Car Shopping

Travels from Overend Ford FocusAt the start of the month I wrote about my beloved Ford Focus and how it was time for me to part ways with it. I waved goodbye to it on Friday 10th March as it left my life, quite unceremoniously, on the back of a flatbed on its way to the scrapyard. I got a whopping £68 for it which, believe it or not, was £50 more than one offer I’d been given!

I’d made the decision to take my time buying a new(ish) car and use the Lotus to get around in the meantime. On Monday 12th March, the Lotus broke down (lots of trouble…). The starter motor had seized and it is still sat in the garage waiting for me to replace it. This gave me a dilemma. In the space of a weekend I had gone from two cars to none. Getting the bus to work wasn’t really an option as I would need to get three of them every morning and it would be a ninety minute commute. My only alternative was to cycle to work.

Now this was achievable. I had cycled the ten miles to work a few times in the past and the route went through Newcastle, Gateshead and Birtley and passed many landmarks such as The Sage, the Tyne Bridge and The Angel of the North along the way. I was optimistic. ‘The exercise will do me good’ I told myself. By the third day however, I decided that I needed to get a car.

I trawled the internet to see what was available. Mondeos and Octavias were attracting my attention and I found a few for sale locally, so I decided to go and try some. First up was a 2016 Ford Mondeo Titanium with very few miles on the clock. The dealer gave me a rundown on its countless features, including the whole keyless entry thing. My partner and I took it out for a spin and it was a very good car until the battery cut out. We’d stopped in a layby to change drivers and it wouldn’t start again. The dealer told us not to worry as he had packed a jump-pack and he would get the car going again in no time at all. It was in the boot; which wouldn’t open.

As the car had died, it turned out that the keyless entry for the boot had given up too as there was no power for it to work. As a result, the dealer had to enter the boot via the back seats to retrieve his equipment. Shortly after, we were on our way again. “It’s because it’s been sat in the forecourt for a few days” he told us, “the battery just needed a charge. It’s nothing to worry about.” I wasn’t convinced. We decided not to go for it and went to look at another Mondeo in Gateshead.

We spoke to the dealer to get some information on finance options. After a few minutes, I wish I’d never asked as finance deals are the most boring thing about car shopping. As he waffled on about ‘excellent APR’ and ‘optional extras’, I got distracted by a tattoo I had noticed on the inside of his index finger. ‘Is that a tattoo of a moustache?’ I asked myself. ‘It is. Why has he got a tattoo of a moustache on his finger?’ I had a flashback to my university days where people used to draw moustaches on their fingers and hold it above their lip to pretend they had, believe it or not, a moustache. ‘Surely that’s not why he got that tattoo?’

The dealer kept chatting but now all I could focus on was his little black finger moustache. I made some eye contact and tried to look interested. ‘He has a real moustache on his face!’ I thought, ‘why does he need one tattooed on his finger?’ By now I had lost any respect I had had for this salesman so I told him that I wasn’t sure if his finance package was suitable for me. He went to talk to his manager to ‘see what he could do’ and we left shortly after without a new car.

The following week, I secured a loan from the bank and went car shopping once again. I trialled a lovely Skoda Octavia – it was white and had a DAB radio and a CD player. I couldn’t fault it and the only issue we had during the test drive was when the salesman performed an emergency stop at a roundabout he had forgotten was there. At least we knew the brakes worked.

Travels from Overend Skoda OctaviaFinally, we went to test drive another Mondeo. The car had a few dents in the doors, but the dealer told me that they would be getting those sorted that week. Again, I couldn’t find any faults with the Mondeo so decided to enquire a bit more about the price.

“If I said you could buy that today for £10,000, would you be interested?” he asked me. I told him I would be. We took a seat and he went to have a word with his boss to ‘see what he could do’. They went to look at the car and started to point at the dents. There was a bit of chin rubbing going on and after making us wait for what seemed like an eternity, he came back and made me a counter offer.

“I can let you have it for £10,300” he said, “is that a good deal?” I told him not really as he had put the number £10,000 in my head. “Because it needs some work doing on it, I can’t let it go for any less.” I looked at him and kept quiet. “We would be losing money on it at £10,000” he went on. ‘What a load of rubbish’ I thought, but let him continue.

“£10,300 is a good price for that car, that’s a cheap car” he went on. “If I left that out in the forecourt now, someone would snap that up.” Again, I had my doubts seeing as the doors were full of dents. I told him that my budget was £10,000 and that I would go away and think about it as we had a few more Skodas to look at.

“The previous owner was a sergeant major, that car has been well looked after. Plus, the 2.0 litre diesel has much more power that the Skodas you’ll be looking at” At this point, I decided that I couldn’t put up with his terrible sales tactics any longer and made my excuses to leave. I’ve met a few sergeant majors in my time and none of them were bothered about what state they left their cars in; that’s why their cars come complete with dents.

As we left, my partner asked me worryingly “we’re not going to look at another car are we?”

“Nah”, I replied, “that was a lie.”

In the end, I bought the white Skoda Octavia. It’s a great car with a huge boot (and DAB radio). I love it.

The Lotus on the other hand is still waiting to be fixed. It is testing my patience.

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