Here’s something for you to ponder: If ever something goes wrong at home, you call in the experts, yes? So, for example, if your computer breaks down, you get an IT expert to fix it.
If a pipe springs a leak, you get a plumber to fix it, and if you can’t tell the difference between weeds and plants, you send the missus out with a trowel to do the garden, on the basis she’s an expert, right? Well, I do, anyway. You may be a little more green fingered, or a little less sexist.
If we’re all experts, and as any chap who’s gabbled and bantered his way around my local on a Friday night knows, everybody is an expert at something, then I’d wager that by reading this nonsense, you’re probably an expert on cars.
I am. Cars, barbecues, and lower division football. They’re my specialities.
I won’t bore you with the inevitable ennui that comes with following Walsall FC, nor will I explain that the key to stop kebabs falling apart when you try and turn them is to add a dab of butter and wrap them in foil, but I will share with you one of the more curious points of being a car ‘expert’.
And it’s this: When a punter buys a car privately, they are buying it off somebody who has owned and driven it for a number of months or years.
Someone who knows how often it needs the oil topping up, how many miles it does to the gallon, what the tyre pressure should be and how it always helps to put a couple of extra PSI in the nearside front because that’s the one that has the slightly porous rim.
They’re buying a car off a bloke who can warn them not to open the sunroof as it leaks when you close it again, or who knows the cunning way in which you can wiggle the petrol cap to stop it jamming on its thread.
In short, they are buying a car from an expert.
When they buy a car from you, dear trader, they’re buying from an expert in car prices, not on that particular car.
And while you might be able to mentally value a 99T Golf diesel from 100 paces and know what the likely profit is as it drives through the auction hall, you haven’t a cat-in-hell’s chance of knowing exactly what that car is like until you’ve actually lived with it.
Yet in the eyes of both the punters, and more importantly, the law, you’re an expert. While the fella flogging the car with the porous alloy wheel and wiggly petrol cap is free of the thing once the new owner has committed their signature to the V5, for you, things are very much different. One day, it may well come back and bite you on the arse.
So here’s the rule. If you’re going to pretend to be an expert, first do your homework. Drive the car for a week or so before you put it up for sale, as you need something to get to work and back in, and clean it yourself so you can see where its strong and weak points are. After all, the devil, as they say, is in the detail.
And it’s the little things that count, like getting the name of the colour right. Dark Blue, or ‘Octopus Ink’? Metallic red, or ‘Firefrost Metallic’? Speak in ‘expert jargon’ and you automatically sound like you know what you’re talking about.
Be more detailed, too, about the car’s history. In these days of internet advertising, there’s no need to talk in abbreviations any more. FSH, rear w/w, FFSR and a/c are only necessary if you’re paying 5p a word so try, if you can, to break the habit.
Not convinced – then which of the following would you be most likely to buy?
Ford Cougar, 2000 W, Dark Tourmaline Green with scuff-free raven leather upholstery, 82,000 miles with full main dealer history stamped at 11,232, 22,189, 32,465, 41,880, 49,546, 61,232, 71,289 and 80,009 miles. Two owners, cambelt changed this year. Taxed and Mot’d until May 2010, every MoT from new, air conditioning in full working order, electric windows, electric mirrors, 2.5 V6 with smooth automatic gearbox, drives superbly, £2,150 ono.
Ford Cougar, 00W, Green, leather, 82k FSH, cambelt done, Tax/Mot 9 mths, a/c, e/e, e/m, 2.5 V6 auto £1,250 ono.
The top one is how I sold it, and the bottom one is the ad from which I bought the very same car (for 200 quid less than he wanted). See what a difference a little effort makes?