I stood at the front of the SEAT Ibiza with the backstreet Luton car salesman. He was very right – it had definitely had a new bonnet.
“It has had a new bonnet,” I said, “but it’s a different colour to the rest of the car”.
To be fair to the guy, it didn’t appear to be just the bonnet that was new. The car looked to have had a whole new front end. And they hadn’t bothered finishing it.
Maybe it was asking too much to expect a front grille to be included on a £1,000 SEAT Ibiza. And maybe, with hindsight, I should have detected something was wrong when there were only three photos of the car on Auto Trader and they were all taken from the rear end.
This was just one instance of a salesman trying to pull the wool over my eyes on my quest to replace my MX-5 with something a little more sensible.
I also looked at a 270k Audi A4 TDI. I’m a bit unusual in that I actively seek out cars with high miles – if they’ve been to the moon and back they can’t be duds, by my reckoning.
However, if I were a salesman with such a car on my forecourt, I’d probably remove the tow strap from the passenger seat. Call me picky, but it does start to raise a few doubts.
Yet again, I humoured the dealer. “Buy on condition, not mileage,” he said – and I agree. So I asked for a trade-in valuation on my 170k Mazda.
“No one wants a car that’s done 170k! It’s dead at that mileage! I’ll give you scrap money!”
He wasn’t joking, either. He offered me £150 because “little engines can’t cope with high miles”.
The third and final car dealer I encountered had a very tidy Honda Civic. We got off on the wrong foot when I asked him why the sticker price was considerably higher than I’d seen it advertised at.
He interrogated me on why I was looking at cars so close to Christmas. “You must be mad! You’re the only customer we’ve had today. No one buys a car at this time of year.”
As I was leaving, he gave me his card and told me to ring him and leave a deposit if I wanted it. “It will sell this afternoon!”, he said. I laughed.
It’s still for sale.