Ex-company cars can be pre-loved…

We left you last week sampling the delights of the auction cafe. Things are now hotting up, the constant garble of the auctioneer is still blaring and to make things slightly more intimidating there are two halls active both with cars going through at the same time. But well before we get you anywhere near that area to start committing to spending several thousand pounds on a vehicle you’ve never driven, we should first spend more time navigating around and making sense of the several hundred cars on offer and possibly try to guide you into one of them that you’re not going to hate after 3 minutes of ownership.

Although it sounds obvious whether buying in auction or not, it’s quite important you buy a suitable car for your needs and let’s face it there is a lot of choice these days. If you have no clue on what type of car you want we wouldn’t recommend using the auction to help choose a car, you’re not allowed in the cars for a start so getting an idea on suitability is nigh on impossible. Do spend a bit of time first away from the auction deciding which type of car you want, it doesn’t have to be exact but entering with no idea will mean a pointless day of wandering around hundreds of cars that you’re not supposed to touch which you can do at any good car park.

Last week I mentioned the cars were in 5 to 10 sections and at most of the bigger auction houses there will be sections of cars that have been entered by leasing companies and corporate business. The novice buyer who has say between £5000-£10000 to spend, should really be hanging around this section of cars and it’s these retired gladiators that we’ll be taking a closer look at.
Aren’t they the ones that have been hacked up and down the motorway? Well again it’s not as simple as that, yes some have been looked after better than others and I will eventually go through the things to look for to help give you the best chance to avoid an abused car; that bit is all quite easy. This week we will give a bit of a clue as to what the section itself is all about.

These vehicles will be end of contract cars and will have been brought in from around the country and generally distributed to whichever auction house the vendor feels the car will achieve the most money at or, more simply sometimes the closet auction or the one that has space. Most of them will have been valeted to a relatively high standard and will generally appear undamaged.
They have (but not in all cases) covered higher than average mileage. They have been driven mainly by lease/company car users and have not been actually owned outright by the people driving them. Knowledge of this fact can be seen to visibly trouble potential buyers as they imagine these horrible individuals just a few weeks ago using car as mobile dustbins and only driving down the motorway in first gear because it’s not their car. This sort of behaviour just doesn’t happen very often as most people in this country are proud of the car they drive whether their name is on the log book or not, particularly if they have to sit in it most days. There’s also a good chance that these cars have been driven by one person and many have rarely or never carried passengers. But the best reason to buy here is that these cars have been regularly and properly serviced often coming with fully stamped service books and detailed printouts. As part of the ‘contract’ most of these cars will have been serviced on time by a main dealer which really is good news for the next owner.

Surprisingly for some it can be a different story in the world of private car ownership. Many potential car buyers covet the idea of buying a car from the private owner, conjuring up images of kind men using Sunday elbow grease on their pride and joy which only sees the road on the finest of days. Polishing is one thing but maintenance is another. The average private owner after gladly paying the quite reasonable £310 for the first 2 year service at 20000 miles will take his 40000 mile 4 year old to the same service department for the quoted £525 major service. Well, she’s my baby and worth it, he thinks, plus I get the main dealer stamp which makes me feel good and helps with resale. The unconditional feelings for his ‘baby’ soon evaporate as the friendly advisor coolly explains that over and above the cost of service the technician will have to spend two days dismantling the engine in order to replace a ‘life and death’ rubber belt… plus we must inform your rear brake discs are 90% worn and the front are 95%’ . The idea of spending up to a third of the value of the car itself in the workshop only to get it back no faster or better looking than it currently is, usually sends most private owners walking out to seek out less expensive alternatives. He will storm past Mr. Lease/Company car driver, who is sitting down in the same service department waiting for his newly rebuilt car to be brought round from the workshop. He is unruffled as he’s three page bill has been looked after as part of his contract.

Now in the same period of ownership Mr. Lease/Company car driver may well have clocked up 70000miles on the M4, and maybe his contract is nearing the end and he’s due to return his steed back to the leasing company at the end of the month. But nevertheless he’s in the workshop once again whilst he’s car is fully pampered because he can and he quite likes their coffee.
So, as you can see cars in this section can be really good to buy and probably one of the safest in the auction. They will mainly have warranted mileage (guaranteed by the auction to be genuine) and some will be sold with an engineers report (a bloke who knows about cars has driven it and says its ok).

The thing to watch out for is that they can have odd and far reaching specifications. Mr. Lease/Company car driver will be given a budget and a list of possible cars. Depending on the style of contract he will be able to build a specification to fit his budget and taste, this generally leads to all sorts of weird features being installed or left out. Many of these cars are monuments to the previous owner’s idiosyncrasies and as with human nature, given choice within an emotional decision, will produce oddities. For example you may find in this section of cars a normal diesel saloon with complex adjustable sports suspension and seats, because the driver had managed to convince himself that this would make a dull car interesting but in order to fulfil this ridiculous notion he had sacrificed the much more desirable leather upholstery. Or the car with the rare £1,500 solar sunroof, cleverly designed to gently run the vehicles air conditioning whilst the car is unoccupied. It seduced the driver and did a great job of keeping the interior cool on the three hot days that occurred whilst he owned it, shame he had to live with such awful non-metallic dark red paintwork. This is a good reason to have some idea of what you want and look carefully to see whether the car’s got it or not. It’s easy to assume that this section of new looking cars will have all of the expected creature comforts- they may not.

Next week we’ll have a look at ex-rentals and part exchanges sections and other delights.

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