Thursday, 24 February 2005

Buying a used car

by Charles Pooter

After various problems with its radiator and cooling system, my seriously aged car decided to blow a head gasket. This car has served me well, including a 3000 mile road trip around Europe, so I was eager to get it back on the road. Unfortunately my local mechanic informed me that this would "cost a fortune" and was a bigger job than he could undertake. With regret I decided it was time to get a new car.

Observations on buying a used car:

  1. Believe the stereotypes about used car salesmen
    When first looking for a car, I decided to ignore the negative impression of used car salesmen foisted upon me by the media. TV programmes such as Minder and more recently The Fast Show's Swiss Tony have firmly established a negative image of motor traders. However, I was determined to banish adjectives such as "slimy", "pushy" and "dishonest" from my mind. After all, these depictions were probably created by art school graduates who probably have nothing but contempt for small businessmen or indeed anyone involved in the "grubby" world of commerce. How wrong I was. Although none of the slimy, pushy and dishonest salesmen I encountered tried to compare selling a car to "making love to a beautiful woman", many of them made Arthur Daley look like a saint.

  2. Use the web
    After getting fed up with being told obvious shit-heaps were "smashin' little motors", I decided to try to find a private sale. In this regard the Exchange and Mart and AutoTrader websites were most useful.

  3. Find out the "book price"
    If you're interested in a car, find out its "book price" value. You can do this at the WhatCar? website.

  4. Get the car checked out
    Before you buy a car, get it checked out by a mechanic. The RAC's prices for this are quite steep, but my local mechanic conducted an examination for £15. This highlighted a few minor problems, which were useful when it came to haggling...

  5. Haggling can work
    A combination of knowing the "book price" and having an authoritative list of the vehicle's faults allowed my to knock £450 off what the seller was asking for.

I now do indeed have a "smashin' little motor".

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