Apparently, motorists would change their cars more often if the process was easier. When my Toyota Corolla Verso began to become increasingly expensive to keep on the road (not surprising since it had been my trusty road-going companion for 190k miles and almost 10 years), it was time to buy a new car.
And so I was also able to put everything I had written about for a number of years to the test and hold up for scrutiny those industry insights gathered from writing for AM for several years as well as helping the magazine collate content and approach speakers for its series of conferences.
Ok, so I have an unfair advantage, after years of working in and writing about the industry, I know finance options inside out, I understand products like Gap as well as most sales execs and I tapped up some former colleagues in the Toyota network to help me out. I knew exactly what I wanted (Auris Touring Sport or Rav 4) and roughly how much I wanted to spend per month so it was hardly going to be a daunting or intimidating experience.
I wasn’t one of the 50-odd percent who turn up unannounced, I had made my appointment with my former colleague David Hunt and I pitched up two days after Christmas. I knew it would be quiet and I needed delivery asap in January, before my daughter returns to uni with her car which I had been using for the past week after the latest repair demanded by my aging vehicle confined it to the driveway.
However, prior to my visit, I did try out Carwow, the website which puts car buyers in touch with a number of dealers who bid for your custom. In reality, the deals are all fairly similar, in fact, the deals I was offered were on a par with those from my former colleagues. Carwow says it offers a new way for consumers to buy their next car, putting the car buyer in the driving seat and prides itself on placing customer care at the heart of the transaction. Through Carwow, I was contacted by Nas Khan at Aylesbury Toyota dealer Steven Eagell. If his prompt, informative and courteous email responses are anything to go by, I would recommend him to anyone looking to buy a Toyota in the Bucks area.
But what of the experience itself? I worked at the same company as David some 10 years ago and his opening gambit was ‘you haven’t changed’ to which my partner guffawed under his breath ‘he just wants to sell you a car’.
One of the criticisms of the modern car buying experience is that sales execs sit customers down at a desk and spend hours going through the details and boring customers to tears with finance offers and other point of sale products rather than getting them in the car and letting the car do the talking. I was behind the wheel of the car after a cappuccino and a quick catch up on the kids and people we both know. We even had the option to take the car out on our own but as I had already made up my mind, it wasn’t necessary. As for sorting out the finance, it was a really quick process and nothing like the mortgage application we had endured six months earlier.
The entire sales process including a relatively leisurely test drive took less than two hours.
Perhaps, it is down to us in the industry to better communicate that buying a car is a very easy experience and whilst agreeing to a finance plan for a piece of metal to the tune of £20k may not rank as the most pleasurable way to spend my time, it wasn’t the arduous or teeth pulling experience that perhaps motorists believe it to be, it was actually rather enjoyable.