Choosing a Vehicle to take from Alaska to Finland...

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Wilks
Posts: 17
Joined: Fri Sep 05, 2003 5:48 am
Location: Fairbanks, Alaska

Choosing a Vehicle to take from Alaska to Finland...

Post by Wilks » Wed Oct 01, 2003 9:08 am

Howdy Folks....

First post, long time reader. Well, at least five months or so...
I reckon the information posted here is some of the most down-to-earth and useful available. (on the subject of Finland, at least..)

I am a graduate student/civil engineer from Fairbanks, Alaska, USA. Starting in January 2004, I plan on attending school in Finland (U. of Oulu) for a year. Want to develop my Finnish language skills, meet the natives, and see a fair bit of the country - all at the same time, even. (My Finnish: about 8 months worth of book learning/ written comprehension so far, no spoken skills.) Hell, maybe if I'm really lucky/persistant, I may even find a some work while there.

My question:

I own two vehicles - both General Motors full-size vans, and I plan to bring one of them with me via Roll-on/off.

Vehicle #1:
This is a 1984 Chevy 3/4 G20. Years ago I converted it for sleeping and travel (as a construction engineer in Alaska, I work in a lot of remote areas). This van is my #1 traveling companion - we've been all over the Lower 48, from Prudhoe Bay to New Orleans to San Diego. Has the essentials for travel - bed, bookshelf, lava lamp. 350 cid V-8/ 4bbl carb. The engine has over 250,000 miles on it, but still has good (110+) compression in all cylinders and burns very little oil. An extended fuel tank (33 gal, vs the standard 24 gal) allows for longer trips between refueling stops. Emissions? Um, lets just say I have it registered outside of an I/M enforcement area currently - I really don't want to know. Gets about 10 miles per gallon. (almost 4km/L, I think)

If I decide to take it along, I may swap out the old 350 for a remanufactured one in November, and passing the I/M should be a snap afterwards.

Vehicle #2:
1982 GMC 3/4 Tn. Van.
This guy also has a V-8 350 cid, 4bbl. A more recent acquision. The frame is a bit older, however the (recently replaced) engine and 4 speed tranny only have about 35,000 miles on it. Passed its last I/M. Also converted for sleeping. The big difference? This one is 4 Wheel Drive. This is a relatively rare customization in full-size vans, as the layout of the van forces the frame to be lifted 4-5 inches or so, to allow room for the new axle and differential. Due to resulting high center-of-gravity issues (and resulting liability), these vans were not available in 4WD out of the factory. While the 4WD cuts into the fuel efficiency (this van gets about 8 mpg or 3km/L), it is much less likely to get stuck in the snow and it handles much better on icy roads. On the down side, I've found this van to be a bit less reliable, requiring more TLC than the first.

----------
My main concern is Finnish vehicle standards. I do not want to drive clear across North America, spend $1000+ for shipping over the Atlantic, only to have Finnish authorities laugh, and send it right back....!

What sort of hoops does one have to jump through when a foreign vehicle arrives in Helsinki? --- Or at least where can I find this information in English?

Main concerns:

Is a 4WD-converted van even legal in Finland? I know some countries (like Germany) frown on vehicle conversions - even if they are legal in the US (where 'lifting' trucks is quite common.)

Emissions: Are foreign vehicles required to pass an I/M, or are they allowed a grace period (6 months, 1 year, etc...) before they need an inspection? If there is an I/M is it a visual inspection/tailpipe test, or a dyno?

Fuel price: Yes, yes I know. Its like friggin $4.75 a gallon over there. Almost enough to make a guy go out and buy a VW or a rice-burner - but not quite. At least when I run out of gas - after going broke from refueling - l'll have a good place to sleep. I plan on bringing my 10-speed, either way.

Parts: I can't imagine Chevy/GMC parts are very easy to find over there, though I could be wrong. Worlds getting smaller and smaller, after all. What sorts of vehicles are common over there?

Ah, crap. Its past 10 PM, and I'm getting kicked out of this computer lab...perhaps I'll add more tomorrow....

but for now, any input will be much appreciated!

-Nate-



Choosing a Vehicle to take from Alaska to Finland...

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Tom and Jerry

Choosing a vehicle from Alaska

Post by Tom and Jerry » Wed Oct 01, 2003 9:20 am

Hi,

If you come here for less than a year, and the car has an insurance and registration in Alaska, all goes well.

These chevy's are also allowed in Finland, I think. Not really sure whether they allow these monstor size trucks.

But, sorry, it still doesn't make any sense to me: for 1000 dollar , you can buy over here a working Lada, for another 1000 dollar you can drive with it about 13 000 km. That looks cheaper to me, or, do I miss completely the fun of driving with these van's?

