Thursday, 24 January 2013

Always look on the bright side of life when you're buying a car

ANYONE remember that scene out of Monty Python's Life of Brian? You know, the one where poor Brian, in his escape from the Romans, is forced to indulge in a spot of haggling with a market trader?

That's what I always reckon buying or selling a car - admittedly, something I haven't done for a while - is like. As the guy in biblical Judea put it, you gotta haggle. Well, at least that's what I told my sister to do on her spot of car buying over Christmas.

Regular readers might recall that on this blog a couple of weeks ago I threw a couple of small car suggestions her way, and reckoned her final choice, Fiat's 500, wasn't a bad shout for someone seeking something practical, cheap to run and stylish enough to tootle around the Scottish towns she frequents. The story should have ended with her proudly clutching the keys to her very own 500 and driving into the sunset, but it didn't.

Her small car of choice was in fact Toyota's Aygo for one simple reason; Fiat's dealers wouldn't play ball and Toyota's would.

My sister strolled into showroom after showroom and, in a time-honoured tradition of car flogging going back further than anyone cares to remember, was keen to indulge in a spot of Life of Brian-esque haggling. I'd told her, in the pep talk I'd given to her earlier, that it's just plain rude for people selling or buying a motor not to indulge in a bit of price banter, but the ones she'd spoken to were having none of it. Not one she visited was prepared to move so much as a pound on the price of the 500 she wanted.

Slightly deflated, she went to Plan B - her second choice, not the rapper - and asked a Toyota showroom of her choice if they'd be prepared to talk turkey over an Aygo. They obliged, and sold her a very nice ex demonstrator in a whiter shade of pale for a whisker under eight grand.

I suppose it's just a reflection of the way we buy and sell cars - whether they're new or secondhand - that I've always thought a deal where someone's not prepared to negotiate is a deal to walk away from. Being able to ask “Can I make you an offer?” and not have someone take immediate offence is one of the most important things in automotive retail. That and asking as many questions as you like about the deal, even if the buyer/seller whinges about your enquiries becoming a sort of Spanish Inquisition.

Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition.

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