So it turns out, the cheapest brand new car I could find in Panama was the Chery QQ. Brand new it is $6999.00. I could not get anyone to budge much on prices, but like I said, it's a monopoly for the most part.
In the end, I went against my own advice and bought used. It's a 1998 BMW 523i. It has 120,000 kilometres and I was able to pick it up for $3750. It runs like a top!
The speedometer works only part time, just like the odometer. Had a check engine light but it's out now, maybe the bulb burnt out. The fabric on the moonroof is peeling off, the tires are bald, and I mean desk top smooth. Only 3 of the wheels match, the hood and fender are bad repaints and the passenger side window doesn't roll down. The front passenger signal light doesn't work but that's an easy fix, I think.
I couldn't resist. It's so Panamanian! It's even more Panamian now that the front bumper fell off...haha!! But it runs really good. You may even get to ride in it when you come down to look at your new house ;)
Off to Macaracas today to find the cheapest house in Panama! Will let you know what I come up with.
Have a great day!