Fairbanks is a nice, quiet place. I've been there once. A bit like Rovaniemi, but only larger.


Guest

Post by Guest » Wed Oct 01, 2003 10:00 am

Hi Nate,

Check http://www.tulli.fi/english/files/2003_08_eng.html

and

http://www.tulli.fi/english/files/touristenglish02.html if your stay isn't going to be longer than 12 months (note that in those 12 months you can not use your car longer than 6 months. I know, I know... Finnish rules...)


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Hank W.
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Post by Hank W. » Wed Oct 01, 2003 11:21 am

Well,

a) ARE YOU CRAZY!? ..or just barking mad? :mrgreen:

b) as said, bringing it over and taking it back is an option - getting it into plates here - converted to sleep = passenger vehichle = ha ha ha ha. And that conversion is hairy. The amount of taxes would be 2-3 x the worth of the car. Besides the engine size/weight means you pay your ass off for insurance.

c) GM parts you can find, of course they cost an arm and a leg, most engines are diesel here for some odd reason due to fuel consumption (and registered as trucks). You'd see something like that around in Finland -especially Lappland.

PS. Don't understand your consumption. Here it is given so-and-so liters / 100 km. I guess those guzzlers are somewhere to the 25-35 liters/100.
If you are so rich to be able to afford that kind of a car here - why don't you just hire a helicopter and fly it around?

If you check the dealers it might be cheaper to buy one here:
Chevrolet Pick-Up V8, bens. -80. H. 1.200
CHEVROLET Chevy Van -84 3.000
CHEVROLET S 10 Tahoe 4,3 V6 Pick Up -90 6.500
CHEVROLET Blazer S10 4d 4wd -92 6.700
Cheers, Hank W.
sitting here like a lemon looking for a gin.


Ian
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Location: Oulu

Post by Ian » Wed Oct 01, 2003 11:51 am

Just to add another word of caution for you!!
I have imported a car and a motorbike into Finland from the UK in the last year. You are permitted to bring one vehicle with you tax free, but even that is a real pain in the ar5e!
I spoke to the same customs person within 2 weeks. With and without a helpful Finnish translator, and got two totally different answers. In the end, I got my car in tax free but had to pay €1500 import tax for the bike. If you are only coming to Finland for a year and will be studying in Oulu, then I would suggest that you won't even need a vehicle at all. Busses here are very good and if you want to explore Finland, the trains are as good as you will find anywhere - and they sell beer :wink:
Think about it very carefully before bringing you truck here. It will be painfull!!


Wilks
Posts: 17
Joined: Fri Sep 05, 2003 5:48 am
Location: Fairbanks, Alaska

Post by Wilks » Mon Oct 06, 2003 6:28 am

Hey, thanks for the responses!

Sorry I haven't been able to get back here - we had a bizarre burst of 70F degree weather (in October, no less), and the construction crews were taking full advantage of it. (Meaning I've been working my ass off...)

Hmmm, so far, it seems that there isn't too much difficulty in bringing a van over - unless I decide to stay beyond a year. (And who knows, if I decide that I like it there, and manage to find an employer who can put up with my kindergarden-level Finnish and my dislike of metric units :lol: ... - perhaps I'll stay longer...)

I've been leaning towards swapping the engine out of my Chevy and replacing some tie rod ends this November cuz I'll need a project. If it seems to be running fine and doesn't throw a rod before December - I'll probably bring it, instead of the 4WD GMC. If the roads are bad, well, thats what chains are for...

Expensive? Yeah, but after working 90 hours/week on the North Slope since April, money and common sense go right out the window. Buying a previously owned vehicle can be iffy, especially in a foreign country, at least with one of my own vehicles I can count on regular maintenence. Plus, I'll be able to send all the belongings I could possibly need inside (hockey gear, tools, WMDs) , instead of relying on the mail.

And don't knock converting a van into a sleeper - its a great way to travel long distances and really see a country (because you can stop whenever you want). Oh, and they have room for two... :wink:

I've heard another Finn tell me that Fairbanks is kind of like Rovaniemi. I guess it's because they are fairly new arctic towns. Fairbanks, on the frontier, was mostly built during the 70's during the Trans-Alaska Pipeline boom. Rovaniemi apparently had to be rebuilt after the Germans bulldozed it during WWII...

-NATE-
#1 Reason to be a Goalie:

Slash all you want; they send someone else to the box!


dusty_bin
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Post by dusty_bin » Mon Oct 06, 2003 10:32 am

Wilks-
what you were told upthread about how long you can have a vehicle here is correct, but not appropriate.

