Flea markets are a good place to look for all kinds of things. But did you know there’s also a one-stop “car market” for those hunting for used cars, spare parts, audio equipment and accessories?
With the hike in fuel prices, petrol rebate notwithstanding, many Malaysians are opting for smaller cars.
Certainly, the motor vehicle sector is bracing for tougher times ahead as demand for new cars and commercial vehicles dampen. Consumers will likely hold back big-ticket purchases, including new cars, amidst concerns over inflation and a weakening economy.
A car is, after all, often the second most expensive purchase for a household after home mortgage.
Second-hand goods make more sense in our current situation, and flea markets are a good place to hunt for all kinds of things. But where should people looking for used cars turn to apart from the classified ads?
Try Petaling Jaya New Town’s Sunday car mart. Hundreds flock here to look for cars and test their bargaining skills.
According to long-time residents, the car mart started more than two decades ago when the municipal council rented out the parking lot in front of the Civic Centre to a man who in turn charged a fee to sellers who wanted to come and display their cars to potential buyers.
As interest grew in this casual car market, the cars being put up for sale increased, spilling over to the main road (Jalan Yong Shook Lin). Eventually, the council stopped renting out their parking spaces, but a private company stepped in and offered its four-storey carpark —Kompleks A, behind Standard Chartered bank — to be used for the mart, calling it Car Boot Sale.
Today, this weekly event, which takes place between 8am and 4pm, is so popular that lots are quickly snapped up.
But if you don’t want to pay to display, you can alternatively bring your car and exhibit it at the MBPJ bays nearby. It’s free but sellers usually send their cronies to ”pre-book” these lots the night before.
The cars on offer are often spruced up, with the bonnets left open for buyers to inspect the engines.
Should you require an audio system, you will probably find it here too. Yes, just about every car accessory can be found at the car mart, including tyres, spare parts and car insurance.
Here, buyers negotiate directly with the sellers, eliminating the need for a middleman. The cars may also be test-driven on the spot.
If you think the mart is only for the cheaper cars, you’d be dead wrong. Many high-end foreign cars like the BMW, Mercedes and Jaguar also find their way here.
Even used car dealers are taking advantage of the car mart to showcase their products. Second-hand car dealer S. P. Wang, for example, has been trading at the MBPJ car park for the past five years. Every Sunday, he brings a few cars from his showroom in Old Klang Road, Kuala Lumpur.
“Some weeks, business is good; other weeks, it’s not so good. I can’t really predict. After the announcement of the fuel hike, my sales have dropped by 30%. The trend now is for customers to look for smaller automatic cars, especially with the traffic jams in the city,” says Wang, who depends on relatives, showrooms, advertisements and friends to help him market his cars.
Wang, 52, put a few four-wheel drives on display when I visited but there were no takers even though there were plenty of admirers.
“When I found out there was a mart here, I told myself I should bring some cars over. My children help drive the cars here. Usually, we bring about four cars at a time. Customers can be fussy but I try to cater to their needs and make it a win-win situation for both parties,” he says.
Hawkers have joined in the fun too, adding to the atmosphere. The mart has become a family outing for some, like Mohd Yusop Ali, 48, who came from Klang with his wife and brood of three. They were scouting for a well-maintained Perodua Kancil.
“I’m looking for a small car for my wife because she has got a new job in Serdang and it would be easier for her to drive herself there. We calculated the cost and, despite the fuel hike, it’s more cost-efficient in the long run to get a car than to depend on public transportation,” says the teacher who drives a Proton Iswara.
“But since we cannot afford a luxury car, we have to look for a cheaper alternative. We’ve spotted one or two here but we’re still looking around.”
Car owner and accounts manager Jeffrey Kwan, 34, was advised by friends to sell his five-year-old Kia Sportage at the mart to get a better price.
“It’s too costly for me to maintain the car now, so I’m trying my luck and hoping to dispose of it here,” Kwan says. “If nothing comes through, then I’ll put an ad in the paper. I’m also looking around for a second-hand Japanese car that is more fuel-efficient.”
Husband and wife, Patrick and Leila John, were there the other week hunting for a car priced between RM20,000 and RM25,000.
“We have a 10-year-old Proton Tiara, and it’s falling to pieces! Even my mechanic says I should get rid of it. We’re looking for something affordable that can withstand my driving style,” Patrick says, laughing.
“Yes, no one will buy the Tiara because Patrick has really thrashed it,” Leila chips in. “He is in the furniture export business and travels outstation a lot. So, we need a car that is reliable and easy to maintain.”
This was the couple’s first visit to the mart and they were impressed with the array of cars and accessories on display.
I recently put up my 24-year-old Toyota Starlet for sale there but since all the parking bays had been taken, I displayed my car in another open area nearby and pasted a sign on the rear window. There have been no fantastic offers so far but I remain hopeful.
Ivan Kronenburg, 33, drove his yellow Volkswagon to the mart when he wanted to sell it and just parked his car along the street with a huge “for sale” poster.
“I knew the car market was an effective place, and it was time for Al (the beetle) to go. I went there on two consecutive Sundays and tried my luck. It’s quite a marketplace. There were tons of enquiries but the offers were either too low or people were strapped for cash,” says the Petaling Jaya resident.
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