I imagine being a motor-noter by trade is rather like being the only Doctor at a party - Within 5 minutes you realise your sudden popularity with every other guest is just a pre-amble to a conversation about their latest rash over the vol-au-vents and cheese and pineapple on sticks (From the culinary offerings, you'll have worked out the party I had in mind was set in 1982).
Obviously I’m not suggesting scribbling about cars qualifies me to give you a full examination, not even after a couple of glasses of Asti Spumante - Although so legible only to myself is my spider-like, handwriting, and so broken my classroom Latin, I’d be really epic at prescriptions.
But for some at least, my scribbling about cars for a living seems to have made me a point of reference for all matters automotive. For whenever anyone I know, however loosely is thinking of changing their car, apparently I’m the one to ask. This week for example, in one of the most peculiar approaches to date, I went out to my car one morning to find a note under the wiper reading “You don’t know me, but I’ve got £7k to spend on a 4 wheel drive for the Winter - What’s good?” and then just a mobile number.
I actually don’t mind being approached like this - It’s quite nice to be thought of by others as being good at something, but it has made trying to go to the pub for a quiet meal with Mrs Driven a little precarious. She has to go for the refills as I regularly get kidnapped at the bar by someone "looking for a nice little runaround for the wife" and don’t return to the table until closing.....This also means she has to go up and pay, so not all bad.
To that end, I was listening the other day to an old friend’s experiences shopping for something new. He’s not the kind of chap who needs help choosing from me having had an array of supercars over the years that’d get a classic car auctioneer’s gavel twitching. But what struck me from that conversation was whilst automotive technology continues to move on quicker than a newly divorced Katie Price, the way new cars are sold in dealerships is still stood firmly where it was 20 years ago - Test drive the car. Salesman gets you a coffee, then he goes and sits in “the manager’s office” for 10 minutes. Comes back and offers £500 off the list price but “can’t possibly do a penny more Sir”.
Well, perhaps main dealers haven’t moved on, but thanks to the internet us buyers can be one step ahead of their games.
Before the 'net, at the point the salesman was claiming you’d be taking food from his first-born’s mouth by asking for so much as a free mudflap more, you’d have either signed up and paid your deposit, or walked out and bought a totally different car - You’d already read all the magazines and run it by your friends in the pub so you knew that that Austin Datsun Popular Gear LS was the only car for you - But if you couldn’t get the dealer down to your magic figure, there was always that second choice Yugo Wartburg 1.4, albeit without the optional rear wash/wipe....Because at least it was in budget and had the latest number plate.
Well it doesn’t have to be like that anymore. And in fact for a lot of people it hasn’t been for some time.
There’s an increasing number of online car-brokers claiming they have the absolute best new car prices in the UK - Now, for anyone who remembers Tiswas, Swapshop and a time “penny sweets” cost a penny, you’ll also remember buying your car from a broker not so many years ago meant after 6 months without your new car or most of the money it cost, you’d get a car with about 10% off the UK list price....but with 20% of the standard UK spec missing and a handbook written in Flemish.
Well, all the cars offered on websites such as DriveTheDeal.com and CarWow.com are sourced from UK main dealers only - They simply act as the first point of introduction to whomever offers the best price for the car specced to your requirements - Once you’ve ordered, you deal direct with the dealer you’ve actually paid for the car - Both websites are completely free to use with the dealer paying them a commission for each customer they refer.
As well as dealing direct with a UK main dealer, you can also take advantage of any manufacturer finance offers and you can in some cases even part exchange your car with the dealer if you wish to, although I’d recommend seriously considering other options first, for reasons we’ll deal with in a future episode of Driven.
The savings can be substantial and they’re delivered instantly by email - As an example DriveTheDeal can currently source from a UK Mercedes dealer a C220 diesel estate AMG automatic for £8,300 less than the list price.
You can, as I have done with two of our own cars now, take this new online money saving technology to the next level - Print off the quote for your chosen car and wave it under the nose of the man in the shiny suit at your local dealership who said “can’t” and tell him what he meant to say was “won’t” - If the dealer on the email can sell the same car at that price, so can he, and then some.