Curbside Crickets: The Focus Nobody Wants to Buy

(Pictures are from my various ads)

I could blame the Caravan, but really it’s my own stubborn fault.

As you may know, my daily driver for the past 14 years has been our 2001 Ford Focus. The COAL article is here:

As mentioned in the article, it’s been the best car I’ve ever owned: Fun to drive, reliable, inexpensive to insure and operate.


Like many families, the D family has two daily drivers and generally I drive the “old” car while Mrs DougD drives the “new” car. Our problem in 2017 was that the “old” vehicle was now 16 years old with 275,000km, and our “new” vehicle was a 2007 Dodge Caravan with 265,000km.

So there wasn’t much new to be had in the D stable. Both of us have “serious professional” type jobs, and need to get to the airport in Toronto regularly, and occasionally drive clients around. I started getting the “How old is this car anyway?” questions about 5 years ago, but people have always expressed surprise at the year of my car, and that it’s good condition belies it’s advanced age. Nevertheless, something had to be done.

Since the Caravan was also doing well and would be more expensive to replace we decided to get a replacement Focus. After casually searching for about 6 months we found a 2013 hatchback with a 5-Speed, in the colour we wanted with very low miles at a good price.  Sold!



Now we had to dispose of the old Focus.  If you are American you may be surprised that we don’t want to keep the car for our 17 year old son to drive.  The answer is insurance, it is rather expensive to insure a car for a young person in Canada (like $300 per month expensive) so that was not an option.

The options I did have were:

  • Sell it as-is
  • Get it safety checked and sell it certified
  • Donate it and get the $200 tax reciept
  • Scrap it and get the $200

If you know me or have read my CC articles, you will know that I am cursed with excessive empathy for machinery, and I just couldn’t bring myself to scrap my faithful servant (or donate it, which would have the same end result).  So I decided to try to sell it as-is, and put up my Kijiji ad and waited…

Week 1:  $1700 – crickets

Week 2:  $1200 – crickets

Week 3:  $900 – I did get one response which said simply “600“.  I decided that to buy my car you at least had to be able to put a sentence together and didn’t respond.  I also got one very interested guy who repeatedly asked what it needed to pass safety check (the answer being I don’t know, maybe nothing) but once I found he lived about 4 hours away I figured this wasn’t going anywhere either.

While this was going on I was also trying to find someone with a need to GIVE the car to, but it turns out I hang with a rather middle class crowd and nobody has needed a free car for about 10 years.

My father in law (the Ford sales associate) told me that there was a chronic shortage of cheap certified cars because of the provincial government’s recent overhaul of the MOT test expanding the scope and making it harder to pass.  So I decided to switch plans, and took it to see John, our local old-school mechanic.

The $115 safety check told me that it needed rear springs (one was broken) and the headlights were too cloudy.  I had the kit to do the headlights at home, and the springs would be about $400, so I gave him the OK to order the parts.

Coming to pick the car up the next afternoon I found that both rear springs had actually been broken, and because certain critical fasteners were seized he’d spent most of the day struggling to get the new units in with spring compressors.  This made the final bill substantially higher than the estimate.  I gritted my teeth as I paid the bill, and took the Focus home to do the headlights.

My problems continued at home, because when I opened the box I found that the last time I used the kit I had neglected to put the drill backing plate back into the box.  So I wound up doing the headlights by hand, which takes a surprising amount of elbow grease and is not recommended.


One down, one to go. You can see the light on the right has more beam scatter.


Back at John’s the next morning he inspected the headlights and approved my (literal) handiwork.  Armed with my newly minted safety standards certificate I stopped by another garage on my way to work to get the Ontario DriveClean test.  This program was implemented in 1999 as a full bore simulated drive and exhaust sniffer test, but since 2013 has been just an OBD2 “Happy ECU Computer” check.  Since the Focus had always passed and the check engine light was not on, I was correct to assume that it would pass, and surprisingly because I was not renewing my license tag this test was free.

My FIL had advised me to put $2900 on my revised ad, which I thought excessive so I decided to try for $2700 OBO.  I didn’t quite get crickets, I got one reply which said “WTF, are you high?” which was amusing but not very helpful.


So I just edited the ad now to read $2200, there don’t seem to be any certified cars locally under $2000 so hopefully it’s getting into the range of being interesting for someone.  The 5-speed is probably a major downer, who can drive a stick these days?  Or wants to?  All I wanted was a chance for this car to have a third act other than being crushed, and supply a decent cheap car to someone who needs one.  From a financial and time management standpoint I just should have just scrapped it, but I’m still driving it every day because I find it more fun than the new Focus 🙂

The safety certificate is good for 30 days, I can still listen to the crickets for a few more weeks…