• Just Where Are The Best Deals on Wheels?

    When looking to buy a car there is certainly no shortage of choice. The UK has over 4,900 franchised dealers plus many more generalists. Car auctions, internet sites and private ads offer even more options but this still leaves many buyers wondering just where is the best place to get a really good deal.

    For most people, a car is likely to be the second most expensive single item that they will ever buy and so it is important to get it right. There is certainly plenty of choice and if you are looking to buy a used car in the London area, it is possible to find almost every conceivable make and model within a radius of a few miles. The first decision is whether to buy new or second-hand. New car sales are booming, fuelled largely by some of the new methods of financing them such as personal contract plans and leasing as new recruits to the world of motoring consider car ownership very much along the same lines as mobile phone contracts with a continuous monthly charge and regular upgrades being the order of the day. The canny buyer, however, realises that such a throw-away mentality results in some great cars appearing on the second-hand market and it usually means that the first owner has paid dearly for the privilege of new car ownership or lease. A car’s value depends on several things but one of the most predictable is its age and the depreciation curve is invariably steeper in its early days.

    By steering clear of the lure of new cars, a buyer may suddenly realise that his budget will now stretch to a much better specified car. Most car purchases involve the heart more than the head and even our London buyer may fancifully visualise cruising along deserted country roads with the roof down whereas, in reality, a nose-to-tail daily commute is probably much more likely with emission levels and congestion charges figuring highly in any car buying decision.

    There are undoubtedly some great bargains to be found but the risks should not be underestimated. Perhaps the ideal car could be almost new or fairly young, low mileage, well maintained and with a known history. An ex-demonstrator from a franchised dealer or an ex-lease car could probably fit the bill and some of those previously used by disabled people under the Motability leasing scheme can often be exceptionally good but the range of vehicles on offer may be rather limited. Buying ex-fleet vehicles is another option to be considered but some of these may have covered high mileages and a used taxi or minibus is certainly not to be recommended.

    Another interesting idea is to check what vehicles are available from car rental companies such as those offered under the Hertz Rent2Buy scheme. The idea that ex-rental cars have been roughly treated by uncaring drivers is simply not borne out by the facts and there are some real gems to be found. Hertz even allow for an extended test drive in the form of rental for a few days so there should be no unpleasant surprises here!

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  • Valuing Your Car

    Selling Your Car? Here’s How to Get the Best Idea of What It’s Worth.

    If you’re in the market to sell off your old car you have a few different options when it comes to a valuation, even without leaving the comfort of your own home. These vary both in terms of how involved they are, and how precise the results are, so here are your options, and our verdict on which to go with.

    The Old Fashioned Way

    We say old fashioned, but you’d most likely use the internet for this method in this day and age. This is the quick and dirty method to get a very rough idea of what you can expect your wheels to go for.

    It basically entails looking up the prices of other cars of the same or similar make and model that are currently on the market to get a ballpark figure and that’s kind of it. This might be the first method that comes to mind for some people but we honestly can’t recommend it.

    It probably takes more effort than either of the other popular methods, and gives less accurate results, so it really has nothing going for it.
    Of course, there’s also the really old fashioned way—just drive the car to a dealership and ask them how much they’ll give you for it.

    Free Valuation Tools

    There is a wide array of online car valuation tools that are free to use and easy to find — they’re literally the first thing that will come up if you type ‘car valuation’ into a search engine. They’re typically found on car selling sites, but you’re under no obligation to use those sites — you can even use two different tools to double check any figure you get.

    These tools ask for your various details about your car like make, model, mileage, and license plate number and perform a simple search to pull up a reasonable price, but they can’t account for everything so this will always be an approximation.

    HPI Check

    Car valuations are one of the many uses for a car history check. Unlike the other options you’ll have to pay a fee, but the cost is negligible, and the valuation will be based on a much more complete picture of your car, including its service history, optional extras and so forth.

    This means it will be much more accurate, and all the information will be pulled from databases meaning that the input you have to provide is a lot less than the other options on this list. This one is our recommendation if you want to get the best price for your car.

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  • PLYMOUTH SUPERBIRD: THE RICHARD PETTY CONNECTION!

    Our man on the track, Stephen Cox, talks with Richard Petty about his connection to the winged Superbird.

    It has been claimed that Plymouth’s legendary winged ‘70 Superbird was the brainchild of NASCAR champion Richard Petty. The rumor has been around for decades but I’ve never found anyone with first-hand knowledge who could absolutely confirm or deny that the car’s origins truly began with The King of Stock Car Racing.

    But opportunity knocked a couple of weeks ago when Petty was in attendance at the Mecum auction in Kissimmee, FL, which I co-host for NBCSN. I found him relaxing backstage late in the show and hollered, “Hey, King!” Although I don’t know him well, he looked up with his trademark smile and immediately held out his hand.

    I asked him point blank whether he was responsible for the development of the Plymouth Superbird. Petty paused and laid the back of his hand across his brow. “Well, let me get the dates right.”

    “We knew in 1968 that Dodge was building a wing car. So I went to Plymouth and asked if they were gonna build one and they said, ‘No.’ I told them that I’d like them to work on one and they said, ‘No, you’re winning all the races anyway.’”

    True, Petty had been dominant, winning 27 of 49 Grand National races en route to the championship in 1968. Rather than cough up the additional funds to stay current in NASCAR’s burgeoning aero wars, Plymouth was content to let Petty struggle against increasing odds.

