With baby number 3 due later in the year, we’ve had to change my car so that we could fit all 3 kids in the back – my old car really had 2.5 seats and there was no way I could fit in the new baby’s car seat, Kenzie’s group 1 car seat and Megan’s bumper seat, so we had to find something suitable within budget.

The first step we had to look at was what type of car we wanted.  So we took some time (baby isn’t due until September so we didn’t have to rush into anything) to think about what was essential for the new car and drew up a list to help make our search easier.  This included:

  • Rear parking sensors (I’ve had them on my last few cars so I’m used to them now)
  • 3 individual seats big enough for the different car seats
  • Electric windows
  • Low mileage (cut off of 60,000 miles)
  • Within our agreed budget
  • Trade seller willing to part exchange my soon to be old car
  • 7 seats as this would suit our lifestyle better (extra seat for other family or friends)

Having these requirements limited our search considerably but it was clear that we had to focus on what was absolutely essential and where we could compromise.  This led us to having a choice of 4 cars so off we went to Auto Trader on a quest to find something suitable.

We were lucky in that we found something straightaway that was in budget so we went along to look at the car.

The mileage was just under 60,000, the price was £10 off our budget, it had the bonus of front parking sensors and they were happy to do a part exchange – all ticks here.

The downside was that the interior was scratched in places and there were a few minor repairs that needed to be done.

But I decided to go ahead with the sale on condition that they fixed what needed to be done.  I paid a deposit and they promised to call me to let me know when it would be ready for me to collect.

A week later, I had to call them as I hadn’t heard anything from them and they told me that it would be ready a couple days later so I went along to collect the car.

Everything was going well until we went to strap Megan into the car as we found out that one of the seat belts didn’t work properly, this was agreed for them to get a new part to fix it.  So off we went on our merry way to meet my husband for lunch.  We parked in the multi storey car park but realised that the parking sensors didn’t work.  When it was time for us to leave, I went to start the car but nothing was happening.  I’d had the car all of 3 hours and it was broke!  So a call to RAC later they identified that the car actually had a serious problem with the fuel pump and it had to be towed away – great fun getting it out of the car park!

As the car was covered under warranty, I arranged for it to be towed back to the garage for them to fix the problems (seat belt, parking sensors and fuel pump) and had my old car back to use whilst they fixed it – a great solution.

This is when things went from bad to worse.

I was still confident at this stage that it was just bad luck and that it would get fixed quickly.

They promised to phone me the next day (a Thursday) with an update of what they needed to do and to give me an idea of when it would be fixed.

Thursday came and went with no call.  So Friday morning I phoned them and was told that it would be ready that afternoon so I arranged to collect it Monday morning after the school run.

Off I went on Monday to the garage but when I got there, the car was nowhere to be seen and none of the people I’d be dealing with were around for me to talk to.  Luckily there was someone there who told me that there was a problem with the part they needed and that it would be ready that afternoon.  They even said they would drop the car off to my house to save me a trip.

This is where I was starting to get concerned so I called on the afternoon to check what time they would be here to make sure I had time to collect Megan from school and they told me the car wasn’t ready but assured me it would be with me by the following day.

Guess what, it wasn’t ready and I received no call from them!  By this time, it became clear that the problem was a lot more serious than originally thought and I’d lost all confidence that they would actually do what they said (so far they hadn’t).

So come Wednesday morning, after lots of attempts to get hold of somebody to talk to, I told them that I wanted to get my deposit money back and they happily agreed.  Getting the money back proved to be a difficult experience in itself but everything worked out in the end.

Lessons learned

  • When things go wrong (and they do occasionally), always keep in touch with your customer to let them know what’s happening and how you’re fixing the problem
  • Do what you say you’re going to do and try to over deliver if possible
  • Try to make things as easy as possible for your customer, it shouldn’t come to the point where they lose confidence in you
  • Happily give a refund if you can’t sort out the problem as you don’t want a pissed off customer saying bad things about your business

Next week, I’ll share the completely different experience I had when getting my new car from a different garage – they definitely got it right!

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