Do you trust a secondhand car dealer?
Is the lack of trust in secondhand car dealers down to dealers themselves or is there more to these sweeping statements than meets the eye, asks a sceptical Peter
Secondhand car dealers least trusted of 13 industry sectors, screamed the headlines. Less trusted, even, than estate agents. Mmm… A few years ago my partner Jenny and
I were looking at a used car. The salesman claimed: ‘It’s like buying a Rolls-royce for Ford money.’ Yes, those actual words! Immediately, we left. What the car was like I never did find out, but we wouldn’t trust anything offered by that particular salesman.
If you shop in the wrong place, the inevitable is going to happen. But surely, it just isn’t reasonable to castigate all secondhand car dealers? A lot of buyers know nothing about vehicles and don’t want to know anything. These are the people who never change the brake fluid and then complain when their brake cylinders fail. They won’t appreciate it if they’re offered a really good vehicle, instead only grumbling that it’s more expensive than some other apparently similar vehicle they’ve seen. Whatever they’re offered, they always want a big discount.
Well, if there’s a market for something, someone will turn up to supply it. Thus, if there’s a market for unreasonably cheap cars, there will be dealers who will sell unreasonably cheap cars. Of course, there’s a reason why they’re cheap, but uncaring buyers are blinkered to that logic until they’ve bought the car and end up being disappointed. Then, of course, they grumble and complain about car dealers, and that hits the headlines as ‘all secondhand car dealers’. Not fair.
What I’ve written above more or less takes care of secondhand-car-like Land Rover products – Discos, Range Rovers, Freelanders – that appear on forecourts with other makes. Where they appear at Land Rover independents, one would hope for better service. As for Defenders, they can have a hard life and need a good really checking-over. Bring a knowledgeable friend, because two pairs of eyes are better than one.
Signs of reassurance
For myself, what I like to see is a well-used workshop (the opposite situation would be a business that’s nearly all forecourt, with a little corner where a few tools and a handful of aerosols are kept – not so good). There’ll be a vehicle lift or a ramp so you can get a good look at the underside. And if there’s a workshop, the place you’re buying from will be familiar with typical trouble spots, and can point out that they’re not a problem on the vehicle you’re buying. Of course, you’ll have spent the previous evening putting something like ‘Defender Td5 problem’ into Google, so you’ll have a good idea what to expect. And if there’s a busy workshop, fixing Land Rovers, you can be sure they know all the things that can go wrong, therefore they’re unlikely to have bought a really nasty one for resale.
I always prefer to speak to someone who’s directly involved with the vehicles. Perhaps he’s doing up a Series I in his spare time, or is in the workshop, or is ordering spare parts. In other words, someone who knows what they’re talking about, with a long track record in Land Rovers. Such people are often busy, but even so you should be able to recognise an enthusiasm, a depth of knowledge and someone who knows their subject inside out.
And then there’s the current obsession with older stuff – Series Land Rovers and firstgeneration Range Rovers. As already said: if there’s a market for something, someone will turn up to supply it. Now that you can put a £30,000 sticker on an 80-inch Series I or a Range Rover Classic and forecourt it in the expectation of making a decent profit, they’re turning up at places that used to sell only prestige and classic sports cars. Nearly always, you can bet that such a business won’t know much about them. In the case of classic Land Rovers and Range Rovers, you really need to be careful because if they’re not right, they can cost surprising amounts to fix. And if you’re looking for period-correct specification, better be aware that few are really as-built. The same applies here: best to buy from someone who has a long track record of dealing with these oldies, maybe back as far as when they were just secondhand vehicles.
You get what you pay for
So, to get past the screaming headlines, telling us that used car dealers are the least trusted, I tend to think that statement is too simplistic. A vehicle is a complicated thing, nothing lasts for ever, stuff will go wrong sooner or later, and that’s just normal. Land Rovers and Range Rovers can endure hard lives, so it’s not unreasonable to expect bits of them to break or wear out over time.
For the rest, I reckon most of the problems come from those car buyers who are happy to hand over a big chunk of cash for something they haven’t checked over properly, or who buy from places who, as I mentioned at the start of this, want to sell you something at Rolls-royce value for Ford money. Or Range Rover value for Nissan money.
‘The salesman claimed: “It’s like buying a Rolls-royce for Ford money.” Those actual words! Immediately, we left’