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4:23pm on Sunday, 22nd February, 2015:

Motor Buying


It's my younger daughter's 21st birthday next month, and she's planning on getting a car. I believe that she and my wife have come to some arrangement over how much she has to pay towards it and how much we're paying towards it, but no-one has mentioned it to me so I guess it's something I'm just supposed to know.

Anyway, because of this we spent half of yesterday driving around Colchester looking at second-hand cars. There seem to be three sources:
1) Private sellers. These are the least expensive but you don't have much choice and you can't sue them for millions if they sell you a dud.
2) Second-hand car dealers. These are small businesses that pay tax and stuff. The prices are higher and the choice isn't much better, but you have a better chance of getting something that will work and of pursuing them through the courts if it doesn't.
3) Main dealerships. These sell new cars as well as second-hand ones of the same make. They have a wide choice, the vehicles are all sound and you know exactly what you're getting: ripped off.

It looks as if the main dealerships are too expensive for what you get. Their cheapest cars start at £4,000, and although they probably have some barter-room in there I doubt they'd drop to the £3,000 ceiling my daughter is operating under. We saw some possible candidates at second-hand dealers, but they tended to have crazy mileage. Also, alarm bells ring when a dealer says that they know a car is sound because they gave it its MOT test personally the day before.

Private sales look to be the way to go if you want a car which hasn't done enough miles to drive round the equator twice. You get the fun of trying to decode newspaper small-ads, too. People ought to be putting their veicles on the market around now so they can buy new-registration vehicles next month, which should keep the price suppressed. However, you don't know what's going to come up for sale so it's a bit hit and miss as to what's available. Also, it's probably wise to get the car looked over by a professional before buying, which adds to the cost. All this is irrelevant anyway if the seller won't pick up the phone when you call them...

There is the Internet, of course. There are plenty of cars on offer there, but they still seem to fit the above categories. Some of the second-hand dealers have vehicles on offer that are rather too good to be true, though; I suspect that they're bait, and that if you show up to look at them they'll have been taken "but while you're here, why not look at these other vehicles I have for sale?".

We didn't find anything suitable, so will have to do this all over again next weekend. Apart from the price and mileage considerations, my daughter has managed to narrow her search down to "not in a colour I don't like" and "not a Ford Ka", which is actually quite stringent given the range of colours she doesn't like.

It was so much easier with my elder daughter. For her 21st, she wanted a flute.

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