Peter Galilee

Do you trust a sec­ond­hand car dealer?

LRO (UK) - - Contents -

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’

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