What’s happened to the traditional ways of buying and selling cheap cars? Times, they are a-changing… a fact rammed home last week when I heard that the my local BCA Auction site in Peterborough had closed its doors for the very last time. It’s true for so many people these days – you won’t be hitting the auctions or car lots if you want to replace your used car.
Instead, selling’s all about how good you are at photography and how verbose you are in written ads, while buying comes down to being able read between the lines in an online ad. For someone like me, who gets paid to string a few words together about cars, that’s very good news.
I appreciate that this doesn’t come naturally to everyone and nor does the ability to take a reasonable set of photos – front, rear, sides, interior and engine bay. It should be easy-peasy lemon squeezy. But, again, I appreciate that not everyone sees cars through a lens and may struggle to get a simple and clear set of images to sell their car.
Sifting the wheat from the chaff
However, in this world of brilliant smartphones capable of taking great photos without too much effort, advertising your car online really should be the easiest thing in the world. And yet, how many rubbish adverts online have put your off making the call? More than I care to admit.
I shouldn’t moan – that’s good for me, and I’ve done well online over the years. I describe fully what’s on offer, and take as many clear, well-lit, photos as I can. And a sale usually follows, especially as I usually end up offering to deliver. It’s not rocket science.
As a buyer, though, it can be frustrating picking your way through a bad advert, and I do fear I’ve missed out on some good cars over the years because of bad photography or apostrophe abuse…
Going online – good, yes?
So, online buying and selling has been a force for good, especially when done well. It’s opened the market and is brilliant at putting cars together with buyers, which is a big positive – all the more so during the pandemic, when actually going and looking at a car was often impossible.
Where’s the excitement, though? Deep down, I do miss wearing out shoe leather nosing around the forecourts and auctions, and I’m sure I’m not the only one.
I’ve found some amazing cars over the years by just getting out and having a poke around the bombsite dealer lots – how about a £700 Rover SD1 Vitesse stumbled upon in Essex? Or hanging around ‘til the end of an auction to snaffle up something interesting as the last dregs are booted through the block. The adrenaline kick from putting in a successful bid for something else no one would look twice at is potent – I still look back on my £60 Vauxhall Carlton CDi bought at the end of an evening auction as a highlight in my trading career.
The joys of a fresh copy of Exchange & Mart
Then there was also the almost incomparable joy of getting a fresh copy of Exchange & Mart or AutoTrader first thing on publication day and settling down in my local café with a cup of coffee and bacon sarnie to look through the fresh new ads.
The biggest joy was always the ’Cars under £1000’ section – there was always something desirable buried within that you’d call a diamond in the dirt.
But, boy, did you have to be on it – call after about midday on Thursday and you’d be more than likely met with a ‘sorry, it’s been sold’, or even more frustratingly, and endless engaged signal. It was a banger gold rush as you competed with so many other buyers in the same boat.
But there would be that lovely moment when you’d get through and the car was still up for sale – even better if the seller was a genuinely nice person looking to sell a much-loved car they’d owned for ages to a ‘good home’. I bagged myself a brilliant Triumph Acclaim that way. As I say, a diamond in the dirt. They did happen back then…
It does feel like those traditional ways of buying and selling are on the way out – but it’s a shame that’s the case, because although online is good, there’s no thrill of the chase anymore. I still remember the feeling of satisfaction when I found a genuinely good cheap car that was right for me. Contrast that was my search and purchase of a Suzuki Swift (below) for a family friend recently – it was so easy, done in a day, and almost a case of, ‘of course, I found one.’
Where’s the fun in that?