I’ve bought a car before I’ve been to see it. Not actually physically bought it, paid for it or signed anything, but if I’m going to look at a car to purchase, I’ve already decided it’s going to be mine. I’ll turn up with cash and a trailer to take it away immediately.
It’s dangerous territory, being so eager. If you’re like me you’ll know how tricky it is to negotiate while exuding I’ll-take-it vibes with everything you do and say. But what’s even worse is that being too keen makes you blind to any defects. You’ll even be oblivious to signs screaming at you to back away.
A car that had had its number plates stolen the night before. A car where the alarm wouldn’t stop going off and the dealer had no idea how to disarm it. A car where the gear stick came off in my hand, just while I was checking it was in neutral. A car that was being hit by the door of an outside toilet blowing uncontrollably in the wind. A car that’s paint had grown scales because, I assume, it had been close to a fire at some point. A car fitted with four different brands of tyre, none of them any good.
These are all obvious clues that should deter a buyer, yet I am guilty of ignoring every single one of them. And they were all on the same car. A car I actually bought.
I long to be the sort of person who can put aside their passion for cars when trying to buy one. Someone who can take out the emotion and focus purely on the transaction. It’s an incredible skill analysing the details, rationally weighing up whether its worth it or not, and then cooly and calmly bartering away to get a fair price. All while maintaining the perfect poker face, when deep inside they’re excitedly hopping away at the prospect of a new car. Let’s be honest – we all love that feeling.
I know that sort of person exists, because that’s me when I am looking in the classifieds way before I’ve settled on the car I want to go and see. I’ll scourer through ads to find the exact specification I want, then look up its history and comb through the pictures in close detail.
When I am on a car hunt I’m like the tech bloke in a bad detective drama. I’ll spot a hint of a defect, something barely noticeable in a photo. There’ll be some furious typing on the keyboard, the picture will zoom in then I’ll ‘enhance’ it to reveal… a missing screw/a crack in the speaker cover/a knick in the wiring loom, and dismiss that car from my line-up. Or at least that’s how I imagine I look.
Clearly, I didn’t use to be like this. The purchase I explained above demonstrates I haven’t always been so shrewd; many of its issues would have been spotted in pictures without the need of any zoom and enhance. Being burnt by that car changed me. You won’t be surprised to learn that just weeks after I’d taken it home it forcibly ejected one of its spark plug from the head. Yet try as I might, and no matter how calculating I am behind my computer, I just cannot control myself once I’m in front of a car.
My ruthless classifieds technique is my coping mechanism. It’s the thing that stops me spending all, rather than 90 per cent, of my money on cars. It’s what stops me becoming one of those guys who’s owned 60-or-something cars even though they’re only 30. Don’t get me wrong, I long to be one of those serial car buyers, but unless you have space for dozens of motors, you need to be able to sell cars to achieve that. And if there’s anything I am worse at than buying cars, it’s selling them.
But that’s a whole different subject…