So, I Sold My Car…

You all come here for the football, but anyone who has been reading 18to88 for more than a month knows I refuse to be pinned down.  I’m going to try and turn Saturdays here at 18to88 into “Nate talks about other things, at least during the offseason”.  Traffic is light on the weekends anyway. It seems most of you read 18to88 as a way of passive-aggressively stealing from your employer.  I’m good with that.

Thursday was a strange day.  There was no new mainpage post on 18to88.  This does not happen often, but every once in a while, my real job gets in the way of this mutated hobby masquerading as a part time job as a football writer.  One benefit of doing what I do is that my mornings are mostly free, allowing me to get up and immediately go to work on 18to88, leaving the rest of the day free to talk in Spanish and commit cultural faux pas.

This week, however, I had to sell my car.

Selling a car in Argentina is a more complicated process than you can possibly imagine.  First, you have to find someone to buy it.  This is easier said than done.  The market for 11 year old Ford Escort faux station wagons is limited.  None of the car dealers in La Plata were interested.  I finally found a guy on line advertising simply, “COMPRO TU AUTO!!!!” Short. Sweet. To the point.  I called him and set up an interview for early on Wednesday morning.

When I have an early morning appointment, I get up around 5:30 to start work on 18to88.  I wanted to bang out a post before heading to downtown Buenos Aires to sell the car.  I was nervous about my meeting with the potential buyer. I knew nothing about him but an address and a cell phone number.  Argentina can be a dangerous place, so going alone to a meeting potentially involving large sums of money and cars with a stranger takes nerve.  Imagine my relief when the buyer turned out to be a little old man in a nice part of town.  Mercifully, he offered me the exact price I had to get out of the car ($4,150).  This is the point my story really starts.

After we agreed on a price, Oscar, the buyer, gave a list of the documents I had to procure in order to transfer ownership of the car.  I was grateful he had a detailed list. Paperwork can be overwhelming in Argentina, so it helps to have a good solid tally of exactly what is needed.

I needed four separate documents in order get the car.  Fortunately, three of them I could get in one place. I had to go to the town my car was registered in (about a half hour from the buyer) and go to the car registry there.  It’s only open until 12:30, so I had to hustle.  When I got there, I waited in line for a half hour before I got to the desk. At the desk, I was informed that that office only handles motorcycles.  What confused me was the big sign on the door that said, “automotores”.  Signs just don’t mean what they used to.

Finally, I made my way to the right office and started paperwork.  After about an hour, I got everything filled out, and was told to come back on Thursday to pick up three of the four papers I needed.  I returned home, hoping to get the fourth paper back in La Plata. Anyone selling a car needs to have the car inspected by the police who have to verify the chassis and engine number match the numbers on file.  Unfortunately, by the time I found the right office, they were closed for the day.  It was 3 in the afternoon.

This brings us to Thursday.  I tried to get up early to post, but only got up at 6:45, giving me enough time to check Twitter and email, but not enough time to post.  The inspection station opened at 8, and I wanted to get there early.  I arrived at 8, horrified to see a line of hundreds of cars ahead of me.  The inspection takes literally seconds, but filling out the paperwork takes longer.  I sat in line for three hours, finally getting my paperwork done by 11 AM.  That left me just an hour and a half to rush to down town Buenos Aires to retrieve the paperwork from the previous day. 

I arrived with minutes to spare, and got the reports.  One of them was called a ‘libre de deudas’ which reports any unpaid traffic tickets.  Argentina uses a lot of speed cameras, and often you can have tickets on your record for years without knowing about it.  Sometimes the tickets are for as little as speeding by 4 or 5 kilometers an hour (3 MPH).  Typically, this isn’t a problem because in theory you can pay them all right in the office, and then they give you the paperwork.

No such luck this time.  The man gives me two of my three forms completed, but tells me the “libre de deudas” can’t be completed.  It seems one of the tickets MUST be rectified in person.  He gives me an address of a building in the capital I have to go to, and tells me I can return the next day after I’ve taken care of the fine.  I head over to the other building (about 20 minutes away).  There I’m told by a secretary that I have to call for an appointment.

I go outside and call the office.  I talk to the EXACT SAME SECRETARY who 3 minutes before wouldn’t give me an appointment. Now, over the phone she sets one up…for a week later.  Meanwhile, she refuses to tell me how much the fine will be, but assures me there is no way to pay it before my appointment.

I’m defeated.  I’ve been scrambling for two days to get all the papers necessary to finally sell my car, but it just isn’t going to happen, at least not for another week.  I call the buyer who tells me not to worry about it.  Fines are attached to the car in Argentina, not to the driver.  He agrees to buy the car that day, discounted by estimating a $75 fine that remains outstanding. 

Mercifully, we close the deal, and I walk away with $16,000 pesos in hundred peso bills in my pocket.  Of course, all deals are “straight cash, homey” in Argentina.  I finally got home around 4:30, some nine hours after I had left my house that morning.  It took me two days and several hundred dollars worth of forms, but the car was sold.  So yeah, I was too tired to write anything by the time I got home.

So, the next time you have to do something at the DMV, don’t complain. It could be worse.

You could always live in Argentina.