If you are a student, then by definition, you are not a tourist, thus tourist rules for vehicles do not count. You will need to register your car within IIRC six months, or when your green card runs out. The Green card is the part of the insurance document that allows you to drive your car in any country in Europe with insurance cover. My bet is that in the US such an option does not exist. If I win my bet, then you will have to register the vehicle on arrival in FInland as you will have no insurance and this IS checked on arrival, I know, I did it!

So, assuming you arrive in Helsinki, your vehicle will be impounded until you arrange the import and pay the import taxes, see other threads for information in this stuff. When this is done, you can then get the vehicle inspected. If the car is new/is then the road safety test is, from what I saw in Oulu, just a guy going to check that the car has four wheels, lights that work and a reflective triangle. If the car is an antique as yours are, then you get the full treatment, including emissions tests. When you have passed these tests and made the car street legal for Finland, then, you can buy insurance and drive the car. BTW, you will need winter tyres with studs, or winter treads. Chains are a no no.

So, you were planning to stay in Helsinki for a while before driving north Hmmm?

BTW my car has a tiny 3 litre v6 engine and gives me about 20 miles per Imperial gallon, your car does ten miles to the little American Gallon. How rich are you feeling? A US Gallon is 3.79 litres. A litre of petrol will cost you about $1.14 IIRC, about four times the cost in the US IIRC. I do not drive my car here any more, it makes no sense. For the amount you will spend, buy something decent here, save the hassle and just resell when you leave. Unless of course you are as rich as Croesus, in which case why are your cars so old;)


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Hank W.
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Post by Hank W. » Mon Oct 06, 2003 11:16 am

Wilks wrote:If the roads are bad, well, thats what chains are for...
Illegal.

You need to have two sets or tires , studs and summer tires, or year-round M+S.
Wilks wrote:
And don't knock converting a van into a sleeper - its


Illegal.

Atleast not without tax consequences, as "van" and "car" are taxed differently. Weight limitations, speed limitations, registered passengers limitations....
Wilks wrote:
Rovaniemi apparently had to be rebuilt after the Germans bulldozed it during WWII...
Well, burnt. Thats why there is big signs "no open fires" in German around :mrgreen:
Cheers, Hank W.
sitting here like a lemon looking for a gin.


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Hank W.
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Post by Hank W. » Mon Oct 06, 2003 11:21 am

dusty_bin wrote: I do not drive my car here any more, it makes no sense.
Oh, come on now. You're taking all the fun out of taxing people to death :mrgreen:

And Wilkes, it either you believe us or cry and believe us, but we're still in the "if everything goes well" scenario.
Cheers, Hank W.
sitting here like a lemon looking for a gin.


Guest

Post by Guest » Mon Oct 06, 2003 12:44 pm

dusty_bin wrote: I do not drive my car here any more, it makes no sense.
I drive a lot less than I used to myself.
Back in NL I used to drive close to 30 000 kms a year. I think that's been reduced to maybe 5 000-8 000 kms here.
It's because the public transport is so good and cheap here, at least that the reason for me.


dusty_bin
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Post by dusty_bin » Mon Oct 06, 2003 1:08 pm

Does anyone want a free car...

Volvo 760 GLE. 1985. 128K miles on the clock, IIRC. Electric drivers seat, heated front seats, air con (needs recharging) . Leather upholstery (renovated by yours truly a few years ago- its my thing...)
Body is in very good condition, gold metallic, lovely and shiny. Electric sun roof.

PM me if you are interested...

OK maybe this belongs in announcements, but...


Tom and Jerry

Post by Tom and Jerry » Mon Oct 06, 2003 2:25 pm

Wilks wrote:Hey, thanks for the responses!

Expensive? Yeah, but after working 90 hours/week on the North Slope since April, money and common sense go right out the window.
:D
I've heard about that typical Alaska disease. This one is for you: ship your car to Vladivostok and drive it to Finland. It will be the trip of your life!
:twisted:


Wilks
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Joined: Fri Sep 05, 2003 5:48 am
Location: Fairbanks, Alaska

Post by Wilks » Sun Oct 12, 2003 7:29 am

Hey various Finns and others...

Hmmm, so the trick is to have find a US insurance policy which applies overseas, huh? A cursory internet search seems to indicate that such insurance is available - not even too expensive....(liability only, of course...)

Granted, if I decided to stay longer - I'd need to register the vehicle, which means taxes and inspections and bureaucracy. According to Hank, it looks like the tax varies depending on the intended use of the vehicle....

Fuel costs, yeah - I really feel for Europeans - those fuel taxes ARE brutal. I mean, literally, highway robbery. But Europeans like paying taxes, so I guess the citizens at large voted for them in one way or another. Don't think such a US politician would survive very long here. Raising gasoline taxes is a sure-fire way to lose elections.

