Wednesday, 19 June 2013

How to Sell a Beaten-up Secondhand Car in a Hurry

I wrote back in February about what happened when my dear little Clio started having seizures on the motorway and we were obliged to call the police from the dangerous surroundings of a toll barrier car park. Well, the follow-up to that story was that La Clio did get us all the way to the mountains (and back again ... slowly)  but the problem turned out not to be as minor as we initially thought and, finding myself with a quote for repairs that was three times what I had paid for the car, I decided it was time to say goodbye.

The day afterwards, I put my ad online, then turned on the engine to make sure the battery hadn't gone flat. It hadn't, but there was an odd thudding noise coming from the engine. It was definitely time to say goodbye, and fast. Two days later, the car was gone and my finances had been given a little bit of a boost. Here's how to do what I did:

1. Set the price. You can get the trade price from L'Argus, but you have to pay. ParuVendu does a free version. I ended up knocking quite a lot off that (more than the quote I was given for the repairs) but by this stage I wasn't too bothered.

2. Place the advert. I put mine on Le Bon Coin and it was published immediately. Within 24 hours I had about 20 replies, asking questions from the polite "Est-ce qu'il y a des frais de réparation à prévoir?" to "Quelle (sic) est le problème?" I made the mistake of replying to all of them with more details immediately, which resulted in 2 people calling me at 11pm before I realised my error and turned my phone off. But, as I found out, things go quickly in the used car business.

3. Arrange to show some buyers the car.I quickly discovered that the easiest way was to sell to a professional. If you sell to a private buyer, you have to have a Contrôle Technique that's no more than 6 months old (although the car doesn't actually have to pass; you just need the piece of paper). I also found that the private buyers who contacted me were a bit unrealistic in their expectations: they wanted me to tell them in detail everything that was wrong with the car (and at the price I was asking, there was clearly something really quite wrong) before even coming to see it, whereas the first professional I spoke to only wanted to know if I would sell immediately if he liked what he saw.

I was a bit worried about the whole business of the CT, because if you sell to a private buyer without one, they can then demand that you pay for all the repairs the car needs to get it to pass, and I was scared that the people claiming to be professionals might be private scammers, but I found out that if you get their name, you can search on the internet and find out if they have a SIRET number.

4. Prepare the paperwork. You can download everything by going to your local préfecture's website, and even fill in the details before you print out the forms.

5. Meet the buyer. Mine turned up 4 hours late, at 10pm, in another beat-up car with a couple of his mates, but I didn't find the whole thing as uncomfortable as I thought I might. They had a look at the car and asked a few questions, which I was able to answer fairly honestly without telling them all the details of what I had been told by the other garage, drove the car up and down the street and looked at the service history.

6. Negociate the price. I didn't give my "dernier prix" the first time he asked what it was, or the second, but that's what I ended up selling for. I was ok with that though.

7. Collect the cash, sign the paperwork, make sure everyone has copies of everything, et voilà, you are no longer the owner of a beaten-up rustbucket that doesn't accelerate up hills very well.

8. Send your paperwork off to the préfecture (within 15 days).

9. Cancel your insurance. (You need a copy of the form you sent to the préfecture.)

10. (Optional) Take out a Vélib subscription!


  1. Good job! I had forgotten about the Contrôle technique... it was my parents' nightmare when I was a kid, we had a really old car and no money to fix it or replace it, and my parents would always wonder if the car was going to be allowed on the road!

  2. I feel so free ever since we gave up our car in October. How can something be so liberating when you don't have it yet give you so much freedom when you have it? Regardless, now I would rather put up with the inconveniences of not having a car, than the conveniences of having one. I just wish that every city could have a public transport system as good as in Copenhagen.

    Have you bought another car?

  3. I love the freedom of driving on country roads, and even on the motorway when it's not rush hour ... but I also love the freedom of not having to pay the insurance or look for a parking space!