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British Economic Development Explained:

23 Apr

To my many faithful readers who live in all parts of this wonderful planet and who occasionally lie awake thinking:

“I’ve had such a great day…but I simply cannot get to sleep because I am not sure how the British economy actually manages to operate in the 21st century”.

Here is a picture of a British pub. it acts as the perfect metaphor to explain:

007englishpub

Key to picture:

Let us imagine that this pub is the ‘British Economy’

The chimney at the top centre and the building below and to the left of it is the basic British Economy.

It was designed and built by many clever people. One day, while on his way in to work, one of the builders found an old wooden ship and thought some of the wood might come in useful. The architect fired him once he saw the result but the accountants gave the builder his job back and promoted him to Chief  Builder In Residence.

It was decided that the economy must expand because the population had increased. The architect designed a large extension with six floors and a spire on top to fit on to the right hand end of the existing pub/British Economy. Work started immediately.One day, while on his way in to work, the builder found an old fireplace complete with chimney stack and thought it might come in useful. The architect fired him once he saw the result but the accountants fired the architect instead and got a new one. They kept hold of the Chief Builder In Residence.

The new architect cancelled the idea of the seven floors and went for just two, with a nice sloping roof made of the finest slate. The accountants were delighted with him but said they had heard rumours that the second floor was a bit dark inside and could a window be put into the nice sloping roof?

The new architect had a word with the Chief Builder In Residence. They both got on very well. They both shared the suspicion that you only survived if you kept the accountants happy and read the contract closely. One day, while on his way in to work, the builder found an old window and thought it might come in useful.

The accountants were delighted. However, they asked the architect if perhaps a second window could be put in as well because the first one, though excellent in many respects, was attracting ridicule?

The architect asked the builder and the builder refused. He pointed out that he had met his contractual obligation since there had never been any mention of multiple windows to him before. The architect explained this to the accountants.

The accountants fired the new architect for negligence and had a meeting with the Chief Builder In Residence. They explained that many more windows and a bigger building were needed because the economy was still expanding. They reminded him that he had been doing very nicely out of this project and they expected him to come up with a solution, especially since all the architects seemed so useless.

The Chief Builder In Residence suggested building a second wing, coming out from the new extension at a right-angle, on two floors.

The accountants laughed and explained that this would be far too expensive. How about just one floor? The Chief Builder In Residence explained that if they only built a single story extension, then the first floor window on the existing building would have its view blocked by the pitched roof of the new extension and also the guttering would be a nightmare to maintain after the first year.

The accountants smiled and reminded him that, as a builder, it was none of his business how the maintenance costs worked out after the building was completed. The Chief Builder In Residence told them he had just about had enough of their smug attitude and they could stick their extension up their inkwells. He had decided to become an electrician, instead. There was more money in being an electrician.

The accountants made a quick drawing of what they wanted and then found a new builder. The new builder built the new single story extension exactly as they wished. The accountants were very pleased. They promoted him to Associate Builder Designate.

As a token of thanks, the new builder told them he’d include a pretty little security camera disguised as a lamp and install it for free on the side of the old, original building. He’d also create a landscaped garden at the front and build a monument in honour of the accountants.

The accountants were delighted.

The Associate Builder Designate installed the cute little security camera disguised as a lamp and went home to bed. When he came back in the morning, somebody had stolen the security camera. He bought another and put it up so that the accountants would not be disappointed. That also disappeared the following night. In desperation he contacted a local electrician to help him sort out the problem.

The electrician visited and suggested mounting a second security lamp just above the little cutesy security camera and said he happened to have one in the back of the van that he had found on his way to work and thought it might come in useful. The Associate Builder Designate was delighted and begged the electrician to start immediately and then send him the bill when he was finished.

The electrician smiled and began to work. Within four minutes he had finished installing a security lamp above the security camera on the side of the original building and so he presented his bill to the Associate Builder Designate.

