General views

Messing About In Cars.

I’ve just noticed there’s a bit of a downbeat theme in the last few blog posts as I’ve discussed my views on the All Blacks new sponsor’s and Social Media. I’ve actually also recently, as in yesterday, deleted my Instagram account. No more money from me for Mark Zuckerberg. So let’s lift the tone a bit.

One of my favourite things to do is shopping for cars. Yes I know, but I don’t do it all the time and I’ve had to buy a few recently, one for my daughter, one for the family, which we changed a couple of times quite quickly, for a couple of reasons. I know a reasonable amount about buying and selling cars as I’ve sold cars for a living a few times and I work in the Automotive trade at the moment in a supplier capacity for my day job. So, I thought I’d share a few anecdotes and tips for those of who you aren’t all over cars and the buying of and living with them.

Firstly, over the last couple of years I’ve kicked an awful lot of tyres while choosing cars for our family. My daughter’s car was easy, a safe, but cool used car for not too much money that was reliable, cheap to run but also cool and classy. I immediately ruled out the ubiquitous Suzuki Swift because everyone else has one. They are as common as flies and I don’t know how people find their own one again when they’ve parked up somewhere. We don’t want a car that everyone else is driving do we? I’m sure it’s a nice little car which goes very well, but there’s simply far too many of them about. I really only had one car in mind and I managed to pick up an excellent deal. A top of the range, four year old Volkswagen Polo with just 10,000kms on the clock in fire engine red. It’s perfect. His name is Jesus for some reason. Apparently girls like to give cars names.

Then came our family car. I have a car for work but it’s got sign writing on it and I used to have to ask permission to take extra long journeys, so we obviously needed another one for my wife to drive to and from work and for our road trips. This car has to do two quite distinct and different jobs. It has to be economical enough to be a daily driver, but also big enough to be comfortable over a couple of thousand kilometres in the space of a couple of weeks. We both wanted an SUV, my wife thought we wanted a ute, but we aren’t really ute people.

So, I went for some test drives. I liked the look of the new Holden Arcadia, this was before we found out that Holden was getting killed off, of course. Here’s my first tip, go for as long a test drive as you can get away with, over as big a range of roads as you can find. We took the Arcadia out for a 200km test. First impressions were that it was powerful with it’s big six cylinder engine, extremely comfortable, roomy with excellent visibility, it also handled well enough. Ticked all the boxes and if we’d just driven it round town it would probably have been a winner. However, we also drove up and down some hills and on rough, typical kiwi, open road surfaces at open road speeds. This car was a demonstrator with just 2000kms on the clock. The level of rattling, rustling, squeaking and thudding, was extraordinary! No car should make so much noise from it’s fixtures and fittings. So back it went.

Then I was thinking about the Toyota Highlander, another large engined, large SUV, I drove one with the 20 inch wheels on and it was terrible, I would describe the cabin noise as ‘booming’. I then went out in one with 18 inch wheels and it was much better. Yes, putting bigger wheels on a car makes the driving experience significantly different. In this case, the optional extra 20 inch tyres made the car undriveable for me. However, I was reliably informed by some male work colleagues, that the Toyota Highlander is ‘your wife’s car’. It seems that in New Zealand, a bloke doesn’t drive a Toyota Highlander, unless he’s out and about in his wife’s car for some reason. No, the blokes drive Fortuners or Land Cruiser’s. Go figure.

We decided to have a look at the new Subaru Forester. I took one for a drive, I almost got car sick with the rocking and rolling in the cabin, and I was driving. It’s like it sits a couple of inches above it’s centre of gravity, so drives like a boat. I hated it.

I’d always coveted a Volkswagen V6 Amarok, but they are too expensive and we aren’t really ute people. We did find one, a 2017 model with just 50,000kms on the clock and took it for a spin. It was as awesome as I had expected. We asked for a quote for finance. The salesman made the rookie mistake so many do, of addressing and emailing me, and not including my wife. So he didn’t get to sell the car to us and I didn’t get a V6 Amarok. Sad face. My wife informed him that he should have included her in his communications with me. Interestingly, he rang me to follow up, a couple of weeks later, I asked him if he had been unable to get hold of my wife, he said he hadn’t tried. I asked him if he hadn’t heard a word she said when she told him she was also one of the buyers? He complained that I was being unreasonable. I know right? No V6 Amarok for us.

I actually also drove a V8 Holden Commodore SSV Redline, which is an iconic car in New Zealand. It was very loud, it frighted the puppy and my wife put her hands over her ears as I showed her how fast it could go. It’s not as fast as it should be and it’s also not particularly comfortable.

