My car finally had enough. It had a successful three year stint until various problems started to arise, suggesting it may be time for me to start searching for something else. My little Night Fury (the name I gave my car due to the resemblance of the dragon’s eyes in the film ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ and the headlights on my car) was ready to be passed on to someone who could put him on the operating table and fix him – something I couldn’t afford to do.
As he was sat alone in my drive not being used, I started the hunt for a new car while taking the train to work. This included numerous delays which resulted in my commute going from one hour to nearly two hours a day (one way), with lots of standing around in the wet, snowy and icy weather that we’ve experienced in the last few months.
I was having a hard time letting go of him. Night Fury was the one who grew my confidence in driving. He protected me from bad weather and got me to the north and back in one piece on many occasions when visiting the in-laws. And most importantly, he gave me so much freedom which allowed me to take spontaneous road trips on the weekend. The latter of which I was desperately missing.
Since starting at IAM RoadSmart six months ago, I’ve learnt a lot about cars, but I was still hesitant about where to start when it came to purchasing a new vehicle.
Due to the limited amount of knowledge I had on them, I found the whole idea of looking for a car overwhelming. Firstly, because you have to dedicate a lot of time to it and secondly, why do they have to be so expensive?
In the back of my mind, all I could hear was my fiancé’s voice repeating the same words he’d been saying to me for the last couple of years: “Instead of going on holiday this year, let’s save some money,” with my response being “but we deserve a holiday, and I need some sun!” Was I regretting not listening to him? Of course, but I’ll never tell him that!
The more I searched, the more I was starting to understand what I needed to look for; the year of the car, mileage, service history, MOT history, the sound of the engine, and I also found that reading reviews online of cars that were in my price range was helpful.
My first test drive was…interesting. I was being told how to drive and pressured into driving on the motorway in a new and unfamiliar car, quizzed if I liked the more ‘feminine’ cars and being questioned about where I was from. But giving UK as the answer clearly wasn’t good enough so I then get asked about my parents who are also from England (you’ve guessed it…wrong again!), so we move on to my grandparents who are from India. By the dealer’s reaction, this was the correct answer! Once the conversation was over, I asked the dealer how long we had left until we were back at the garage - he wasn't sure as we'd somehow managed to get lost. Great.
Apart from the very awkward drive, the car itself drove nicely. The engine was not making any funny noises and it looked clean and sleek. But I’m a very indecisive person and making a big decision like this was difficult. What if I spend all that money and something goes wrong? What if I see something better after I’ve paid? Where did the car come from? And most important, will it fit in my tiny drive?
I came back the next day and brought along a family member to get a second opinion. This was a good shout, as it was on the second trip we realised the bonnet wasn’t aligned properly and an area had been spray painted. No accident had been registered to the car but I wasn’t risking it, especially as I was already unsure.
After a couple of months of searching, I very reluctantly asked my parents for help. I didn’t want to. I wanted to prove I could do this on my own. However, with my car being on its last legs, I couldn’t travel very far and needed the help of someone else. We visited garage after garage but nothing felt right. My legs would either be hitting the steering wheel, or I was too short to see over the dashboard due to lowering my seat to avoid contact with the steering wheel.
I thought this car-buying malarkey was going to be straight forward. I decided it was taking me so long to find something as I was being too fussy on the budget I had. So I booked a viewing after work to see a more basic car than the ones I’d been looking at. It wasn’t as attractive as the cars I was previously looking at, but the mileage was low, it had a pristine MOT history and no rattling noises in the engine – and it was well below budget! Perfect.
Yet again, I didn’t go for it. Instead, I went for the car next to it which had a bigger engine size, it was at the top end of my budget, the mileage was a little higher but service history and MOT history were fine and the car was newer than the one I originally went to look at. And it also looked good. I had been looking at this type of car for a while but hadn’t booked any viewings as I couldn’t justify the price but after test driving the vehicle (which was a much more pleasant experience than my last one!) and agreeing to a reasonable price, I had finally found the right car for me.
Did I enjoy the experience? Definitely not. But I learnt so much about cars, to the point where I was confident enough to question sellers about particular aspects of the vehicle. Something I couldn’t have done at the beginning of this journey. One thing that I’ve definitely taken away from this experience is that if you have the slightest doubt about a car you’re looking to buy, listen to your gut instinct.
I found this to be a bit of an emotional rollercoaster of a journey; heartbroken that I’d have to give up Night Fury, the excitement at test driving a car and the disappointment when I realised it wasn’t right for me. Then there was the stress of taking so much time out to find a car and the feeling of relief when I did find the right one. Fingers crossed this one will last more than three years!
By Junique Aujla, IAM RoadSmart's digital marketing executive