I’ve mentioned a few times now that we need a new family car. We have in fact needed a new family car for somewhere in the region of around 14 months.
Our Ford Mondeo Estate was fabulous as a family of four and a dog – lots of room for everyone. But then Amy came along, we added another car seat into the mix and it all went wrong. It’s pretty much impossible to get three car seats across the back of the Mondeo – we Dave has looked at it every which way, researching car seats, different widths, different options for different ages. But no. We have spent the last 14 months driving two cars everywhere. It’s expensive (double the fuel obviously!) and hard work.
We are hoping that we might be able to get a new car this summer, by new I of course mean new to us!! We had looked at The Car People website and knew pretty much that the cars were out of our budget (sadly) however it was a good opportunity to try out a few of the cars we were considering and compare them side by side.
The Car People claim to be the “hassle free way to buy a car” promising not to sell you a car but to let you buy one. I must admit I was dubious about these claims! We’re all used to the stereotype of a used car salesman aren’t we! I was worried about the hard sell, particularly as I knew we wouldn’t actually be buying at the time.We actually live really locally the the Manchester branch of The Car People so we were there shortly after it opened on Sunday morning. It’s easy to find, just a few minutes off the M60. Sunday morning was a very cold and foggy morning, probably not ideal for car shopping in fairness however we need to take the opportunity to go whilst Ben and Chloe were away as I don’t think we’d have been particularly successful with those two to keep an eye on! To make things easier if we decided to test drive any of the vehicles we’d taken along Amy’s first stage car seat – the theory being that the infant carrier is much easier to move about and fit into a different car than her newer car seat.
As we working on a “mystery shop” basis I’m afraid all the photos were taken rather sneakily on my mobile phone so please do excuse the poor photography!
When we arrived at The Car People we were greeted by Mark on Reception. He explained that we were free to explore the showroom for ourselves and see if we found anything we liked the look of or he could check the system to see what was available. We decided that despite the cold and snow we’d like to get out into the showroom and have a good look round.
The showroom is laid out in such a way as to group types of cars together making it easy for you to find what you’re looking for all in one place and also to compare cars with one another.
There were plenty of staff dotted about the showroom clearing snow off the cars and so forth. I was pleased to note that whilst we were acknowledged and greeted with a friendly hello, we were left to our own devices.
We made our way to the back of the showroom to look at the MPVs and Large Family Cars. I was initially surprised to find there were just seven people carriers, I think I had expected to find far more. That said there was plenty of choice in that we were able to look at a variety of people carriers and large family cars. We looked quickly at the cars writing off a few and working out which we wanted to look at more closely. The car which has remained steadfastly at the top of our shopping list for quite some time now has been the Ford Galaxy – it’s the biggest of the cars we have been looking at and we were looking forward to being able to have a proper nose.
The cars are laid out in such a way as to make it easy for you to get a good look all the way round. Each car has a notice with basic details about the vehicle displayed in the window along with a cash price and information about finance payments.
|Not quite the ideal weather for car shopping!|
Once we had picked out several cars we were interested in we looked for someone to help us out a bit more. There were plenty of staff around and we were quickly asked if we needed any help, though at the same time we didn’t feel pressured to talk to them if we didn’t need to. Naomi checked which cars we wanted keys for and went off to collect them for us.
Once Naomi had brought the keys over for us she stood back and let us look at the cars by ourselves. We appreciated that we were free to explore the vehicles and discuss our feelings about them without a pushy sales person jumping in with their opinions. We didn’t feel that she was hovering or harassing us at all, just waiting to answer questions if we needed her.
It was really helpful to be able to look at the three different cars at the same time, close to each other so you could really compare them thoroughly. One of the things we were comparing was the boot size – we have Thomas to consider and also with the ages of our children we need to think about fitting a pushchair and all sorts of other associated paraphernalia in there too. Naomi suggested we fetch our pushchair and try it in each of the cars to get a real feel for it. She was really knowledgeable about the vehicles, at least as far as we questioned her. As Dave had been doing lots of research we knew many of the features of the vehicles we were looking at already. We spent quite some time getting in and out of the different cars, putting seats up and down etc etc before eventually deciding that the Ford Galaxy was still top of our wish list.
|Our chosen car . . . if anyone wants to buy it for us? haha|
At this point Naomi offered us the opportunity to take the car for a test drive whilst the guys in the office took a look at our own car to work out an part exchange value in case we decided to go down that route. Whilst Dave worked through the paperwork to book the test drive and to give information about our own car, Amy took full advantage of the children’s play area. This was fantastic as it meant she could get warm, enjoy a bit of freedom and be thoroughly entertained rather than having to sit still on my knee while we filled in forms. (I also noted there were a number of vending machines for snacks and drinks should you be in need of a little something!)
We made our way to the back of the showroom to look at the MPVs and Large Family Cars.
Naomi came out with us for the test drive and this was where I expected to start to feel a bit more a hard sell but no, she just sat in the car with us and joined in our conversation about the drive but without pushing her own thoughts on us. One of the things I loved about the car was that it just felt “normal” to me – I think mainly as I’m already familiar with driving our Ford Mondeo. The test drive route was only short and stuck within 40mph speed limit which was a little frustrating as I didn’t feel I could really test what “poke” the car had. That said it did mean I was able to try out parking the car at the supermarket so that Dave and I could swap places. (Having a go at parking the car was important to me as it’s obviously a very different shape / size to our current car – I’m pleased to report I was able to park it relatively easily considering it was my first drive!)
When we arrived back at The Car People we realised that the car we had been driving was actually a petrol when we had intended to look for a diesel so Naomi then offered to look for other similar vehicles available within the company which could just be transferred from other branches for us should we wish to make a purchase. She found several more vehicles with their pictures and specifications for us to look at. We were also brought the valuation on our own car which was so ridiculously low that we both had to stop ourselves laughing out loud. (Dave later explained that it wasn’t a reflection of the true value of our car but more that it was of no value to The Car People and they would just send it straight to auction.)
We explained to Naomi that we would go away to consider our options – to look at the value we might get for our own car selling privately and also to look at the availability of cars to purchase privately. She was completely happy with that and at no point did we feel remotely under pressure to commit to anything else.
So, at the end of our hour and half visit to The Car People, Manchester?
* I’m really impressed with the set up at The Car People, it’s really is hassle free.
* All the staff are friendly and helpful without a hint of pressure.
* I would never have considered buying from a used car dealership in the past however after our experience yesterday I would be tempted to consider it now should our budget stretch that far. The level of work done on the cars to check they are up to a set standard is impressive and reassuring – something you would never get buying you car privately.
* I really, really, really want a new car NOW
*Disclaimer – I was asked to test drive The Car People experience as a mystery shopper by a third-party. The views expressed in this post are my own; this is an honest, uncensored write up as ever*