Tag Archives | buying used cars

In the market for a new car? Here’s some old school advice dressed up as “game theory”

Someone sent me this article from the Irish Times, In the game for the best price, from their Motoring section.

The article tells us that using “a simple game theory technique” we’ll be able to save significant amounts of money if we’re looking to buy a car.

The journalists writes thus about the professor from the US who has developed this “game theory” for buying cars:

The CIA and US government regularly ask his opinion on what the terrorist threat is likely to be from North Korea or what Iran will want to do with atomic energy. So, when he turns his attention to game theory strategies on how to buy a car, it’s time to listen up.

You can read the article for yourself – you should, just to see how to stretch the words “shop around” into a few hundred word article.

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Drive prices down – Cut car costs by fuelling around

Irish News of the World

February 1st, 2009

Diarmuid MacShane

Are you being driven around the bend paying more to keep your car on the road, or are you cruising now that it’s costing you a lot less? This week we’ll look at the recent changes in motoring costs, and how to save a few quid here and there.

Petrol and diesel prices have plunged since October from a high of €1.40 per litre to less than €1. But have you noticed that petrol is slowly creeping up again recently, despite the price of oil remaining low? Do garages think that we won’t mind paying a few more cents than we should just to boost their profits because we’ve paid higher in the past?

Buying petrol up North won’t unfortunately save us cash, but you can use the website www.pumps.ie to find out the lowest costs in your area. And remember, if you see cheap petrol somewhere make sure you take advantage by topping up instead of always running to empty and reducing your options to chose the price you pay.

This week we found out that car insurance costs would be going up again. If 2008 was the safest year ever and a recent EU survey found that 8 in 10 Irish people felt safer on the roads, why the price hikes? Are insurance companies’ screwing customers to make up for falling profits because of losses on their stock market investments?

So how can you beat these unfair price rises? Remember that insurance companies depend on most people automatically renewing their car insurance instead of shopping around for better offers first.

Even if you think you don’t have the time it can be well worth your while calling 3 or 4 insurance companies for a quote. A recent Financial Regulator survey found that the same person could get quotes of between €426 and €840 for the same insurance cover. Threaten to leave your current insurer – they may drop their prices to get you to stay.

With car sales stalling during 2008 and already falling 16% in 2009, ValueIreland.com is being told two different stories about the price of cars.

On the one hand, some of our readers are seeing up to €10,000 being knocked of the price of new cars, and some 2nd hand great bargains in garages and at auctions. But on the other hand, some think that garages would rather go out of business than sell a car at a discount.

Because garages now are less likely to accept a trade in because they don’t know what the car might be worth in 6 months time and because they might not be able to shift it, if you are in the market for a new car though, you could try to flog your car yourself.

A new Irish website www.CarForeCourt.ie will let you upload your car details for any interested garage or individual who’s looking for a similar car to come to you. You can also see what cars others have to offer and even potentially see if you could arrange a swap.

And if you want 2 cars, you could always keep an eye out for the “buy one, get one free” that a couple of Irish garages have offered recently, mirroring what’s happening in the US and UK.

With the fall in new and second hand car sales, it might just mean that we’ll be forking out more on servicing, repairs and passing the dreaded NCT just to keep our cars on the road for longer.

However, because garages aren’t selling as many cars, they’ll be keen to get your servicing business instead. With this in mind, you should be able to drive a hard bargain by calling a few garages to see how low they might go. Don’t be afraid to haggle and play one off against the other. Make sure you get a written quotation – it saves any hassles later.

You could get your car serviced at home or at work. There are several Irish companies that will to come to you to service your car. Since their costs are lower, you should be able to get yourself a good deal.

A top money saving tip is to avoid paying for a “pre-NCT” service. Why not just have your NCT done and if you fail, you’ll know exactly what needs to be fixed rather than paying for stuff that might not need to be fixed.

Finally, how about getting your car serviced in Northern Ireland? We’ve been told that you can find significant discounts on servicing in Newry and Belfast. If you plan it right, you can drop your car off in the morning, do your shopping around town, collect your newly serviced car, and set off for home with your northern shopping bargains, saving yourself a bundle on the trip.

Check out these links below for more of the ValueIreland.com Top Tips for Motoring:

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NCA still failing to discourage car clocking

I had the post below drafted earlier this week. It’s still current, but given the recent budget, it does raise a key question.