The Associate Builder Designate was horrified. He explained that the electrician had charged him almost as much for four minutes work as he – the Associate Builder Designate –  earned in a month. The electrician smiled. He asked the Associate Builder Designate what other work he had to do to fulfill his contract to the accountants. The Associate Builder Designate wiped his eyes and explained that he had promised to create a landscaped garden.

All of which brings us to that hanging basket of flowers…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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BMW(UK) Car Warranties latest explanation. Doesn’t.

4 May

In black and white…?

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has just emailed me to pass on their conclusion into my query that BMW (UK) Ltd were offering only “dealer” warranties instead of “manufacturer’s” warranties with new BMWs. 

I’ll let you read their  own words:

 

Date 1 May 2012 Email enquiries@oft.gov.uk
Dear Mr ******
BMW car warranties
I refer to our correspondence regarding the question you asked in your email of 23
February to the Office of Fair Trading (OFT), as to the car manufacturer’s responsibilities
with regard to BMW dealer warranties.
You had pointed out, that according to its website BMW did not appear to provide a
manufacturer warranty, but referred instead to a Three Year Unlimited Mileage Dealer
Warranty.
We discussed your concerns with Motor Codes, a self-regulatory body for the UK motor
industry which offers advice to consumers on a range of issues, including those relating to
warranties.
Although it is termed a three year dealer warranty by BMW (UK), we understand that it is
comprised of a two year manufacturer warranty and a one year dealer warranty which
may otherwise be referred to as a UK warranty.

However, all claims within the three year warranty period will effectively go through
BMW, as BMW (UK) will back those three years of cover.

I hope this satisfactorily answers your question.

Okay, if I was confused before, I am slack-jawed now.

So…a  BMW three year Dealer warranty is actually a two year BMW Manufacturer warranty…almost a three year Manufacturer’s warranty, with that third year being added as a totally Dealer warranty…except it is overseen by the Manufacturer…as if it was a ‘three year Manufacturer’s Warranty’.

Is it just me…?

What do you think that the letter is saying?

Is there not something really confusing about the basic ‘legal definitions’ stuff here…?

I’ve got that certain  Nurburgringing in my ears…

Car Auctions: Meeting that certain “someone”.

9 Apr

“Are you loaned some, tonight?” – Elvis Presley.  “What the world needs now is love, sweet love” – Tupak Shakur.  “Chillin’ by the fire while we are eating fondue” – Justin Bieber.

Which of these lyrics were actually sung by the artist? If you are over 25, you will instinctively know the dreadful truth.

Justin Bieber is lacking the knowledge that fondue sets come with built-in heaters. Fondue is molten cheese, ferrchrissakes. He will need to find a woman who is madder than a box of frogs to join him in eating that stuff in front of a fire. As a good way to ‘chill’, it compares only to ordering delivery of  a Vindaloo curry while you sit in a broken down truck in the Syrian desert, wearing a Shetland wool pullover.  Special knowledge is valuable.

Okay, tonight is the night I conclude this mini-series examining whether car auctions are the “Night Clubs for the over-25s” .

“Hang on…” I hear you say, “So far, this series of posts has been just a pile of disjointed rhetoric, short on worthwhile facts and reeking of bitterness.”

This is why I love you so much. You are smart, intelligent, good-looking and yet you still  hang around here. Trust me – I shall tie all the threads together and you shall be witness to some genuinely valuable truths. I shall repay your trust. I’ll even include pictures of a cat, some slurp-inducing food I cooked and also, a Surrey Policeman caught in the act of not being “institutionally racist”. (actually, that one might be difficult to get hold of)

Just imagine for a moment that you are a Party-Planner to the celebrity ‘A’ – list top names. Your reputation is so high that even Madonna says “please” in a begging whine when she phones you and wants to book you. You are the Goddess or God of Uber-cool. You cannot even remember the last time that a car door wasn’t opened ahead of you before you had to reach for the door handle yourself.