Still, despite the cost, I can't see myself relying on public transportation. Not really laziness, I think - after all, I enjoy biking frequently when the weather is reasonable. Driving is just, well, fun. Liberating, even. What do I mean?

My father owns an old 1968 Chevy Chevelle, V-8 396 cid. (about 6.5 L, I think) Practical? No, not at all. Only gets used during the summer, needs frequent maintenence, and gets only about 6 or 7 mph of high-grade fuel (plus lead additives....). But the sensation? the sound? Geez - They just don't make machines like that anymore (at least not for less than $50,000). Too much fun to be legal - say the lawyers and insurance companies and environmentalists as they stick the knife into the US auto industry. Nobody writes songs about cars anymore. Why? Because today's cars (Honda Civics, Volvos) have zero character.

Anyway, before I get too sidetracked, back to mass transit...

I suppose mass transit is better thought of in Europe. Can't really speak for the Lower 48 (other US states), but in Alaska those using mass transit are generally pitied (as in: "Did you lose your drivers license? Sorry, man - let me give you a lift...")

Besides, buses and trains are just not practical. Low population means lots of buses would be required to give even minimal coverage. Besides, more buses would mean more taxes and taxes are evil bad.

Also:
Chains are illegal? Wow. Crazy.
Oh well, guess the studded tires will have to do. Chains are generally only for emergencies anyway...
You must actually (heh) plow your roads over there, huh? :)

As far as the practicality of a van:
Costs: High fuel prices, expensive GM parts, possible registration fees.

Benefits: Free housing during warmer months, van = big suitcase, travel convenience for roadtripping and camping as well as job-hunting.

(I do not know - is car ownership an advantage for finding employment in Finland? In the US, it is quite important. No car = difficulty finding work, except in the largest cities, like New York.)

Besides, small cars are downright dangerous in a crack-up.

Thank you for the continued input - though I only have time to check back occasionally (weekends...), the information is quite valuable, one way or another. Three more months.....

-NATE-
#1 Reason to be a Goalie:

Slash all you want; they send someone else to the box!


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Hank W.
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Post by Hank W. » Sun Oct 12, 2003 9:31 am

Wilks wrote: You must actually (heh) plow your roads over there, huh? -
See for yourself:
http://www.tiehallinto.fi/alk/english/k ... rat_5.html
Wilks wrote:(I do not know - is car ownership an advantage for finding employment in Finland? -
Well, yes if you live in the boondocks. I think you should concentrate on speaking Finnish finding a job though. Anywhere a non-speaker would find a job would be in the city - and where the heck do inted to park? And as you car eats up so much gasoline, you actually intend to pay to work? You know salaries here are about 1/3 of those in the USA?

The only guy I know needs a car for his job is a newspaper dealer. And he drives !"#¤% he buys for a hundred. And you cannot do that kinds of jobs without Finnish.
Cheers, Hank W.
sitting here like a lemon looking for a gin.


Wilks
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Location: Fairbanks, Alaska

Post by Wilks » Mon Oct 13, 2003 3:00 am

Ha! They webcam the highways in Finland. Thats pretty cool...!
They probably couldn't do that here, though. Anyone who has been here knows that Alaskans love to use stuff along the roads for target practice. Must admit tho, webcams would be a bit harder to hit than roadsigns....

Didn't intend to use the vehicle FOR the job (haha). My pizza delivery days are ancient history...!

Yeah, learning the language is a priority, but one can only self-teach it so quickly, especially when one is currently burning at both ends. As it is, coworkers wonder about all the Finnish vocabulary tags I have on the sieves, ovens and other lab equipment at work. I still must learn the Finnish terms for 'slump test' or 'nuclear densometer' and 'asphalt coring'. Heh.

Although finding work isn't necessary (I've plenty stashed away because there isn't much to spend money on out in the wilderness), I think that it would be quite an experience to try gain some overseas engineering experience. I would even work as a materials tech, where expressing complicated (vs basic) ideas in fluent Finnish isn't quite as important as knowing good lab procedure. Not sure what testing standards are used (likely not ASTM or AASHTO....!!!), but I'll certainly be looking into it once my work-hours reduce to winter-levels.

I've also planned some coursework at U. of Oulu to provide for some more structured language learning - especially the spoken language.
Wish I could locate some Finnish children's books (that is one way I learned some German...) but I don't think its very likely up here.

Hell, it took me 3 weeks just to find an English-Finnish dictionary. Three shelves of Spanish dictionaries. Two of French and German. Even some Russian, Italian and Japanese were available. But when I asked about a Finnish dictionary I got laughed at.....
-NATE-
#1 Reason to be a Goalie:

Slash all you want; they send someone else to the box!


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