We don’t really do brand new cars in this column, for obvious reasons. But the thing is, when you go to the showroom and buy a shiny car, how brand new is it anyway? Three years after Saab officially died in 2011, new ones were still being registered in 2014.
I have focused on this because reader Mr Brooks told me his tale of just such a vehicle, which seemed to have been left behind.
“I thought I had bought a brand new Jeep Cherokee on 25 September 2015 only to discover that it was actually a 14-month-old car that had been parked in a compound with its brakes locked on,” he says. “The leather was shot and dried out and the brakes had to be replaced. The tyres had flat spots, too.”
Of course, it all gets complicated and Jeep has a different view: that Mr Brooks knew how old the car was and benefited from a discount as a result. Mr Brooks refutes that and says it was only at the service when the brakes failed after 5000 miles that the workshop manager revealed just how old the Jeep actually was. This is a matter for FCA customer services, but the point is that, unless you have actually specced the new vehicle and waited for it to be built, then you don’t know how old the car you are buying really is.
Dealers don’t like to have stock and usually they don’t have very much, because it costs them money. But they might have to over-order certain models because of allocations and that is when higher spec cars can end up in muddy fields. This means, unless it’s made crystal clear to you on what date the vehicle was actually made, it is always best to ask.
The Vehicle Identification Number is the birth date and the dealer should be able to tell you when it left the factory and give you the opportunity to quiz them on what it has been up to in the intervening period.
I would like to think that you are an avid enough Autocar reader to know about anorak stuff, like midlife model facelifts, engine upgrades and specification changes. Perhaps the best knowledge is what cars are not selling. Anyone who knows where the new, unsold vehicles are parked – usually it is airfields – will have an idea of which models need their age verified. Right now, sadly, it is JLR products among those clogging up the taxi lanes and you can get an XJ with more than £20,000 off.