Airlines always find a ‘special channel’ that you can walk through at Customs and Immigration so that you never have to put your shoes in a plastic tray while total strangers scan your heels for the tell-tale signs of dry skin.The in-flight hospitality caters for your preference for a stone-crushed basil dressing on your hand-knitted fresh egg pasta, brought directly to you this morning from North Dakota via Jet Blue in chilled stainless steel panniers.

Okay. Now consider that you actually need to work damn hard to pay your bills. You hate to waste your money. You seek the best value from it. Life is uncertain. You need the best advice. Information is only valuable if it is not common knowledge. Just like that top Party Planner uses their contacts and special knowledge to help other people spend their  money on a good party, you have to do the same to save your money on a good car.

Below are some facts and figures that may be interesting to you.  Over the previous posts, I have been trying to get you to feel comfortable about buying a car at an auction. Car auctions are coming of age.  Like Google and YouTube before them, they are moving in from the sidelines of our lives and walking into the centre of the playing field. They are not just taking over the industry, they are about to engulf it and forever re-shape it. Look at the comparisons below for a ‘time-line comparison:

February 2004 Facebook was launched.

January 2009 Facebook was ranked as having the most users of any social networking site in the world.

January 2012 Facebook peaked in market value as the world’s most-used social website, less than 8 years after its inception.

In other words, within short 8 years, a brand new means of mass communication previously unknown to the world had risen to become a household name and a ‘normal’ means of communication.

Well, in the next five years, car auctions may well become the way that we all buy our cars. Dealers will simply handle servicing and delivery and sales of new cars. Auctions have been lurking in the background for decades. Serving the motor trade forecourts, they have quietly shifted cars back and forth, providing the dealers with the cars that they will sell on to you. Now, they’re removing the pretense. They are selling any car to anyone who turns up on the day. You do not have to be a dealer.

Now, data systems, particularly internet-based, have allowed the big car auction houses to monitor the service history and ownership and insurance details of cars that are leased or have hire-purchase or loans attached to them. That is a whole lot of cars. In the end, there is a high chance that these cars will turn up to the auction house. Some turn up several times throughout their life, as they pass from dealer to customer to dealer again.

America’s Mannheim Auctions are offering over 130,000 cars for sale across U.S. sites this week alone. They handled an average of one million vehicles each month throughout 2010 across all their world sites. Around six million cars are sold each year through them in the  U.S. and despite their ‘traders only’ image, they are actually quite willing to serve private buyers. They just don’t shout about it.

BCA, Europe’s largest “re-marketing” and auction company is offering over 12,000 cars this week. Proportionately smaller but fast growing outlets across the whole of Continental Europe, BCA make no secret of their willingness to serve anyone who has a credit or debit card. You are most welcome.

Now, look at this link to the Wall Street Journal. The latest figures for new car sales in America. To save your head spinning with all the detailed figures, I will provide you with a simple synopsis:

Large American-made luxury cars are dead in the water, with luxury SUV’s following them into the surf, along with imported Japanese light trucks. Small and medium sized cars are keeping strong sales but mid-range imported cars are wobbling as America’s home-grown manufacturers slash prices and offer tasty incentives. Manufacturing output is largely stable, even though fuel prices are going up through the ceiling again.

The picture is broadly repeated for Western Europe. New car output total volume is still robust and sales incentives are keen but deceptive – dealers are wherever possible adding extras instead of cutting prices. So, despite the fact that we ordinary people  have less money to spend, manufacturers are pumping out new cars. This is leading to over-supply.

And quietly, in the background, Mannheim and BCA are selling off all those manufacturer’s two, three and four year old cars at whatever they can get. The auction houses do not care what the actual price is – they earn their money by simply selling and getting the commission. The actual selling price is less of an issue to them. They don’t have many skilled staff, they don’t run production lines, don’t have factories or dealerships and they hardly spend at all on advertising. They simply find buyers for second-hand cars. They have acres and acres of those second-hand cars parked up, with more arriving by the hour. They cannot move for second-hand cars. Do I make myself clear? There is a strong case to argue that new car prices are being unrealistically propped up and that new cars are over-priced.