We ended up with a car I really liked, a one year old pearl white Subaru Outback, 2.5 Premium. Just 6,000kms on the clock. Largely a fantastic car which we got rid of after about 3 months. The car was brilliant, comfortable, bristling with safety tech and off-road credentials. A legendary car in New Zealand, the Outback is fantastic value for money and it’s a surprise more people don’t buy them. The car even got a name, Lagertha, after the Viking shield maiden, my wife is a big fan of the Vikings tv series. Lagertha has a couple of flaws though. The first was the scarcity of her windscreens due to all the camera’s in the car. When we needed a windscreen replaced, after a stone strike, there was much palaver and only one windscreen in the entire country. Lucky us. Lagertha also has two or three was you can communicate with the tailgate release, you can also program it to only open to a particular point. The thing is, if you hit one of the obscure buttons by accident, you can far too easily cause the boot to neither open, nor close. Lagertha did this when my wife was walking the dog at a favourite woodland too far away from home for me to be able to help. I consulted the internet. The tailgate was locked just a few inches open and wouldn’t budge.

The internet was agreed that the only solution in this instance was to actually remove the battery terminal connections to over rule the cars computer. I thought that must be nonsense, so advised my wife to put the dog in the back seat and make her way to the selling dealer which was between where she was and home. They would know what to do.

Turns out they did, they removed the battery terminal connections, twice. They were instructed to disable the memory feature altogether. Lagertha had to go.

By now, COVID19 is with us and buying and selling cars has got far more complicated because of an array of reasons. You can’t get computer chips to make cars go, factories are closed or the workers are sick, and distanced. Cars aren’t getting made in enough numbers and there aren’t enough sailors or ships to get them where they need to be. Cars are at a premium and there are no deals to be had in buying one because the dealers biggest issue is not enough cars to sell. There are more buyers than cars.

As an aside, Kiwis still think a car dealer prefers a cash buyer. They’ll ask what’s the best price for cash. People actually regularly do that. The best price is if you finance the car, not pay cash. If you finance the car, the dealer makes more money, so they’re more likely to chuck in some toys or be more flexible. Also, dealer finance can be very competitive these days, way less than you might think. Always ask the dealer for a quote from their own finance provider.

Luckily for me, I have good relationships with my car dealers and I also get a staff discount from a Motor vehicle manufacturer. They didn’t make any cars I really wanted though and I already have one of their cars as a company car, I wasn’t keen on having two of them. But I relented as I was able to get 25% off a 4WD SUV, similar to my work car, but newer and in white. This car was called Ghengis, Ghengis Car.

We had no love for Ghengis though, Ghengis had no soul. My wife wanted her car to have character and be her own car. My work circumstances are different and now we can go on long roadies, plus I’ve got a flash new company car. So we opted to use my work car as the family car and put my wife back in her own small daily driver for bombing about in. Gareth joined the family. Gareth was one year old, in a cool green colour, a 1.6 SKODA Fabia Sport. Gareth has really cool sporty features and sips fuel while being sporty and green.

The next car comes when we next sell the house I reckon. A bucket list car, for epic roadies. I can’t wait to go car shopping again. My wife can.

We won’t be buying an electric car until we’ve got no choice, primarily because they are so very soulless to drive. It’s like driving a computer, in silence. They’re an awful way to get around and I don’t want to ever have to own one.

Finally, top tip on getting the best deal if you want to buy a brand new car. Obviously this is somewhat variable at the moment given the limitations forced upon us by COVID. However, here’s what you do.

Towards the end of the year, from about October on, Franchise dealers start to get a bit sweaty about the stock they or their parent distributors own but haven’t got rid of yet. They’ve hopefully got a few sheds full of cars they need to shift before the overseas distributors will send them next years models. I’m talking in general terms, but European cars are most prone to having surplus stock late in the year. So what you do, is choose your preferred mode of transport in general terms, being flexible. Then no matter how many times you’ve visited, test driven, confirmed stock availability in the previous few days, visit the appropriate dealer, on the last day of the month mid morning. Be ready to sign a deal, on a vehicle you already know is somewhere in New Zealand, if not in the actual dealership. The reason the timing is important is because once you’ve signed the deal, the dealer needs to be able to get a number plate for it to count as a unit sale. That needs to happen before the number plate supplier shuts for the day. On the last day of the month, the unit sale becomes far more important than profit on the car for the dealerships unit sales targets they are set by their distributor parent.

Alternatively buy vehicles on ‘run out’ special pricing, which is when a vehicle’s current model is about to be superseded by a newer one. If you’re not so concerned about having the latest model of something. Dealers are always keen to unload the old stock to make way for the newer models.

Finally, always ask for a Mechanical Breakdown Warranty if you’re buying a car that has an expired manufacturers warranty. All reputable dealers will be able to supply you with a warranty if the car qualifies.

You’re welcome.

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