When we were younger and had no money buying a car was easy: you found the least crappy thing you could afford, often in a private deal or from a back-street dealer, plonked down a few hundred quid and drove away in something you knew would be scrap in one or 2 years time. No-one gave you sales talk, tried to flog insurance, extended warranties, paint sealing treatment, financial packages etc - they all knew the deal too.
Actually it sucked, but that was because you knew the car was probably junk, but it didn't matter other than you couldn't really afford for it to break down for a while.
Now we have money to spend on cars, and it requires visiting showrooms that are operated by main dealers all with quotas to reach, sales 'exectutives' with commission to make etc. So you dance with them to their tune, spending the first 25-30min in the showroom having photocopies taken of your license, answering questions about why you wanted to try the car you came to view, what your priorities are when puchasing a car (which of brand, style, space, value, colour etc most important to you) before being told what a wonderful car it is that you're going to see and how it's a really good price right now.
When we bought Chris's mini (Sytner Mini, Slough - I want to add the word 'despond' for John Bunyan fans) everything we said was "perfect", and it was tempting to make comments about bowel movements, just to see if it would elicit the same word. At collection time* a few days after agreeing the deal we were taken into a darkened room with the car wrapped in a bow - they played congratulations style music with cheering in the background, as the lights were brought up to reveal..... a shiny car with a bow round it - as though we'd made some kind of life-defining choice and this would be our salvation.
It took a lot to stay in the room and not run away from the insane people who had our new car. ;-)
But back to the present.
We've been to main dealerships twice in the last 8 days, both with somewhat similar, though non-identical experiences. Both times we've been lucky enough to have a new recruit deal with us, and that's greatly reduced the amount of twaddle that's been peddled, but neither experience was actually enjoyable. I'm trying to analyse why, and I think it's because there's a cultural gulf now between ourselves and a typical member of the public that they'd normally deal with.
There's been one exception.
This afternoon we visited a car dealer in Wheatley, just south of Oxford. They were relaxed, friendly, mature, were happy to give us a key and let us look at the car without recording our inside leg and shoe size in their Contact Information Management System. They took a copy of a driving license, got the car out and we drove it for a couple of miles each. The whole thing was like grownups working together without playing games, and it makes me want to give them my business, even though I don't think it's entirely the right car for us.
Tomorrow we're going to try one more car, then make a decision. It's terribly tempting to go back to Wheatley regardless.
*I must remember to tell whoever we buy from NOT to do this, on pain of losing the sale.
If anyone cares, we're probably buying a Volkswagen Tiguan or Skoda Karoq. Yes, it's an SUV, but it's a small one, and very practical for our needs at this stage in family life. It was tempting to get another Mini Countryman like I had before, but the ride was a bit too hard on our broken-up roads, and it gave back-seat passengers a hard time.