For Poles cars have always been an object of desire. Throughout the communist regime, i.e. since Poland became a part of the Communist Bloc following World War II, all types of goods were in short supply, including food, housing, or cars for that matter. The latter, however, grew to become something of a rare phantom, as most were talking about cars, with only a few entitled to possess one.
With the production of Soviet-acquired car designs in the 1950s, renamed Warszawa for the Polish market, the industry slowly began to regain its pre-war reputation. With only small numbers of finished automobiles leaving the production line, however, the nation felt that their motor appetites could never be satisfied, what with the number and prices extending way beyond the wages of the ordinary Mr. Kowalski. This is how almost anyone in the country became an expert on cars, both home-made and those imported from other states.
As a result, Poles developed significant expertise in the field of automobile technology and specifications, with the tradition merrily continuing until this day. Almost anyone you ask in the country will be a car expert, will have driven all sorts of cars, will know every single specification of any car you name, and will convince you that a particular make is superior to all others based on a very detailed explanation.
You need to bear in mind all this when buying a car in Poland, as people claiming to be experts are also very often cons trying to sell you a piece of junk for a lot of money.
However, as the process of getting your own four wheels has become civilized over the last twenty years or so, with the major world car makes now available in almost any location across the country, you will be offered a variety of options when actually making a purchase. You can buy a new (nowy samochód) or a second-hand car (samochód używany) from a car dealership (od dealera samochodów), or you can get a used car from a previous owner (od poprzedniego właściciela).
Getting a new car from a car dealer is the simplest and probably the most expensive solution, but Poles just love their cars and will be ready to pay the premium for a vehicle that has not been driven before. Buyers will be offered several payment options, such as cash (za gotówkę), with bank loans (na kredyt) also readily available. Installment plans (zakup na raty) offered by dealers are also an option, and many prospective buyers decide to take advantage of this offering.
As part of new car deals sellers will offer all sorts of extras (dodatki specjalne), such as winter tires (opony zimowe), CD-radio players (radio z CD), special discounts (rabaty specjalne), or free insurance (ubezpieczenie w cenie). This last item can be pretty expensive, depending on the value of your model, so many buyers are happy to take this up.
Getting a second-hand car is an entirely different experience, and unless you are buying from an established dealer, be prepared to question the owner on a variety of issues, such as mileage (przebieg), whether the car was brought to Poland as a personal import or sold from a dealership (sprowadzony do Polski czy kupiony w salonie), first/second/third etc. owner (który właściciel), whether the car has been hit (czy był bity or uderzony), what types of repairs have been recently made (jakie wykonano ostatnio naprawy), whether the battery/brakes/exhaust etc. have been replaced (czy wymieniono akumulator/klocki hamulcowe/układ wydechowy itp.), whether you can take it for a test drive (czy można pojechać na jazdę próbną), and many others. If you feel uncomfortable about it or insufficiently knowledgeable, make sure you bring someone who is. A seller who meets a buyer who knows nothing or only a little about cars will most probably try to up the price or conceal the defects, if any.
After you have gotten your dream car, register it (zarejestrować) in your name and enjoy the ride! – szerokiej drogi!