Buying a car in 68 easy steps

Scarlett and I bought a new car this month

We not only share a car, but also a complete indifference about cars. We know nothing about them, apart from the fact that in this current stage of our life, owning a car does make things a little easier. 

Owning a business and having a child together, we try to draw clear lines to agree who’s responsible for what. Despite my complete lack of knowledge, this particular task was allotted to me.

I’ve owned four cars during my life –  a Toyota Yaris, a Volkswagen Polo, a Vauxhall Astra and a Jeep Renegade. As I’m not loyal to one brand and I have next to no knowledge about which car is “the best” in my price range, I’m a very impressionable buyer. 

My most recent car was bought completely on impulse – a Jeep Renegade purchased after a trip to America during which we were upgraded from our bargain bucket rental car to a Jeep Cherokee. I quite enjoyed driving it and I thought “Hey! I’m the type of guy who drives his Jeep on the highway!”

But the M8 ain’t the pacific coast highway. And the Jeep Renegade ain’t a great car – not my words, but the words of What Car Magazine.  

This time, I tried to become a little more informed and aimed to be a little less impulsive before taking the plunge.  Being the marketing professional I am, I began to list all the things that were influencing my decision as an uninformed, dispassionate consumer searching for an answer.

So here are the 68 things that influenced my purchase: 

