Almost twenty years ago I achieved something that was to lift a great burden from my shoulders – I became eligible for a company car. Since then the government have done everything in their power to make opting for a company car a less attractive proposition – if they could ensure that electing to take a company car would result in an eternity in Hell I think they would – but there’s one big thing that keeps me browsing the range of permitted company vehicles time after time… the prospect of selling a car privately.

In the 1980s I was the proud owner of a string of awful cars, all of them Fords, most of them Escorts of some description. As the years went by I gradually managed to improve the standard of the vehicles I purchased, but that meant selling the old one… and that involved advertising said vehicle and dealing with potential buyers. Here’s some of the pitfalls…

  1. “Can you tell me about it?” – okay, you don’t get much space in a small classified ad but there’s enough room for “1980 2 litre Ford Escort, 4 doors, white, VGC, 54,000 miles, tax, MOT, £2,300″. And then the local paper is published, and without fail someone will ring and say “can you tell me about it?”. Right, what do you want to know that’s not in my description? Have you had a bad experience where you went to see what you thought was going to be a Ford Escort and it turned out to be a Panzer tank body welded onto the wheel-base of a Hillman Imp? I’ll tell you about this car, it has transparent windows, inflatable tyres, and seats to allow you and your passengers the comfort of sitting down.
  2. “There’s a bit of a scratch there” – which roughly translates as “I’m looking for reasons not to pay you the asking price”. A scratch, eh? Imagine that… a eight year old car with a scratch. Show me an eight year old car with no scratches and I’ll show you one that was driven home from the showroom, parked in a garage for eight years, and has now been wheeled out for you to inspect.
  3. “Will you accept…?” – towards the end of my car-selling days I stopped adding ONO to the end of the advert. ONO means ‘or nearest offer’, which basically says to people “I’m not expecting to get the full asking price, so come along, try your luck, even if it means insulting me or wasting my time”.
  4. “Can I come round and see it?” – no, just send me a cheque for £200 more than the full asking price and once the cheque has cleared I’ll park it two miles from your house and then post the keys and documentation to you the week after.
  5. “Why are you selling it?” – I always dreaded this question because the truthful answer “I’m buying something better” never seemed like a good sales pitch.
  6. “I’ll be round to look at it at 6pm” – okay, I’ll stay in waiting until 8pm and then give up.
  7. “Are you going to fill it with petrol?” – no.

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