Driving in Croatia - car recommendations?

I am an anthropologist traveling to Croatia for fieldwork for the next 2 years, visiting rural areas, and I need to buy a “cheap but reliable” car that can be easily maintained in the country. I was hoping for a Westphalia but they’re too expensive for a student budget. Any ideas are very welcome.

ps - I tagged Yugo in hopes of getting the attention of regional specialists. I’m not actually interested in buying one of them… Cute, but death traps…

Get a Consumer Reports New Car Preview at the local bookstore and test drive any that look good to you. The only real suggestion I’d have is to get a diesel. Diesel engines are much less sensitive to the quality of the fuel than gas engines, and in a third world coutry you might appreciate that aspect of them.

Yep, diesel, and a locally-marketed one, like a VW or Fiat. And make it a small one, Focus-sized at most, the roads will be extremely narrow, with fast oncoming bus traffic. FUN!


The CR guide will only list vehicles sold in the US market, and this would leave out a very large number of both European and Japanese models that are sold in Europe. Personally, in that part of the world, I would look at a Skoda (from the Czech Republic), which would not be listed in that CR guide.

Because Skoda is now owned by VW, most of their models are “badge-engineered” VWs–only they are cheaper than VWs. And, most Skoda models are available with diesel engines. Additionally, the guys on the UK’s Top Gear TV program have commented on the great build quality of late-model Skodas.

I guess I assumed the OP was in th U.S. and seeking a vehicle to take with him. I’d be interested in hearing from the OP if my assumption was correct.

Your points, as always, are well made.

I would recommend that you buy the car in western europe and drive to Croatia. When eastern europe came out from communist rule, car theft was a real problem there. If you rented a car, part of the rental car agreement would be to not take it into eastern europe. That may not be as bad now, but it is best to check on that.

If you have a contact over there, get advice from them.

MB–Croatia is in Eastern Europe, and IIRC, it is one of the countries that was created when Communist Yugoslavia was broken up. Since Croatia is not very far from The Czech Republic, and since Skodas are reasonably-priced, well-built vehicles, I came up with the recommendation to focus on that make of car.

Also–buying a vehicle in the US and transplanting it to Croatia could potentially put someone in the position of poor parts availability in the event of the breakdown of a US-spec vehicle.

I’m actually living in the UK at the moment and plan to fly over. I thought of buying a car here (if I could find one with the wheel on the correct side), but then thought it would make sense to “buy local”. It’s going to be tricky with insurance, etc., I’m sure… Oh, and I’m a she :slight_smile: Keith: good point about legal car registration out there. When I lived in Kosovo they had a joke… I suppose since this is Car Talk Land I can share a car joke…

Joke: So, the Montenegrin government decided to form a tourism committee, jealous that all its neighbors were able to attract tourist dollars but for some reason no one was visiting Montenegro. After much thought and consideration, they came up with a slogan:
“Come to Montenegro! Your car is already here!”

There was a persistent rumor in Pristina in 2004 that a high up government official from Germany had recently visited the capital and commented that he thought he had seen his car, but that this was impossible as it was safely back home in Germany. He later got a phone call from his wife saying that their car had been stolen over the weekend.

This is likely an untruth, but it speaks to the pervasiveness of car “import/export” activities :slight_smile:

So yes, thanks for the reminder. Maybe I’ll buy in Italy and drive to Croatia.

I’m so impressed and thankful for the responses. This has been weighing on my mind and the suggestions are very very helpful.

Toyota Avensis is popular.

Oh, and the comment about high speed buses… yes, I am terrified of driving in “eastern europe”, but the alternatives are also not very happy: (1) hitch hiking is not particularly safe as a female; (2) public transportation is treacherous (high speed buses are also terrifying to be IN) and unreliable (in 2005, there were some buses that only went in ONE DIRECTION… explain that to me… please…). The implications of the latter goes back to safety, as one gets stuck road-side waiting for that bus for hours… Poor cell phone coverage, few passing cars, and yeah… I need a car…

My recent drive in rural Italy was … exciting, I guess is the word. Narrow winding roads with oncoming buses that yield not one inch…I’d have to imagine Croatia is much the same.

Croatia is closer to Italy than the Czech Republic. But I imagine that any major European car brand is available there. Not all European countries use Diesel as a preferred fuel. Make sure to check whether diesel or petrol is mostly available.

I would contact the Croatian Embassy and US State Department for advice.



Those may be good places to start.

“This is likely an untruth, but it speaks to the pervasiveness of car “import/export” activities”

How is that different from anywhere else in the former Eastern Europe? We visited our family in Western Germany in 2003 and they cautioned us about going to areas in the former East Germany that were too far from Berlin. Cars were frequently stolen if left for even a short time.

Any fellow anthropologists (or whatever) that you know in the area? Local help is the best help.

Thanks, folks! I will call the embassy to see what I can find out. No anthropologists in my area that I know of, but you’re right that I should be trying to contact folks directly who are out there. Local knowledge is the best, but then, the help on this forum has been extremely helpful, too.

To jtsanders: I’m not sure it IS different; it’s just one joke of many out there about informal practices and the land where “nothing is allowed, but everything is possible” (widespread saying).

I wish I had these kind of problems…I would forget about how much cars were worth and put some thought into how much YOU were worth…

What (who) are you studying in Croatia?


Thanks folks! Yes, these are actually pretty cool “problems” to have. It has been a dream since I first went to Istria, Croatia in 2005 as a MA student (in the political economy of CEE) to try to learn about the land privatization process in the wine industry. Since then, my research has moved onto studying their winemakers unions and business associations - how they’re managing the region’s economy and the adoption of EU production reforms/mandates. Along with the academic stuff, I’m hoping to collect family stories to write a bit on the region’s wine trade history and development and how it links into western Europe’s winemaking history. It has turned into such a pipe dream since 2005 that it’s hard to wrap my head around the fact it’s actually finally coming together. Lots of writing at the moment… Worrying about cars and lodging has been a welcome distraction!!!

The car recommendations so far lead me to believe I may have to take out yet another federal loan to buy something that is above-average safe.

Likely not my relatives, unless grapes are grown around them. My mother’s parents and oldest sister came over in the early 1900s; They were from the Krajina, I’ve been told. I’ve also been told that they were from Slovenia. It depends on which cousin I talk to. Krajina is more likely given the stories my mom and aunts told. Since you’ve spent time there before, you already know a lot about the country. Good luck, and let us know which car you choose and why. I expect that won’t happen for a while, but it will be good to hear from you again.

After much searching and research, I am buying Toyota Aygo 2007. It’s as tiny as cars come in Europe. 61 mpg and basically no trunk whatsoever. A Skoda was in the running but it was too expensive ($1,600 more than the Toyota, which was already at the top of my budget). The Toyota is in the lowest road tax level here and I found out that there are Toyota repair shops in the region I intend to be resident in.

As it ends up, as an American I can only buy a car and get insurance in the European country in which I hold residence. I could hypothetically get a car in Croatia, but I wouldn’t qualify for insurance. If I drive a friend’s car in Croatia and get in an accident, this is what the insurance person says, “You are covered, but we will sue you to get the money”. Thus begging the question, “what is your definition of coverage”. I think their definition of coverage is “allowed to drive”. I can drive any car in Croatia, but if I get in an accident I’m screwed. Thus, I hunted for a left-hand drive car in England, and found it pretty quickly.

If you made the link between “Aygo” and “Yugo” and it makes you giggle, welcome to the club.

Thanks for all the help!