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Cape Breton University student Zaben Alshammari stands next to his Cadillac that he bought since arriving in Cape Breton from Saudi Arabia. (David Burke/CBC)

International students at Cape Breton University (CBU) are spending lots of money in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality, especially on big ticket items like cars. 

Zaben Alshammari from Saudi Arabia is a first-year student at CBU. 

He just bought a shiny red Cadillac. It cost him $17,400 used, and he paid for it with cash.

"I have that money for a new car and I like a new car to travel around Canada because an old car, it's going to be difficult to travel in from city to city," said Alshammari. 

Dongxunaiu is from China. He bought a second-hand Honda from Kijiji and paid $10,000 cash for it.

Hosam Alarabi

Cape Breton University student Hosam Alarabi was an executive consultant with the university's students' union. He believes about 60 per cent of international students own their own cars. (David Burke/CBC)

"Lots of people get some luxury car, some fancy car — BMW, Mercedes — because they are rich. Transport is not very convenient so I think I need to get a car, especially in the winter. The weather is horrible, so I need a car."

Hosam Alarabi was an executive consultant with the CBU Students' Union.

He estimates that 60 per cent of the university's more than 900 international students have bought cars in Nova Scotia.

Alarabi said students pay anywhere from a few thousand dollars to more than $20,000 for cars.

Then they pay out more money to cover all the expenses that come with owning a car.

"Fixing anything wrong on the cars, even the insurance, it's a huge system that if you collect all this money, it's a lot going into the economy," said Alarabi.

Most international students said they buy cars because the transportation system in Cape Breton is so poor, especially when compared to larger cities like Toronto and Montreal. 

Faisal Alramyan is also from Saudi Arabia. He bought a used Toyota Echo because he got tired of public transportation. 

"They have very really weak transportation, there's no train, or the bus came rarely and the weather conditions is not that good to be able to take the bus." 

Hosam Alarabi said most students buy their new or used cars with cash because they have trouble getting financing in Canada. 

He said sometimes students will even travel to larger cities like Halifax and Montreal if they can't find the type of car they want in Cape Breton.