Those of you who follow me on twitter and the ones lucky enough to be a friend on FB too will already know I have just bought a new Car. Not brand new, I can’t afford that, but new to me. It’s been a bit of an experience, but thanks to Underwoods Vauxhall in Sudbury, it’s been a good one. So whilst car dealers often get a bad reputation I thought I would share my positive experience with you.
I used to have a 52 plate Vauxhall Astra Estate 1.6 bought from an independent garage in early 2008. The car was bought purely for practical reasons. I part exchanged my Renault Clio for the Astra because I needed the space as I was getting a lot of work as an equestrian event photographer and as I print photos on site I had a lot of gear and equipment I needed to transport, so the Astra Estate was ideal. I bought it with 39k miles on the clock and it had never failed an MOT or let me down in almost 4 years. That was until very recently. For some reason after finishing work, it wouldn’t start. It turned over but wouldn’t fire up. The immobiliser warning light came on and that could well have been the problem. I called the RAC and after the guy spent a long time trying to work out what the problem was, he couldn’t and had it towed to the local Vauxhall garage in Sudbury. After leaving it with them to look at the following day, I spoke to them to be told that it started after charging the battery (after it had gone flat while I tried starting it and being towed with the lights on) and they couldn’t find a fault.
This played on my mind for a while and made me worry about it happening again. What if I was miles away from home and it wouldn’t start? I knew I could have done with changing the car as I had just clocked up 100k miles. A psychological barrier most motorists dread. But the MOT was due soon, the tax ran out at the end of February and the exhaust back box needed replacing if I wanted to sell it, which was likely to cost me a small fortune. So whilst in the garage picking up my Astra, I asked if someone would be able to give me a trade in valuation for it. I was pointed in the direction of a suited young lady standing on the forecourt. Introducing herself, the young lady, Sarah, took me to her office so I could discuss my predicament.
Looking at various options she went and valued my car. On giving me the initial valuation she could tell I was disappointed and even said so. She was right, I was. I knew it probably wasn’t worth that much to them but even I wasn’t prepared for it being that low. With a bit of discussion and words with her boss, who I envisaged to be a guy in a big high backed leather chair sitting behind a desk stroking a white fluffy cat in a James Bond Villain style, whilst Sarah would cut a forlorn figure pleading in a way that would do Oliver Twist proud, for him to be a bit kinder, she came back with a much improved offer. Add that to the fact that I wouldn’t need to get the MOT done and anything repaired had it failed, replace the exhaust and tax it, it suddenly became an offer too good to refuse.
So what about my next car? It probably had to be another Astra estate. Discussing my needs, usage and what I would want from a car with Sarah, whilst telling her I didn’t really want an estate and the stereotypical views the driver receives, if it can be helped, she came up with a few options. The first option I flatly refused. I was not going to buy a Meriva. That would not just dent the ego as an estate does, but completely batter it and drag it screaming into oblivion never to be seen again. If I had a wife and 2 kids then it would have been a viable option, but I don’t. I’m not quite 30 (although I do often feel a lot older) quite recently single again and I wanted something a bit more fun and sportier. I will admit fun, sporty and practical are three boxes that are hard to tick when you are on quite a tight budget looking for a used car, but Sarah’s next option somewhat surprised me and was something I had never considered.
She took me outside to show me her idea and pointed me in the direction of a black Vectra. Somewhat unsure I followed. ‘You probably haven’t thought about a Vectra but check this out’ she said with a wry smile as she opened the boot. ‘Wow’ or words to that effect, I exclaimed. The boot was huge! It went on for miles and was ideal if you had plans to kidnap more than one person at a time. I didn’t, but it was more than ample for what I needed. ‘You can’t have this one though as we’ve just sold it’ I was told, but after sitting in it I was impressed. She’d come up trumps.
Back in the office she showed me two Vectra’s they had in stock. One in maroon, on a 58 plate and one in Dark Silver one on an 08 plate, both with very low mileage. Unusual for a car popular with travelling sales reps. The silver one had really caught my eye. I left the dealer in my Astra with my head full of thoughts of what I should do. It was a lot of money to spend and was it the best idea?
The following day, the Astra failed to start. That was it. My decision was made for me. After being a loyal girl for nearly four years, she’d now let me down. I couldn’t trust her now. A situation I’ve been familiar with before, but not from her. It was time to trade her in for a younger and better looking model. Dad towed me back to the garage and I was back in Sarah’s office drinking coffee again. I wanted the Silver Vectra. A 1.8 16v SRi with 18k on the clock. I needed to get the best deal I could. Spending a long while sorting out the best deal and the various options Sarah had come up trumps again and I was happy. She was good, very good. I was pretty sure she could sell Ice to Eskimo’s. Although after trying to haggle over half a tank of petrol, as my Astra was still half full, and realising what a genuinely nice person she was, I was left wondering if I should have been haggling on where to take her out for dinner instead.
The deposit was paid and the car was booked in to have its 114 point check before I could take it home. Initially it was going to be ready on the Wednesday, but on the checks the front tyres were showing signs of ageing and although they would have passed an MOT, Vauxhall didn’t want it to go away with the slight cracks in the sidewalls so a new pair were ordered to replace them at no cost to me. I didn’t mind waiting an extra day as it was £300 I wouldn’t have to spend. That’s pretty good in my book.
So the day arrived for me to pick it up and I was back in Sarah’s office drinking more coffee, which by now she’d become pretty good at making just how I liked it. The finer details were sorted out, the MOT complete and the monthly service plan was set up, which was also a good deal, before we took it for a quick spin to make sure it was all good. I’m always careful driving around with other people in the car so she probably thought I was a bit of a granddad behind the wheel. I had all intentions of putting the Vectra through its paces when I was on my own.
Payment was eventually made and the car was mine. By now it felt like Sarah was a good friend rather than someone wanting to flog me a car. She’d done a really great job, was a pleasure to deal with and I couldn’t praise her enough. As I left I imagined she would be soon back in the bosses office again, only this time he would be offering her a Cuban cigar whilst pouring two large whisky’s from a decanter. If he wasn’t, he should have been. I drove my new car out passing my sad looking Astra parked all on its own, whilst the other cars had ganged up together to one side. I felt some sadness as I’d grown attached to her and she had served me well. But she had let me down and it was time to move on and thanks to Underwoods in Sudbury, and especially Sarah, the whole experience was a pleasurable one.