You could be forgiven for thinking that buying a car is a simple 3 step process – you choose your make and model, you get offered a fabulous deal and you drive away – with free floor mats, a tank of fuel and a hamper of inedible food. Sadly this is not so. It’s not even close.
There is nothing simple about buying a car in this day and age. It’s a stressful event and one that should be avoided like the plague by anyone with a weak heart, on blood pressure pills or likely to buckle easily under pressure.
Simply trying to choose between the small cars, sports cars, saloon cars and 4WD’s can bring on a migraine. Trying to decide what colour and ‘package’ you want on your car can leave you dazed. Making sure that the amounts on the final contract tally with the amount you verbally agreed can leave you completely confused – and often massively out of pocket.
Of course if you were to believe the advertising hype, then every new car on the market can and will make heads turn in the street. They can cross a mountain range without getting dirty and house an entire happy smiling family – with children who never bicker, scatter crumbs like confetti or throw up all over the shiny leather upholstery.
Putting aside this ever so slightly rose tinted image of those who drive cars, it is the ridiculous selling spiel of car ads that can make you shake your head in disbelief. For example, in a safety mad world full of test dummies and statistics it would surely stand to reason that an airbag would come as fairly standard in every car. Yet here some manufacturers still advertise them as a ‘feature’, along with the tyres, handbrake, engine and wheels nuts… Surely an integrated sat nav system and heated seats would be considered ‘features’, not those parts of a car designed to actually save your life.
Before going out on the great car hunt it is important to realise that the rules of the game over here are very different to the UK. For starters it is hard to find anywhere to go to actually get yourself a bargain. Dealers seem to close ranks to protect themselves from buyers trying to play one off one against the other and salesmen appear to be immune to any form of negotiating. A ‘deal’ is what is already written on the car’s windscreen, anything else is apparently an insult. Even when searching on the Internet, the countless websites offering to secure you the ‘lowest price possible’ only charge you for the privilege and then lead you straight back to the local dealer you have already visited.
One of the biggest differences in the car industry here is that it can be just as cheap, if not cheaper to buy a brand spanking new car as it is to buy a used one. Whether out on the dealers forecourt, advertised in the Quokka or parked on the kerb of every roundabout at the weekend, used cars can be expensive to buy. This would of course give the illusion that cars hold their value well – a claim that is certainly made by every salesman about the particular brand they are trying to flog you. The only trouble is, that as far as the owner of the car is concerned, this is only partly true.
If you buy a car from a dealer and then decide to take that very same car back to trade in just 6 months later you might be in for a shock. Suddenly the ‘value’ of your car has dropped by $1000’s. Countless excuses will be given as to why this car (the one in exactly the same condition as when you brought it) is suddenly no longer worth what you paid. You will even be made to feel unrealistic, greedy and naive for expecting more back than they are offering. Yet drive by the forecourt a week later and you will no doubt see your car has miraculously regained it’s value and is once again worth pretty much what you paid for it in the first place.
No one is disputing that every dealer needs to make some money, but why do car salesmen have to use every known underhand method from the ‘How to screw your customer over’ guide to selling a motor. Of course everyone knows that it’s going to happen, it’s part of the game in a very cut throat industry – but why does it have to be so unsubtle that it becomes down right insulting. Hard sell takes on a whole different meaning, they may as well just pin you down and hold a crow bar to your jugular until you offer to pay them to take your heap of a worthless car back off you.
Of course it is undoubtedly harder for dealers to make as much off your trade in here, with an automatic fixed fee to be paid by the dealer on a car before they can even hike up the price and try to resell it. But it’s even harder to feel sorry for them, when they instantly try to claw this money straight back off you through overpriced paint protection products, tinted windows and extended warranties. A warranty that incidentally then ties you to a twice yearly service with the dealer in order to keep it valid.
There is a great list of all the tricks and cons used by car salesmen on the Web, one that is definitely worth a read. We did, and when we put the theory to the test unsurprisingly 9/10 of those who rushed out to meet us were true to the list and passed with flying colours.
Of all of the lines that we were fed, the most jaw dropping of all was that we would only be given a trade in price on our car when we had signed a contract to buy another car. Why? Because in her words ‘the price they would offer changed from day to day’. As if. Did we look like we just fell off a passing banana boat with half a brain between us? To really add insult to the attempted day light robbery, when we said that we weren’t ready to ‘commit’ to her there and then, she basically threw a business card at us and walked straight out of the door to the next unsuspecting customer.
To say that the whole experience was more doom than Zoom Zoom Zoom would be a massive understatement. We hot footed it immediately and left her offending and definitely unwanted business card propped up in the branches of the nearest tree.
Yes I know that not all salespeople are the same. My husband worked in the industry for years and he certainly didn’t work that way. But as is often the case (think double glazing salesmen and dodgy builders) it only takes one bad experience and a shifty individual to make you wary of anyone bearing down on you with an insincere smile and monthly targets to meet.
I’m glad to say that we did eventually find something of a rarity in the industry – a salesperson who was not only genuine, but also went out of her way to help us. She proved that it is possible to be nice without being smarmy, that you can sell without using thumb screws and that when it comes down to the customer, people will always be happier to buy from people. The sort of people that they like and respect, not those that try to patronise or bully them into buying something they can’t really afford.