Auction houses particularly welcome private buyers because they make extra money from them. A private buyer will normally buy at a slightly higher price than a dealer and doesn’t qualify for the dealer’s discount for buying multiple vehicles.

So, with your new found confidence in strolling in to auction houses, it shouldn’t be too hard. You have learned how to ‘squint’ at paintwork, how to steal all the tips off dealers by watching them check over a car for you. You have learned that all the action at an auction really takes place out in the yard, where you can check over ‘your’ car to your heart’s content just so long as you have a keen eye.

You have learned to check your prices and exact specification in the press and online in advance and then compare that to the written description posted on the car’s windscreen. You have learned that you must be there when the car is started up to check for smoke and to pop your head under the bonnet.

What are you looking for? You are looking for the tell-tale signs of things having been disturbed: if someone has just put a new exhaust manifold on because the cylinder head has been removed or replaced, then their spanners will have left shiny marks on the bolts and nuts that secure everything in place. These are very hard to hide. Cross-head screws will glint silver in their centers, where the screw-driver chewed them. If the car has just had a new radiator, the radiator will look new but also the spanner marks will show on the bolts that hold it to the car. If everything is covered in dust, leaks will show up more easily through staining and soaked in wetness. If everything is squeaky clean, those nuts, bolts and screws will still reveal marks on them from sockets and spanners if they have been touched at all recently.

95% of cars at a big auction are of the same standard as any other second-hand car. The money you save in comparison to buying the car at a dealer can be used to solve problems you may encounter, like a poor battery, new brake pads. All things that a dealer won’t fix for free anyway.

Ah, I hear you say that it is risky buying from an auction and you don’t get a warranty. Really? Have you read the small print? Have you compared a dealer’s warranty on a second-hand car to the latest auction warranty and sales conditions? Most so-called ‘mechanical warranties’ available are almost worthless, excluding those items that are most likely to fail or else including them…except if their failure could be caused by a connected but uninsured item.

So, your hugely expensive ECU is included…except it isn’t actually, because it was connected to the battery when it failed and the battery is not included. At an auction, cars are either sold with a specific warranty or else without but you may be surprised: many auctions flat refuse to warrant cars over five years or under a certain price so you can pick up a perfectly good car for peanuts simply because a lack of warranty deterred others from taking a risk on bidding.

Ah, I hear you say that you cannot test drive a car at an auction. Well, in many cases you can and in general, it makes little difference whether you are watching the car being driven in front of you to the podium or driving it yourself. Cars suffer more from electrical problems than mechanical ones these days and 99% of those can be checked before you bid on them. Service history documents are often available to peruse at the counter on auction day and time exists to press buttons and check that warning lights go out or come on as they should.

Ah, I hear you say that the cars on a dealer’s forecourt are of a better quality. Are they? One or two might be, but the cars at an auction that are coming directly from a leasing company are mainly coming directly off the road. Nobody has the time or inclination to mess with their mileages or fake their service history. Many dealers do habitually mess with mileages and absolutely lie through their teeth about servicing histories. They simply put a sticker on the dashboard saying “mileage not warranted” and then dishonestly explain to you that “the law makes them do that to protect themselves”. It doesn’t. They are lying. At auction, cars have warranted mileage. Some don’t and they are specifically stated as such. Take your pick. Both ways, you pay less money and don’t have to suffer all the outrageous bull…

Ah, but some cars could be stolen or rebuilt after a crash. Nope. Established auction houses refuse “Stolen/Recovered” cars or those rebuilt after a serious insurance claim outright. They simply don’t want the ensuing problems and hassle. Occasionally one will come through but the auctioneer will make it absolutely clear that this is the case.  Dealers put some of their forecourt cars in to the auctions because they cannot sell them and they buy others to replace them. It is called ‘rotating stock’. But even then, both that dealer and the auction are legally responsible for any dishonesty and neither want to run that risk. It simply isn’t worth it when you have thousands of cars to sell. Occasionally, we all get caught out and buy a ‘turkey’ from a private seller, a dealer or an auction. There is always that risk.

