CLICK & CLACK : A Taxing Journey

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Q 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? Would the drastic change of temperature affect the cars? Is there anything special that I need to do so they can adapt to the very hot weather? -- Ricardo

A RAY: Puerto Rico'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 cars.

TOM: But before you ship your cars, 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 $3,000 to $4,000! Even for the less-expensive PT Cruiser, you could pay a couple of grand 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: 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: 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! When 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: See what similar cars are selling for down there, or some other car you may want. After weighing all the information, you may be better off selling your cars privately before you move and buying replacements when you get there.

Dear Tom and Ray:

I have an '07 Chevy Cobalt, which I like, but it has an annoying feature. It has a computer that tells you things, like your gas mileage, temperature, coolant level, etc. It also tells you your "oil life." But I change the oil, and the light still tells me I need an oil change. I've changed the oil a dozen times and yet the computer keeps saying "change oil soon." This beeping oil thing is driving me crazy. -- Barbara

RAY: Fortunately, this is an easy one, Barbara. Whoever is changing your oil doesn't know how to perform the reset. If you're going to a Pokey Lube-type place, those guys change the oil on 1,000 types of cars a week, and they might not know your oil-life light NEEDS to be reset -- not to mention knowing how to do it on your Cobalt.

TOM: On this car, turn your key to the "on" position (without starting the engine), and press the gas pedal all the way down three times within seven seconds. Next, turn the key off, then start the engine. The light should go off after a few seconds. You might have to try it a few times to get it right. But that's all you have to do.

Got a question about cars? Write to Click & Clack in care of The Post, or e-mail them by visiting the Car Talk Web site at

2007by Tom and Ray Magliozzi and Doug Berman

© 2008 The Washington Post Company