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Buying a “new” car? How “new” is “new”?

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This column marks my tenth anniversary as AMA motoring writer.

Over the years I’ve received just as many brickbats as bouquets and one learns to firm up and not shy away from telling it like it is.

I have noticed that doctors who disagree with what I’ve written may even accuse me of not even driving their beloved model.

By way of example I thought I’d accurately described that holding onto the steering wheel in a previous Mercedes model was like dancing with a fat lady, but a colleague thought I’d gone too far with that analogy.

Just for the record, I did drive the car, and I have danced with a fat lady!

And for those that do disagree there has always been the option of a letter to the editor.

One of my IMG colleagues aptly pointed out to me that was exactly why he chose to live in Australia, because it is a country of free speech, at least outside of Queensland and if the Murdoch-owned press agree with your views.

So at the risk of offending a whole nation of car dealers, I’m going to spill the beans on what it means to buy a not so new, “new” car.

A doctor called me last week and asked me to take a close look at a new 1.6 litre turbo-diesel Volvo C30 that he’d found at a great price on the Internet.

The RRP for that vehicle is currently $36,990 + ORC.

Whilst it was listed at $28,990 drive-away on the internet, the dealership had $29,990 on the windscreen so there already looked like there’d be some room for negotiation.

My colleague was particularly asking that I check the build date on the car’s body.

On closer inspection it seemed that this particular vehicle left the Belgian production line in February 2012.

By my calculations that made it 18 months old, and not so new after all.

On the inside I wasn’t greeted by that new car smell one comes to expect and there was a lot of dusty debris inside which I’m sure would have been removed at pre-delivery.

Under the bonnet there was more debris indicative that the vehicle had spent its whole life outside and in the harsh sun-light.

Not so good if you’re fortunate enough to have undercover parking for your own car.

There was also a lot of corrosion on all the alloy bits under the bonnet some of which I’m sure would wipe off, but some of which was pitting the surfaces.

And while the dealership would insist that the engine oil should be changed every 12 months regardless of how many kilometres travelled to maintain the warranty, I would be surprised if this vehicle had already had a service.

So is a discount of about 28 per cent off the RRP too good to pass by on an 18 month old “new” car that has only done 68 kilometres.

My colleague wasn’t sure.

He offered the dealership $26,000 (cash, no trade).

The salesman feigned indignation and said they wouldn’t go lower than $28,000.

My colleague walked.

Just as well, because the next day he bought a new and some would argue better 2.0 litre turbo-diesel Opel Astra for $21,700 drive-away.

Safe motoring,
Doctor Clive Fraser
Email: doctorclivefraser@hotmail.com