Ah, but my local dealer only sells selected, low-mileage, top quality second-hand cars. Right. Where does he get them all from? An endless queue of retired and suddenly disabled headmistresses and nurses, all of whom coincidentally decide to ring him and ask him if he’ll buy their car because he’s so damned honest?

Ah…

Car auctions really are the new Night Clubs. The environment is exciting and noisy. The atmosphere is charged but far more pleasant. There are quiet areas and noisy areas. Nobody ever gets off with a club DJ but the DJ can make their night. It is the same with auctioneers. Both car auctions and clubs are only ever fun for the first two hours. But a night club takes your money and gives you only memories, if that. An auction can give you a massive discount on a totally fine set of wheels.

Those twenty-odd seconds where you actually get to bid are always an amazing adrenaline rush. When the auctioneer cracks his hammer down as he nods his head to you, all that homework you did will have paid off and you will have saved yourself enough for quite a few vodkas or tequilas…or even a damn fine vacation.

my beloved cat, Biggs, checking out her world...

meatballs in an olive, anchovy and tomato sauce with parmesan. Drool...

Car Auctions: “She’s got the Mercedes-Benz. Uhhh…”

30 Mar

Yes, I know that in The Eagles song ‘Hotel California’ , the line is written “…She’s got the Mercedes Bends…” and that Don Henley had to explain to eagle-eyed fans (see what I did there?)  that this was not a spelling mistake and was in fact a play on words.

So, I am now taking Don’s lyrics and I am making a play on his words. In years to come, I will be asked tirelessly about the exact meaning of the title and whether I was making a dry social comment about the collapse of western civilization, using the metaphor of car auctions as a symbol of the capitalist system devouring itself by over-producing cars which in turn leads to the collapse of their value and subsequent discounting to below the gross cost of their manufacture.

I shall smile back through unfocused eyes as my bodyguard refreshes my single malt and, with the slightest tilt of my head, I shall indicate that I wish for the interview to be terminated and for the pink doves to be released over the city.

My nucleus of faithful blog subscribers – those who followed me prior to February 9th 2013 and who remained loyal despite experiencing great emotional and intellectual suffering – will be carried ahead of me on gilded chairs while school children dressed in the flags of the world’s nations perform “Next” by the Sensational Alex Harvey Band using only mime and natural yogurt.

I cannot stand Mercedes Benz products.

They make my flesh crawl. They symbolize a value system that I am deeply uncomfortable with. The signals they send out are not the ones that I want to transmit. Every Mercedes that I have ever driven has been well-built and outstandingly reliable. But I sometimes couldn’t wait to get out of them and simply drive something else – anything else – as if to confirm who I really was.

Mercedes Benz have built up a formidable brand value over the years. However, they are trading on their glorious past far too much. It simply is no longer true to say that a Mercedes never rusts and it will last forever; they rust pretty badly since Mercedes changed their steel supplier in the mid-nineties and their long-term reliability is wobbly, to say the least. Sure, their trucks and vans are still good but when did you last follow a Mercedes Sprinter van which had both tail lights working, eh…?

Then, there was the infamous A-Series “Moose-test” fiasco where Mercedes made two outrageous errors of technical judgement.

1) They released the original A-Series cars knowing full well that they could tip over if thrown sharply from left to right and back, as if avoiding a moose at speed.

2) Mercedes solved this technical problem in a shoddy way by reducing the ability of the car to steer quite so sharply in the first place, by increasing the ‘toe-out’ of the front wheels.

For many motoring enthusiasts, that disgracefully lazy ‘remedy’ marked the end of ‘old’ Mercedes (top-notch engineering) and the beginning of ‘new’ Mercedes (top-notch marketing).

