own a 2005 PT Cruiser and a 2005 Pacifica, and in the next year or so we are moving to Puerto Rico from northern Illinois. We are thinking of taking the cars with us since they are not very old. I have heard different people say that cars are made for only one type of weather. Is this true or false? Would the drastic change of temperature affect the cars? Is there anything special that I need to do to them so they can adapt to the very hot weather? -- Ricardo

RAY: Congratulations, Ricardo. Puerto Rico is a wonderful place, with great weather, nice people and excellent arepas.

TOM: And it's thoughtful of you to consider the cars' feelings. But the cars really couldn't care less.

RAY: The island's hot weather would put a heavier burden on the cars' cooling and air-conditioning systems. But if those systems are working properly, the cars will handle it without any problem. After all, Chrysler dealerships in Puerto Rico sell these same exact cars.

TOM: But before you ship your cars, you should know that Puerto Rico levies significant import taxes on vehicles brought to the island from the United States. The tax is based on the value of the car. So, if your Pacifica is loaded up, the tax could be as much as $3,000-$4,000! Even for the less-expensive PT Cruiser, you could pay a couple grand just in import taxes. And that's not counting the cost of shipping, which will probably run in the neighborhood of a thousand bucks per car -- more, if it falls into the ocean.

RAY: If you go to the Web site of the Puerto Rican government (, there's a link in English to "Vehicles Excise Taxes." That allows you to enter your vehicle's details and get an estimate of the taxes you'll owe.

TOM: Then there are a few other things to consider. Your cars have spent the first few years of their lives in the snowy and road-salty winters of northern Illinois. That salt is laying the groundwork for future rust. You might want a car that hasn't been pre-salted.

RAY: And there are features we want up North that are much less desirable in the Caribbean. I mean, your seat heaters won't be of much use down there. Neither will all-wheel drive, if your Pacifica has it.

TOM: But more importantly, you don't want a car with leather seats in the Caribbean. Leather gets extremely hot when the sun beats down on it. And when it's extremely hot, you wear what? Shorts! Then, when you get in your car and the uncovered portion of the back of your thigh makes contact with the hot leather, you're going to end up with a brand, like a beef cow.

RAY: So, look at the whole picture before you decide. See what similar cars are selling for down there -- or some other car you may want. After weighing all of the information, you may find that you'd be better off selling your cars privately before you move and then buying replacement cars when you get there.

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