|A car (not the one I bought)|
It wasn't for me, it was for one of my daughters. (Of itself, this is just wrong. You shouldn't be buying cars for people whose nappies you have changed.) Now, apart from one disastrous experience that put me off buying privately for life, I have always bought cars from a proper dealership. It's a process in which you feel cherished. I know they're only after your money, but they take it off you very nicely. Unfortunately, dealers don't sell cars of the sort of age I was looking for, so I had to look elsewhere.
Specifically, I looked at the Car Shop, a huge secondhand car 'supermarket' that apparently has over 1,000 cars on site. And that's where I bought the car - but I wish I hadn't.
I didn't mind too much the strange Argos-like operation. You specify the kind of thing you want, the salesman writes it on a card, goes away and comes back with a list of matches. You then sit and wait while the cars you like are brought round to the side of the building so you can take a look at them. It felt odd, but I could cope. However, what I found really unnerving is that they won't licence the car for you.
What I've always done before is got the insurance, take it to the dealer and they sort out the licensing. The way the system works here, you are forced to drive the car away before it is licensed. (They do provide Aviva 7 day insurance, though I'm not sure this is valid if the car isn't licensed.) There is no other way to get a car from them. You have to break the law. Now, I'm the sort of person who will get back in the car and repark if the tyre is touching the white line in a car park. Driving is something I can't do outside the rules. I literally lost sleep over the thought of having to drive the blasted thing home without a licence.
And it gets worse. When I'd decided to go for the car, I went into the usual car buying mode, briefly feeling wonderful at that point. Because car buying is one of the few opportunities British people have to haggle. I'm quite proud of my haggling skills. I was taught by a gypsy on a Croatian market when I was 15 (no, really), and I love doing it. But then the Car Shop people killed it dead. They don't move on price. They can't, any more than the supermarket checkout person at Asda can. They are constrained by their system. There is no haggling. If I hadn't got a very excited daughter waiting for the news, I would have walked out there and then. Seriously, had I been buying the car for myself, however much I wanted it, I would have walked away. I don't buy cars without haggling. It spoils the whole experience.
So there you are. I bought a car from Car Shop, I think I got it at a reasonable price. But I would not touch them again with the proverbial barge pole. They are killjoys.