They now offer so many car models  that there is at least one Mercedes for each of us on this planet to take a personal dislike to. Tell me that your pulse doesn’t quicken  to at least one of the following:

1) You are driving alone through an unfamiliar county on the back-roads at dusk after visiting an old friend. A soft rain begins to fall and you switch your windscreen wipers on and change from marker lights to dipped headlights. As you do so, you become aware that a silver 2006 Mercedes S500 with tinted glass is following you, always keeping just far enough back so that you cannot read it’s license plate.

2) Wanting to show your devotion and deep love for your partner after having both been through a hellish month, you drive out to a small but expensive restaurant that you both always promised you’d visit when you had the money, which you still don’t. As you turn in to the street which is a clearway and does not permit parking, the restaurant has a black 2012 Mercedes E Class Executive SE  stopped outside. The suited driver is standing by the rear passenger door and he is looking directly towards you as you drive by.

3) Having driven a company Mercedes C-Class for three years, it is now at the end of its lease and due for renewal. For a change of scenery, you select a cash-equivalent Audi from the list you are given to choose from. For the next month, all your acquaintances greet you with: “Hi…! Hey…what happened to the Mercedes?”

Am I getting anywhere here? Is it just me? Is there something specifically ‘Mercedes’ about those situations that simply wouldn’t happen if one swapped out all those cars in the stories for Lincolns or BMWs or a Lexus?

I mean, try reading through those stories again and instead of the Mercedes, insert  “1959 red and cream Chevrolet Corvette” and see how you feel now.

A Mercedes makes a statement far beyond its shape and composition. It announces one’s political and social outlook like no other cars does. It doesn’t wait for you to speak, it speaks for you without your permission and over the top of your own voice. It is as if Mercedes is becoming the victim of its own advertising campaigns. By offering humorless elitism and superiority (“Unlike Any Other.” “The Future of The Automobile.”) they attract many humorless people who wish to purchase admiration.

If you are unlucky enough to be living in one of the world’s many refugee camps right now, you gain respect from most people but you neither seek nor receive admiration. What matters most to you is this: If your food is delivered off the back of a 2010 Chevrolet or a Toyota, then you and your children are probably going to survive. If your food is delivered off the back of a 2010 Rolls Royce then almost anything could happen in the next 24 hours so you keep awake. But if your food is delivered off the back of a 2010 Mercedes Benz, you and your children have probably already been acquired by a warlord so you practise real quick how to smile and mix concrete at the same time.

Photograph at top of page, taken three days ago. Mercedes Benz E200 Avantgarde CGI Blue efficiency, Tip Auto, 1.8, petrol, Calcite White. Full black cow (sorry – full leather interior) and parking sensors. 14,500 warranted miles. First registered May 2010. One owner. Guaranteed as having no major mechanical faults by the auction house and vendor. Sold this Monday for £29, 100 ($46,269) at auction.

If you want one right now with U.K. specification, Mercedes Benz do have just one, a 2011 model for sale up in Scotland, yours for £34,999 ($55,648). The only other white one available is this one pictured above. White ones are scarce. Black or silver ones are everywhere you look, being the weapon of choice of the airport transfer brigade. You don’t want to spend all that money and be mistaken for a chauffeur, do you? Of course not.

The dealer who bought this Merc was possibly tracking it for the last few weeks as it neared the end of its lease.  He probably had it advertised as  “for sale – awaiting picture” for the last month  so that he could line up a buyer for the car in advance.

The leasing company who still owned it and the car’s actual keeper and driver would have been blissfully unaware of his audacity. Then, the dealer followed it down to the auction house on Monday and made £5,000 ($7,950) profit for a day’s work. It is not an easy way to make a living but two cars a month like that and you are earning $190,000 a year.

As you walk around a car auction, you may be surprised at just how many people are continually jabbering on their phones as they walk the lines of cars. Now you know why. All you need is a credit card and the telephone number of somebody who wants a white Mercedes because they hate getting mistaken for a chauffeur all the time.