  1. An email from Arnold Clark to remind me it was “time to change my Jeep Renegade”. 
  2. Watching Volvo ads at the start of The Undoing.
  3. Seeing the lovely family who live above us had just bought a Volvo.
  4. Reading an article in Monocle Magazine about Volvo’s turnaround.
  5. Reading about Volvo’s commitment to safety.
  6. Remembering that the cool couple who own an amazing boutique BnB we visited also drove a Volvo. 
  7. Pontificating about how impressive it was that Volvo had transformed its reputation from a car for Dire Straits’ listening, Barley Sugar eating boring middle-aged men to the car driven by cool entrepreneurs like I hoped people would see us as. 
  8. Being relentlessly served ads by Volvo on Instagram.
  9. A scroll through Volvo’s Instagram grid to see my options.
  10. Looking up the prices for a Volvo and seeing a Volvo was out of our price range.
  11. Reading a review about the Volvo that we could potentially stretch to which pointed out the Volvo we wanted was flawed in areas I barely understood.
  12. Our friends buying a Skoda Kodiaq, which looked nice. 
  13. Jeremy Clarkson reviewing the Skoda Kodiaq positively in The Sunday Times Magazine (there’s probably not many things that Jeremy Clarkson and I are simpatico on, and I’m not a regular reader of his columns, but if there’s one thing I’ll bow to him on, it’s cars).
  14. The Skoda adverts with the entire SUV range swirling about in the dirt.
  15. The elusive Skoda salesman who went against type and refused to return my calls.
  16. PPC advertising.
  17. Pontificating about how Skoda had stuck to its guns and kept its brand name despite being the butt of jokes for how terrible the cars were when I was younger.
  18. Being worried that if I drove a Skoda people might get in thinking I was their Uber Driver.
  19. Seeing the Skoda parked outside my local Sainsbury’s and peering in every time I walked past. 
  20. Frustration towards the Skoda salesman who assured me that he was “Sorry Mr Hollerin but we’ll get that price sent by the end of the day” (he didn’t).
  21. Hearing our friends raving about their new Skoda Kodiaq.
  22. Being pied by Skoda after asking to speak to another salesman.
  23. Being tempted by the Karoq which was smaller, but cheaper.
  24. Still being unable to speak to anyone at Skoda.
  25. Watching Larry David driving the BMWi electric car in Curb Your Enthusiasm.
  26. The reality of living in a flat so being unable to install a charging unit.
  27. Scarlett saying “we’re not buying a car just because it’s what Larry David drives.”
  28. Realising that the BMWi was too small for a pram.
  29. Watching Larry David drive a Toyota Prius in the early episodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm. 
  30. The very friendly and helpful salesman at the Toyota Arnold Clark in Linwood.
  31. The Toyota RAV4 being a car big enough for a pram. 
  32. Our friends in America driving a Toyota RAV4 which they were very fond of. 
  33. Toyota’s PPC advertising.
  34. My dad sending me a good deal on a Nissan Quashqai. 
  35. Scarlett not liking the shape of the Nissan Quashquai.
  36. Wanting to go against the grain and being encouraged by not seeing many RAV4s about the streets.
  37. The fact it was a hybrid allowed us to get a step closer to an electric car.
  38. Being offered a really, really good deal on the Toyota RAV4.
  39. Both our dads and a friend agreeing it was a really, really good deal when we sent it to them
  40. The nice salesman at Toyota continuing to be attentive, without being pushy.
  41. The Skoda man not answering out call when we phoned for a final comparison.
  42. Positive reviews about the Toyota RAV4.
  43. Poor reviews of the RAV4’s infotainment system.
  44. Fellow Storyteller, Henry, who knows a lot more about cars than us, not reacting negatively when I mentioned in an offhand comment that we were considering buying a Toyota RAV4 Hybrid.
  45. Scarlett’s cousin and husband raving about their Mitsubishi hybrid.
  46. Mitsubushi’s sponsorship of Scottish Rugby. 
  47. Me being crippled by the paradox of choice that now another car was in the mix and thinking maybe we should just keep the Jeep.
  48. Someone kicking the wing mirror off and keying my Jeep – causing me to realise that an orange car in Glasgow may be viewed as a different statement than we intended by some people.
  49. Feeling sorry for our poor wee Jeep.
  50. Feeling nostalgic about driving a Jeep Cherokee in America a few years ago.
  51. The nice salesman at Jeep being incredibly attentive when we asked to virtually view the Jeep Cherokee.
  52. Frequent 2-star reviews of the Jeep Cherokee.
  53. Absolutely awful finance deals on the Jeep Cherokee. 
  54. The Skoda guy finally getting back to me with a deal that was comparable to the RAV4.
  55. Being served yet more Instagram ads by Toyota.
  56. The nice salesman at Toyota Linwood coming back with an even better offer.
  57. Our enduring belief after visiting Tokyo that the Japanese rarely do anything that’s not a cut above everything else.
  58. Nostalgia about my first car, the Toyota Yaris.
  59. Seeing pictures of the RAV4 on Toyota’s Instagram feed.
  60. Wanting to get the decision off my plate as it had taken far too long now.
  61. Reading one more positive review.
  62. Scarlett saying “stop overthinking it, it’s only a car”. 
  63. Feeling smug about the fact I’ll be driving a hybrid and doing a little bit to help the environment.
  64. Cognitive dissonance about all the evidence that hybrid’s aren’t actually all they’re cracked up to be when it comes to helping the environment.
  65. Dark blue being available and Scarlett liking the colour.
  66. Realising the infotainment system was far superior to the one we currently had.
  67. Realising we hadn’t even heard the words “infotainment system” before we started this horribly convoluted process.
  68. Scarlett shouting “stop overthinking! You don’t even like cars ” 

So if you’re still reading, what did you learn?

When it comes to building a brand, you don’t turn a brand around overnight, that requires commitment.

You need to have a product people actually want at a price that’s palatable – if you don’t, however creative your marketing is, you’ll be fighting an uphill battle. 

But if your product or service does present value to people, your product or service needs to allow them to tell themselves a story.

I’ve been able to tell myself I’m a somewhat environmentally-conscious chap who’s not that flashy, who’s made a responsible decision for his family by getting the best deal possible on a car that probably won’t break down and fits a pram.

I’ve been able to tell myself all that because of social proof and because of how the car companies painted a picture of their brand through advertising, PR, customer service and social media. 

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