Confessions of a car salesman

How can you make sure you get the best deal on your next car? Let our inside man fill you in on the tips and techniques the dealers don't want you to know...

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What Car? team
24 Oct 2017 08:50
The sales process

Diesel and nearly new cars

Q: Has the demand for used diesels decreased? Are prices of used diesels softening?

A: I think it varies by area, but overall, diesel has certainly slowed down. The older the car, the less the effect. We knock diesels back a bit now because they're sitting longer. Part of the problem is that so many people bought them needlessly, so there's a huge oversupply out there in part-exchanges.

Q: There are lots of low mileage sub-12 month old cars around right now – where do they actually come from and what have they been used for?

A: For our site, we have a variety of sources.

  • Demonstrators – All sold at six months, normally with a few thousand miles.
  • Courtesy cars – Sold six-twelve months, 6000-9000 miles.
  • Group vehicles – Our staff vehicles from us and our parent/group companies. Vary depending on use. Many are traded at four years or if they've covered lots of miles.
  • Ex-manufacturer management – Used by territory managers and head office staff. Normally six-nine months old, mileages vary.
  • Ex-daily rental – Much maligned but often a great source of cars. We only buy the best graded vehicles with very low mileages.
  • Bodyshop courtesy – We supply cars to a large body repairer. Most come back immaculate with 3000-4000 miles. Some are wrecked.
  • Preferential purchase schemes – Our manufacturer does some astonishing discounts for certain professions. We have a few customers who change cars every six months for very little cost.
  • Pre-reg hangovers – There are always some cars from a pre-registration deal that stick. Often found as courtesy cars or management vehicles.


Q: Are people in the trade still clocking cars?

A: It certainly still goes on, but I’m 99% certain that it doesn’t happen at main dealers anymore. The standard of record-keeping now required would make it almost impossible to get away with. In addition, most customers have online access to reams of data that make clocking very hard to hide. Online MOT, dealer held service records, Cazana, HPI – it’s fairly easy to check.

AS: I recently dealt with a clocked Mitsubishi Shogun. The clock read 7000 miles, but the car's computer read 20,000 odd miles – in six months. The driver was adamant that he hadn't done anything and that it must be a faulty ECU, and that we would be hearing from his solicitors if we continued to slander him.

Diesel and nearly new

We then presented his solicitor with the diagnostics report that showed not only the ECU mileage but the sat-nav mileage from the multimedia system, the average fuel consumption, the number of fill-ups, the number of DPF regenerations and the average distance between them. We received a payment for the vehicle the following day and it was collected from our defleet site a week later for export.


Q: What happens when someone tries to trade in a car with a serious issue? Someone I know wants to trade in his car with a cracked gearbox in the hope that they don't notice, despite the fact it makes a noise while driving. Ignoring the moral issues and the letter of the law, what actually happens in your experience?

S: The salesperson should appraise it properly. This includes driving it with the customer – having them drive it first (so as not to incur the blame for a fault) and when they identify the noise, or has the workshop look at it, it will then be valued with the cost of rectifying the fault deducted from its trade value – or assigned a scrap value.

The salesman should also ask "are there any known faults with the vehicle?" and then watch the customer's reaction as they lie, which tells you that you need to do a full appraisal as above, although if it gets the usual car park walkaround and kick of the tyres and engine start-up without any warning lights apparent, it'll end up being taken in with the fault and no deduction made.

If it's then retailed and the pre-sale inspection picks it up, the salesman can look forward to paying for the fault, either entirely or up to a max of £500-1000. If it goes to auction, hopefully it makes it through the block without the fault becoming obviously apparent and some lucky independent trader will inherit an expensive problem to fix before sale.

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