After all, one doesn’t have to like a product personally in order to sell it. More on crystal-meth dealers in a future Roadwax post…

Car Auctions: How to be cool on the dance floor…

28 Mar

If you can answer “YES” to any of the following questions, then for goodness sake don’t read the rest of this post.

1) You drive a BMW Mini and thought it would be funny if you attached fake ‘eyelashes’ to the headlights.

2) You recently purchased a new Saab for a great price by using your truly awesome bargaining techniques.

3) Your boyfriend drapes his arm around your seat top when you are driving and glares at passing motorists.

Okay. I think we shook them off.

Oh – hang on!  There’s a couple of stragglers who are still here out of curiosity, not sure if I’m joking or not…

4) You often order fresh pizza to be delivered to your home because it is cheaper than cooking stuff yourself.

Got ’em.

That’s the last ones. They just clicked the ‘back’  button and typed “Pizza” into Google. We can talk freely, now.

Right. Buying at a car auction is very easy but you have to take a few simple precautions. There are so many excellent vehicles passing through right now that you may lose your self-control and make a serious mistake.

Resist temptation. Consider my analogy of the night-club. Car auctions are so similar to night-clubs that it is untrue. If you understand how a night-club really works, you will have no trouble at a car auction.

Do your homework.

Check the terms and conditions of the auction house. Visit the place and make sure that you are aware of  your duties as a buyer. Stand to the side and watch people who are bidding. Watch how the auctioneer manages the bidding and notice how little time each car actually spends in front of the podium. Notice that there are areas in the room where the speaker system that relays the auctioneer’s voice sounds crystal clear…and also areas where it is impossible to hear what is being said.

Smarten up your act.

Research the exact car you want to own by using the internet and asking around. Look at similar examples on a local dealer’s forecourt. Visit the auction and watch as identical cars to the one you want go under the hammer. Make a few notes on the vehicles concerned: the last six digits of the chassis number or the registration plate, specification, mileage and service history. Do not even think of buying, just watch. If those cars go under the hammer for 25% – 30% less than the price you would expect, then you may be at the right auction. Go to the very next auction at that site. Did those exact same vehicles go through again? Why?

Don’t pretend to be somebody you aren’t.

Nobody cares who you really are at an auction. Keep it that way.  The serious buyers are so discreet and polished that it may take you many hours or even days before you notice them. They are not your competition. They will always pull out before you do. When the day finally arrives where you go in for the kill and buy, your competition is most likely to be an idiot private buyer who obsessively bids against you, stupidly jacking the car’s price up beyond its real worth.

Practise a few clever moves.

On your first visits to the auction, find an example of the car you want to buy and stick with it as if it were your own. Watch as dealers come up and survey it. Watch what they see, watch what they do. Learn to move your head as they do, so that reflections on the car’s paintwork  (the hall lighting, the car next to it) ‘slide’ over and across the bodywork. By following the reflections, you will more easily spot dents and paint differences. Notice how some dealers run their index finger along a clean car as they pass along it. Do the same. Resprayed panels often ‘feel’ different.

When the car is started up, ready to enter the auction line, watch what the dealers do, where they look, what they check. If the dealer reaches in and turns the steering wheel sharply, you can bet that it is because power steering racks are expensive to replace on that model. If the dealer tries all the electric windows, perhaps they are prone to fail? Watch what is checked under the bonnet. Follow the car into the hall and watch if those dealers bid on that car.

Beauty had better not be just skin-deep.

That 2008 Audi A5 Quattro Sport in the picture above, with 75,000 miles on the clock, sold for £14,200 ($22,580) last week. Now, that actually is the same price that you could buy that car at a dealership here in Britain. So, did somebody get carried away and forget to stop bidding? Perhaps. But then again, in Germany, $22,580 would only buy you that model if it had been hit hard in a collision. You’d need to find at least an extra $8-10,000 to buy an A5 like the one in the photo.