    Undeterred, Petty tried another angle. He asked if he could stay within the Chrysler family and simply move over to Dodge and drive the new Charger Daytona winged car for the 1969 season. Plymouth flatly refused.

    “So I said, ‘Either build me a wing car or I’m walking across the street,’” Petty continued. “They said, ‘Sure, go ahead.’ So I did.”

    That same afternoon Richard Petty personally walked into Ford Motor Company’s front office. Ford executives took no risks, signing Petty to a one-year contract on the spot. Petty finished second in the points chase while winning ten races for Ford in 1969. It was enough. He didn’t have to return to Detroit to beg Plymouth for a winged car. This time, they came to him.

    “The head man from Plymouth came walking into my shop,” Petty continued. “He said, ‘What do we need to do to get you back? I said, ‘Give me what I’ve been asking for.’”

    Plymouth pledged to have a new winged car completed for Petty in time for the 1970 NASCAR season. Rather than re-inventing the wheel, they chose to use a modified version of the wildly successful Dodge Charger Daytona platform. Under NASCAR’s homologation rules, a limited number of Superbird street cars were built and sold through Plymouth’s dealership network.

    Behind the wheel of the car built specifically for him, Richard Petty and his Plymouth Superbird won 18 of the 40 races in which they competed in 1970, led nearly half of all laps and won nine pole positions. Despite being produced for only one model year, the road-going version of the Superbird became a legend in the annals of musclecar history.

    Today, a concours-ready Plymouth Superbird will routinely draw bids from $100,000 to $300,000 at auction. They remain among the most collectible musclecars ever built.

    “So there you go,” Petty told me with a smile. “That’s how it happened.”

     

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  • Options for Buying a Used Car

    With new car sales reaching record levels, the used car market is currently awash with vehicles including some real gems but buying a used car is, as it always has been, fraught with danger and great care is needed to avoid the pitfalls. The world it seems is full of used cars and so, after deciding on the make and model, it is time to get down to the serious business of car buying. Some of the car buying options are as follows:

    Buying from a Dealer

    This is the traditional way of car buying that has been around for as long as cars themselves. The main advantages of this method of car purchase are that a reputable dealer will have been able to thoroughly check the condition of the car and remedied any defects. It will also have been subjected to a check regarding any outstanding finance or previous insurance history. Some warranty is almost always available and trade sales are also subject to some legal protection. An added convenience is that a dealer will usually accept a trade-in vehicle and will also probably be able to help arrange with finance if required. The main problem with this type of sale is that the car will invariably be offered at “full book price” which is dictated by the motor trade publications. Most car dealers are completely trustworthy but it is still important to buy only from an established dealer with a good reputation.

    For buyers in the Greater London area there are some new and interesting options in the ‘dealer’ category.  The well known hire company ‘Hertz’ is now selling their used cars in London from several locations and the proposition of buying from such a well known entity comes with obvious trust and quality benefits.

    Buying from a Private Advertisement

    Private car ads can be found all over the place from cards in shop windows to local papers and sites such as Autotrader. The main advantage of buying in this way is that, by cutting out the middle-man, both the buyer and seller can end up getting a better deal but, from the buyer’s point of view, any initial savings can easily be overshadowed by huge costs only coming to light later. Private sales are not covered by the provisions of the Sale of Goods Act and the seller has no responsibility for any future faults or defects. Buyers are also strongly advised to pay for an HPI check in the same way that dealers do. Failure to do so could result in the purchase of a car that had previously suffered accident damage or, in the case of outstanding finance, the car could even be repossessed.

    Buying from the Internet

    Here we are entering dangerous territory. Internet sales sites such as eBay have revolutionised the way that we buy and sell and many second-hand items are identical so a bargain is easy to spot. Unfortunately the same cannot be said about cars. Anyone buying a used car needs to thoroughly inspect it in person, drive it and carry out all of the aforementioned checks regarding its legitimacy. Only then is it possible to determine what a fair price would be. All too often, bids are placed in an eBay auction based on the seller’s description and a few, often not very good, photos. The results of such folly are fairly predictable with many disappointments and uncompleted sales. Some people have managed to find some exceptional bargains in this way but it must be said that this is due more to good luck than good judgement.

    Buying from Car Auctions

    Auctions can be fun and prices can be completely unpredictable. Car auctions have previously been regarded as being strictly for the motor trade often used to dispose of vehicles regarded as being unsuitable for normal retail sale. Some vehicles may have faults and require some repair work attracting buyers capable of carrying out such work. Prices are generally well below the normal forecourt prices meaning that there is often the potential to make a profit on subsequent re-sales. The smart auction buyer will carry out plenty of research about the lots offered in the sale and some auction houses have sales of “end of lease” vehicles including some from the “Motability” scheme. Some such vehicles can be found in “as new” condition with very low mileages and are well worth considering. However, even when buying a very good car at auction, there is very little comeback if things go wrong later. Even when an auction lot is described as coming with a warranty this bears little resemblance to to that offered by a car dealer and will normally only be valid for a period of one hour after the completion of the auction. This gives the purchaser the chance to quickly drive and thoroughly inspect the car before the sale becomes absolute.

    So used car buying is not for the faint hearted. Those with little experience or mechanical aptitude are best sticking with a reputable dealership. The more mechanically minded may prefer to seek out a bargain but whatever buying option is chosen it is always wise to remember the buying mantra Caveat Emptor … Let the buyer beware!

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