Friday, 15 November 2013

WHY is buying a car so hard?

Damaged car
So I've just been through the car purchasing process and am moved to ask WHY is buying a car so damn hard?

I might be coming a little late to this pain as I didn't really have this problem in New Zealand. My lovely brother is a mechanic and he was very helpful with car buying. He looked over cars we were interested in and sometimes even just presented me with a car and saying 'buy that one' (which I did and it was great).

Moving to the UK a couple of years ago, I needed a car urgently for work. I bought one off a mechanic recommended by a friend. I felt a bit ripped off as I paid at least 400 pounds too much for an old car with high mileage, absolutely no mod-cons and a leak that dumped cups of water onto the front footwells. However, I begin to think that I got off lightly. At least that car was mechanically sound and did me 20,000 miles of reasonably trouble-free driving (except for the time that the engine exploded in the fast lane of the motorway... and the leaks that led to it fogging up so badly I had to drive with a squeegee in my hand).

Anyway, we thought it was time to get a safer, comfier car for winter driving on my a long commute. We saved up and started looking around online. On Saturday we looked at a rubbishy one in Wales from a private seller then just had time to get to a car dealer a bit further away before they closed for the day. We managed to look at the car but not test drive it as they said that they needed a staff member to go in the car and there was only one guy on. Great! We had a good look around the car and all the signs were propitious. We arranged to come back the on Sunday for a test drive. By the way, it was over an hour's drive and we had to pay the not particularly cheap bridge toll each time. AND it was howling a gale by the time we drove back.

It was still cold and stormy the next day when we headed back and managed to test drive the car (without a staff member in the car, fancy that! I think he just couldn't be bothered on Saturday. Or he was testing how committed we were...).

During the test drive there was a knocking sound in first gear but we thought (hoped) that might be from a loose inner wheel cover thingy. We were told the car was 'Category D' but didn't really know what that meant.  The dealer said he didn't know what was wrong with the car that it had been written off by the insurance company. We had a thorough look around and couldn't see any damage. We tried to negotiate on price and suddenly, the friendly nice car dealer turned on an instant! Not a jot was coming off the price!

We discussed it for a while and finally decided to buy the car. We put down a deposit and hurried out of the cold rain into a cafe to warm up.

Of course when I got home and started searching 'Category D' my heart sank. We debated for a couple of days whether to pull out, try to get a mechanical check and pull out if it was no good or to just go through with it. We decided to go through with it.

We had another drive over the bridge and through the rain into Wales to pick it up later that week. (Don't tell anyone I said this, but I think it always rains in Wales.) Anyway, the car seemed okay except for the rattling in first gear.

In order to find out what the 'Category D' issues were, I booked it into the mechanic as soon as I could for a thorough check over. A few hours after I dropped it off I got the phone call from the mechanic. He asked how recently I'd bought it then bluntly said, "Take it back". I explained that I'd foolishly bought it as a written off car so I couldn't take it back. Besides, on paper it was a great car and car buying is so goddamn awful I didn't want to go through it again!

Basically the car had been in a reasonably big collision hitting the front driver's side area. The driver's side front wheel was inches back from where it should be, the whole engine had been pushed back and the shock absorber was busted. Lots of money later, my new car is more or less sound and safe to drive.

Here's hoping I get to drive it for quite a while so I don't have to go through the hell of buying a new car anytime soon!

So, I've learned that it's essential to get a mechanical check BEFORE committing to buy the car! Have you got any tips or horror stories to share?


  1. Once I bought a car and realized 2 days later that it made my back hurt and when I brought it back to the dealer they told me that just driving it off the lot lessened the value considerably:(


    Learned my lesson.

  2. But what's the lesson? How can you avoid buying a car that makes your back hurt? (I'd really like to know as I was getting pretty achy driving my old car for 80 miles twice a day several times a week.)


I get really excited when I shout into the void and the void says "hello" back at me. Thanks for your comments!