So, a one-way ferry ticket and two days driving will possibly see that car sitting with a delighted new owner in Eastern Europe who has got a bargain.  Alternatively, that A5 may first of all spend a week in a back-street garage, somewhere in Europe. The dashboard and chassis numbers from a crashed left-hand-drive A5 Quattro will be fitted and it will ‘become’ the crashed car…but apparently now no longer crashed. However, that will be somebody else’s problem; the car shown in the picture is the real deal.

Buying a second-hand car always carries risks, whether you buy privately, from a dealer or from an auction. Strangely, perhaps counter-intuitively, the largest auction houses provide a greater level of protection than you might at first think.

More explanations, buying advice, plus extra-clever tips and safety hints to come!


Car Auctions: How to win on the dance floor in 2012

19 Mar

Firstly, I must apologise for the long delay in posting this guide. After I uploaded the introduction on March 6th, I was attacked by two masked people while I was relaxing at the dentists. Although I put up the best fight I could, they stole one of my teeth.

The main attacker was a Caucasian male who drove an Aston Martin DB 9. He had bought it at an auction. How could I tell? Because it still had the little white label with the bar-code on, stuck to the bottom right of the windscreen. You can see one of these stickers if you click  on the car in the picture above.

Microsoft Paint is one helluva handy little program for airbrushing out details in photographs. But if you take a 500mg Amoxicillin, 1000mg Co-Dydramol and then pop 50mg of Tramadol, you will get the kind of sloppy results you can see in my picture. Assuming, that is, you can actually remember which room you put the damned lap-top in and can still work door handles.

I took this photograph at an auction in the UK last week. This 2003 Ford Focus 1.6LX Automatic Estate had just “had the auctioneer’s hammer drop on it” – a casual term to describe that binding and contractual sale made between the Auction House and it’s new owner who offered the highest bid. That owner was rushing off to get hold of the car’s documents while I went out and snapped this pic of their new possession.

The car shown has air conditioning, alloy wheels, parking sensors, leather interior and holds a current mechanical safety certificate (MoT). It has six Dealer stamps in its Service Book, confirming that it has been driven only 35, 000 miles from new and was regularly serviced by its previous owner.

It was sold for a “hammer price” of £250 ($396). You would be hard – pushed to buy a leather sofa for the same price as this entire car.

The “hammer price” of £250 reminds us that the buyer will have to also pay a further ‘Buyer’s Premium’ to the Auction House – a commission that is charged on all sales. That will be another £200 ($317) making a total of £450 ($714) for the joy of driving that Focus away.

Somebody just bought themselves a great little car for everyday use!

If you enlarge the picture, you will see some clues as to why it went so cheaply. The trade dealers didn’t want it on their forecourt because this car has got a little ‘ding’ or scrape on some of the panels. Car dealers rarely get approached by a customer who says:

“Hi, I’d like to buy a good used car for everyday driving but it must have a couple of little dents and scratches.”

The system just doesn’t work like that. So, the dealers held back and didn’t bid. The bidding “stalled”. Only the ‘private’ bidders (ordinary people like you and I) remained interested and only two people out of about two hundred were concentrating for that moment – about forty seconds – when this car was driven up to the stand.

The auctioneer did what he could to raise interest but he can see a queue of eighty more cars waiting their turn and time is money. Lunch break beckoned. The car was sold.

So, Rule Number One of buying at a car auction is that you have to actually be there with your credit card and your eyes and ears on alert. You can alternatively bid online but I would not personally recommend that. You can tell so much by simply ‘looking’ at a car up close and watching as it is started and driven into the queue for the podium. More on all those techniques in future posts.

This year is proving to be a good year for auction bargains. Over-supply of new cars is resulting in huge discounting of cars that are three years or more in age. However, the increasing cost of insuring certain models is also skewing the market values of some cars.

If you are walking down the street and you see a car that is similar to one which you would like to own, write down its registration plate details and then feed them in to an insurance comparison website ‘search’ page.  That way, you’ll get its exact make and model details up on the screen. Speed-Dating.

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