Buying a New Car – Why is it so Painful? Part 1

About 3 months ago, I received an email from a salesman at the Lloyds MINI dealership in Newcastle informing me that they had a special offer in place for PCP finance – 2.9% APR interest. This was timely, as I’d been thinking about getting a new car anyway – my 3 door MINI hatchback was too small for my needs and my mother was finding it hard to get in and out of. I therefore had my eyes on a Countryman – the not-so-mini crossover/SUV-sized MINI. After a couple of weekends, I braced myself and went to the dealership, taking my friend Craig with me for moral support.

The first salesman we spoke to couldn’t have been less interested in us & was visibly pleased to be able to pass us off to a colleague (who’d sent me the email). This second salesman was pleasant enough, but we soon established that, despite the email, I had about £3,000 of negative equity in the car. He then went on to say not to worry, I could probably just hand the car back and buy a new one (as allowed under the credit laws after a certain period in an agreement).

I made my equipment specification requirements known in terms of features I wanted (heated windscreen & CarPlay being two key features I wanted) & talked about whether I wanted a custom-built car (wait time of 2 months or so) or a non-registered car from pre-built national stock. As there were a few tweaks to the models built from the following month onwards, including wider implementation of Apple CarPlay, having one built to my specification seemed like a good idea. We then started the rigmarole of working out payments. Or at least his manager did, as there was the charade of the salesman being unable to do any sort of financial work on his own; all quotes had to come from a manager in an office.

The quotes were quite a bit higher than I was willing to spend, added to which there would be an excess mileage payment & potentially damage payments for my exiting hatchback. We went away to think about it and to find out how much it’d cost to hand the car back. There was the promise of a test drive when we returned.

The following Friday, I arranged to work from home and return to the dealership for my test drive. Craig needed a lift to the airport so I hoped I could try out the car. There was however no mention of the 48 hour test drive offer shown on the website. I’d sent through a couple of website-built specifications as a guide to what I wanted.

Having dropped off Craig, we returned to the dealership and the hard-sell started. The two things I’d previously stated I wanted were downplayed or forgotten and the search for a car from stock began. I was offered a car which roughly matched my requirements.

After a 10 minutes or so, I became irritated by the selling rigmarole and couldn’t wait to get out. It was clear that the salesman didn’t really care what I wanted, he just wanted a sale now. The cost was still high and there was no recognition in the price that I was not being offered exactly what I wanted.

On being asked to pay some money to secure the car, I think I must have snapped inside. I told the salesman that I needed to go away and think about it. He suggested I pay the money anyway and then if I changed my mind, I could get the money back. That didn’t sound likely and just made me more annoyed. I said I’d go and think about it and be in touch in a few days. In the event, that was the last time I went there to purchase a car.

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