How much better protected will Irish consumers be under the combined National Consumer Agency / Competition Authority than they are now under the separate entities?

This post below shows the complete inaction of the NCA to use the consumer protection legislation that they could use, while I’ve written before about the uselessness of the Competition Authority – witness the spectacular 2006 failure to act over the Shell / Statoil merger.

We can only wait and see. If the proposed amalgamation isn’t going to improve consumer protection, then we’ll have to see what cost savings are going to be implemented instead. Either way, I suppose consumer protection in Ireland can’t get any worse:

In July of this year we reported how the National Consumer Agency was taking it easy on garages that were ripping off consumers by selling them clocked cars. At the time we felt that the practice by the NCA of getting the garages to promise to be good wouldn’t be enough to get garages to stop this clocking of cars.

Despite this, Ann Fitzgerald claimed that this softly softly approach:

Sends a clear message to other dealers that they cannot mislead consumers by selling them clocked cars and expect to get away with it

Obviously not, given this report at the end of September that the Airport Used Cars Centre in Cloghran in Dublin was caught having sold 4 clocked cars to consumers.

An unbelievably, given this clear evidence that the NCA softly softly approach isn’t working, they still won’t prosecute and fine the car dealer for breaching consumer laws and ripping off consumers.

What will it take for these fuckers* to actually do something to protect consumers?

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Car Clocking – To undertake or not undertake!

[This article refers to TopTips.ie which I gave up as no longer necessary – instead, you can click on the ValueIreland Top Tips page.]
In the last few months, the fuckers* have pursued three garages for the offence under the Consumer Protection Act of car clocking – technically a misleading commercial practice. For those not familiar with the term, car clocking is the practice of reducing the mileage on a car in order to make it a more attractive purchase for consumers.

In March 2008, instead of being convicted of an offence under the Act, Orange Motors in Limerick “gave an undertaking” not to sell clocked cars as well as to compensate consumers who had purchased 4 clocked cars from the garage concerned.

This month, Arch Motors in Galway gave a similar undertaking in lieu of a conviction. As part of the National Consumer Agency investigation, Arch Motors had been found to have sold 3 clocked cars to consumers. Again, as well as the undertaking, compensation was provided to the consumers concerned.

According to the NCA press release, compensation can be “reimbursement of money received from consumers in connection with the sale of clocked cars, or taking back the cars.”

However, in June, also in Galway, Kilgarve Cars in Ballinasloe was convicted of selling a clocked car. Following a consumer complaint, the owner of Kilgarve Cars was fined €2000 (though the maximum is apparently €3000).

According to Ann Fitzgerald of the National Consumer Agency, undertakings are preferable to convictions for the following reasons:

  • Puts a stop to this misleading practice by the dealers concerned
  • Ensures that consumers get redress, and
  • Sends a clear message to other dealers that they cannot mislead consumers by selling them clocked cars and expect to get away with it

But obviously this isn’t working. Since their first press release and media coverage earlier this year, two further garages were caught clocking cars – clearly not putting a stop to the practice and obviously the garages concerned in Ballinasloe and Galway aren’t getting the message.

I’m intrigued though as to how one garage was convicted for selling only one clocked car, but the other two essentially got away with (giving an undertaking for) selling three and four clocked cars. Are there two different ways in which this same Consumer Protection Act is being applied?

Or did the garage in Ballinasloe simply refuse to give the undertaking not to do it in the future? I can’t imagine a garage not giving such an undertaking if it meant that they could avoid a conviction and a fine.

According to this RTE article, Ms.Fitzgerald had the following to say after the most recent “undertaking”:

Chief executive Ann Fitzgerald said this was the second such undertaking from a car dealer this year, and sent a clear message to other dealers that they cannot mislead consumers by selling them clocked cars and expect to get away with it.

And according to this RTE earlier story:

The National Consumer Agency says it believes the practice of altering mileage readings on second-hand cars is widespread.

Yet they don’t prosecute the garages that are caught cheating their customers in this misleading fashion. No wonder the practice is still widespread – if you’re not going to get prosecuted and fined when you break the law, where’s the incentive to abide by it, especially when the profit incentive exists if you keep breaking it.

I wonder did the garage owners who gave Ms.Fitzgerald the undertakings have their fingers crossed behind their back.

P.S Our TopTips.ie Top Tips on How to Identify a Clocked Car are now available by clicking on this link.

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