Here's how not to buy a secondhand car - we broke all the rules
Buying privately: A case study
We broke almost every single rule about buying a secondhand car.
Someone needed a set of wheels in a hurry.
Lots of trawling sites and consulting ultimately narrowed the focus to a nice-looking 10-year-old Volvo V50.
Due to circumstances and schedules, we couldn't get to see it until after 7.30pm.
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The seller was straightforward and frank. I could see him looking at the new BMW 3-series Touring I was testing for next Saturday's Review column in the Irish Independent. I wouldn't blame him for thinking strange thoughts.
As soon as I could, I told him in no uncertain terms we'd look at it but our potential buyer, or someone on his behalf, would need to see it in daylight. He agreed: the first rule is buy in daylight.
So we chatted. I let on I knew what I was doing, lifting the boot cover (space-saver spare wheel), raising the bonnet and staring into the equivalent of a dark, shadowy abyss, looking at the wear on the pedals, sitting in and generally foostering while seller and potential buyer and wife had a good ould chat - only half of it had to do with the car.
After a while our would-be buyer drove it. His wife and I sat in the back.
Both really liked the car and said so a few times. I tried to shush them. How not to show your hand eh?
Slowly we built up a profile of the car. It had been involved in a crash six months after being bought from new.
It cost €10,000 to leave it in what to me looked to be excellent condition.
But it was dark night. How could I know?
As far as I could see there was no uneven tyre wear to suggest a problem with body alignment. But it was dark.
The service history was available; regular as clockwork we were told.
It looked a well-kept car with leather seating and some decent spec.
The 1.6-litre diesel had nearly 100,000km up. The asking price was €5,000.
On we drove. They both liked it. And said so. Again.
But no, the timing belt hadn't been changed. It would need to be soon.
The NCT is due early next year too. They had only recently fitted a new clutch but the seller admitted it would need brake pads soon as well as the timing belt and water pump.
That's a lot of money I said, warming to the prospect of knocking off a good few hundred euro.
He agreed there was money to be spent. His rock bottom price? €4,000.
We said we'd think about it, get someone to have a look in daylight and bade him farewell.
Nothing would do my buyer but seal the deal almost as soon as we got back.
Why? He instinctively trusted the seller.
I did too but that's not the point; indeed it's a danger - buyer beware always.
Please do the opposite of much of what I've just outlined if you're buying.
Fingers crossed for the Volvo.