26 November 2014

How to sell a car in Astana

I have written before about the lengthy and complicated process of buying a car in Astana.  Selling a car is even more complex. 

Even old cars hold their value well in Astana. Selling them is,
however, time-consuming.
Kazakhstan has just brought in new emissions laws and this means that only newer vehicles that meet the emissions codes may be imported into the country.  This has caused massive problems in the diplomatic community as the cars are registered on red plates without import.  Sale to a new owner is then exempted from import again.  The actual impact of the law is somewhat obscure but the practical effect is that no diplomat is able to sell a car of more than 10 years old – even cars approaching that age will be cheap and difficult to sell.

Our car, which we bought from a local, was not registered to us on red plates but on yellow, expat, plates with all import and duties fully paid by a previous owner.  This meant that our car was exempt from the new legislation.  We considered driving the car to Europe and leaving it with a relative so that we have a European side drive car for mainland holidays but I suspect, given the age of the car and the maintenance history, it would have failed any EU emissions tests and cost a lot of money to bring up to standard.

We did advertise the car for sale through expat channels but expatriate purchasers were reluctant to buy such an old car.  This was probably because of the level of uncertainty on the emissions law and its application to expat purchasers and because of the high costs of second hand imports (cars do not generally depreciate their value in Kazakhstan to the same extent as in Europe).  Our only practical option therefore was to sell to a local purchaser.

This actually made the whole process much easier – we were intending to go to the car mart on the ring road and hawk the car there but the colleague we asked to help us asked instead if he could buy the car from us – this was a perfect solution but I suspect the market would also have been fine as long as we had help with translation.  I could have managed the negotiations and garage work but dealing with the bureaucracy of the transfer without assistance would have been a nightmare.

In order to transfer ownership we had to take the car to the office of the road police some distance out of town, this would de-register our yellow plates.  I came along to drive and allow the purchaser and my husband to hop out and deal with paperwork as necessary.

The first two times we went to the police station the office was closed with computer problems but we were lucky on the third time.  I ended up with the usual experience when driving Kazakh men – ‘could I really drive a manual? (Yes did he want me to show him how)’ ‘did my husband mind being driven by me?’ ‘had I really been driving for 20 years at my age?’ ‘is the UK driving test hard, does everyone really learn on a manual – even the women?’.  I struck a blow for feminism by asking if the purchaser would teach his wife to drive, he considered my question for a while and said it might save him on the cost of a taxi when he and his friends went out to have a drink!  It was all fairly good natured, the purchaser is a lovely man and a good colleague during our time in Astana just with very different cultural expectations. 

After sorting out the plates we had to go to the ‘consul’ – I am not quite sure what we did there but it was, apparently, necessary.  None of us knew where this office was and we ended up driving around the right bank in rush hour calling various colleagues for an address – an hour later we finally tracked it down.  We then had to go to a notary and register the actual transfer of the ownership of the car which would enable to purchaser to get a technical check on the car and apply for numberplates.

We kept the car that night as there was no time to get a tech-check and register new plates.  The next day we passed it over to the purchaser so he could sort out his paperwork.  It was very strange to see the car under a different number that afternoon. 

We managed to get the sale sorted out one week before we left.  If I were doing it again I would start the sale process earlier.  There are so many hurdles to jump to re-register ownership, it took us three days to find the police station open and if any of the other offices had been closed it might have caused problems.  It was a bit of a pain being without the car for the final week and having to rely on other transport means but at least we knew it was sorted and done. 

Click here for more posts on life in Kazakhstan.

Ersatz Expat

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