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Write What You Drive

A showcase of independent motoring journalism and automotive travails

"Tyrekickers" of the World

It's hard to get away from webuyanycar.com's sustained advertising offensive (offensive in all possible senses of the word) but its labelling of alleged "tyrekickers" is indicative of a wider, largely unfair classification of people who just don't want to buy a lemon of a used car.

WBAC trades upon the fact that a proportion of motorists don't want to invest the time, money or effort in selling their car privately. I can understand this - after all the majority of car owners aren't enthusiasts, and to them (quoting from a previous JTurn article) the car is a tool that should function reliably and preferably impose as little as possible practically and financially on their lives. This extends to when it's time to get rid of or replace it - unprepared to wait a few weeks to shift their car on to a new owner and make arrangements for viewings, they can get a guaranteed(ish) price and have rid of it at their convenience rather than somebody else's.

Obviously, the seller pays a premium for this service - disguised in the lower than market value (to put it politely) that WBAC will offer to take the car off their hands. Supposedly, you can "negotiate a better deal" for your next car as a cash buyer, not having to burden the dealer (assuming you intend to buy from a dealer) with a part exchange. Whilst this might be true to some extent - you'd have to be such an awful salesperson/negotiator not to make in excess of the WBAC valuation of your car by selling privately (or even part exchanging) that the notion of "negotiating a better deal" will presumably be lost on you.

The thrust of this article isn't really to poke fun at the WBAC valuations but I'm sure those who choose to sell their cars privately would like to feel vindicated by way of an example, so here goes...

I recently bought a 2001 Toyota MR2 Roadster from a used car dealer for £1900; I'll admit that this is probably a little over the average value for an example of that age, but it was low mileage and had a full service history. Since it was mainly to be used by my girlfriend, I was prepared to pay a little more for something that is less likely (in theory) to break down and leave her stranded.

I put its details into WBAC (other car buying websites are available, although few of them have such irritating adverts) and obtained the below quote:

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Although less than 50% of what the dealer and I agreed the car was worth 3 months ago, it's actually better than I was expecting. There is always the possibility, however, of WBAC haggling some of that money off when I actually show up to sell it to them.

The valuation comes with the stated assumption that the car has "no damage, including interior or mechanical" and presumably that means money will be knocked off for any defects not reported when obtaining the original quote. And why shouldn't they? WBAC are running a business after all and any money they knock off the price gives them a bigger profit once they flog it on.

"Interior or mechanical" is rather all-encompassing for my liking and basically gives them license to knock money off for whatever they want. Matters like this are always subjective; the MR2 in question has a bit of a scuff on the driver's seat bolster - only to be expected on a 14 year old car but not something you could reasonably knock money off for when buying a car yourself, but would WBAC class this as interior damage?

Contrary to their latest advertising campaign, if WBAC were to be styled as a car buyer, they would be one who agrees a price with you over the internet and then shows up to collect and starts trying to knock money off for anything they spot that isn't in showroom condition. What I would casually term "a cheeky f*****".

Complaints aside, this article was spurred after seeing a WBAC advert where a grumpy old man derides "tyrekickers" and "the oh I've just got a couple more to look at, never to be seen again lot". Obviously, the job of the advert is to show private car selling in a negative light in order to ingratiate WBAC to the viewer - but doesn't it paint a rather unfair picture of the discerning used car buyer?

Isn't the point of arranging a viewing of a car just that? A viewing. No deal is implied simply by you showing up to see the car and anyone selling a car privately is usually well aware of this - because they will be going through exactly the same process shortly after any sale in search of a new motor themselves. Anyone who expects you to buy their car on the spot, without delay, just because they've spent 15 minutes showing you around it is living in a dream world.

Going to look at "a couple more" is also something that comes highly recommended from the JTurn school of buying used cars - the old mantra of "don't buy the first one you see" springs to mind. I looked at two other MR2s before buying my latest - one had an oil level almost off the bottom of the dipstick and the other had a suspiciously disabled engine management light. I told the seller why I wasn't buying in both cases and the reason I was "never to be seen again" was that, from what I had seen, their cars had a more than evens chance of being lemons.

I'm not in the habit of spending money needlessly and buying a £2k car with question marks over something as fundamental as the oil level would be an expensive gamble I can ill afford to take. In the end I, like everyone else, am looking for value for money and no nasty financial surprised in a world where my wallet is under attack from all angles at all times.

It's possibly generalising to say, but the type of car being sold by somebody considering WBAC isn't likely to be in any way a specialised proposition - think cheap hatchback, not the immaculate Audi R8s and Ferraris shown in this particular advert/assault. That means that the marketplace is well stocked with similar examples and competition is high, handing the advantage to the buyer. If they find what they perceive to be a better deal elsewhere, then it is their prerogative to buy it and they certainly don't owe a debt of gratitude to anyone whose car they viewed previously.

A lot of classified ads also contain the phrase "no tyrekickers", and if this is directed at those who have no real intention of buying the car unless they can knock 50% of the price off for things that anyone else would accept as fair wear and tear on a used car then I can sympathise. There also seems to be, however, a misuse of the "tyrekicker" name to include those who show up in good faith to give the car a good looking over and decide, for whatever reason, as is their freedom as a buyer, that it isn't for them.

This may be unpopular (and fall under the "no test pilots" section of classified ad jurisdiction) but even a test drive should not be considered grounds for a sale. The private seller might feel somewhat put out, invaded even, by you driving their (former) pride and joy but a test drive is just that. If a sale was a certainty afterwards, what would be the point of it?

I'm rather fussy about my cars - for every one I've test driven and loved enough to buy, there are 4 or 5 others I have disappointed me; VX220, Mk1 GTI, Alfa GTV...the list goes on. If I'd have liked any of them enough to part with whatever I was driving at the time, then I'd have bought them, but I wasn't about to shift on a car I liked in favour of one I didn't just to save someone I've never met before from feeling like they've wasted an hour of their Saturday.

This is all part of the sport of buying and selling used cars; and it doesn't make me a tyrekicker or a test pilot, just somebody who gives a dam about what they drive and what they spend their money on.

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