This article will take you through a journey which was quite stressful at times.

The car died on us!

We returned from a trip, during which the car had been idle for nearly 3 weeks and it wouldn’t start.

We called breakdown cover, got it jump-started and it was fine. We used it for 3 days and then it went flat again.

We took the car to Kwik Fit and found out that the battery needed replacing. They told us that most cars aren’t suited to sitting idle for 2, let alone, 3 weeks. However, if it was unused during the winter, it was even more likely, that the battery would go flat.

We talked about the car and how we use it i.e. whether we drive it locally or on the motorway etc and we were told that we should take it for a long drive every 4 weeks or so. Otherwise, the car would have issues.

We were already considering changing our car so we asked them which car would be fine to only do local drives. Much to our surprise, they said none! They said all cars need to be driven.

All is well when you have a new battery

All was well until about 6 weeks later! I went out in the car. I returned to the car after about an hour and it was flat again!

We called the breakdown cover. They came, they jump-started it and they said that it was unlikely to be the battery and is more likely to be the alternator. For this reason, we didn’t return to Kwik Fit but went straight to our mechanic.

Unfortunately for us, he didn’t have anyone who was trained to use the machine that reads the battery and so he told us to take it to Kwik Fit. He also said that we would be surprised to know how many cars have had ‘new’ batteries fitted, but the owners soon realise that they weren’t new at all!

I went to Kwik Fit again. The battery had a 3-year warranty and if they found a fault with it, they would have replaced it for free. He showed me the results on the machine. The newly replaced battery and alternator were fine. He said we needed to get a drains specialist to look at the car and figure out what was draining it.

We used it for the next 2 days and then it failed again. We knew it wasn’t the battery or alternator so Suraj found an auto electric specialist who came to find the fault in the car. This is what he found:

  • The NEW battery was at 43% of its original capacity
  • This was caused by a parasitic drain which was coming from the onboard body control module which was discharging when the car was switched off
  • Alternatively, it may have been the body control module that powers the audio module which can sometimes have this parasitic drain problem
  • He explained that he could determine which part of the body control module was failing to switch off but he would have to pull the car apart and it would take another hour or longer
  • Instead, he suggested that we take it to a mechanic, tell them his findings and they could narrow the cause within 5 minutes as they would have parts of the car pulled apart anyway
  • He said that we could have the part repaired or replaced

Getting advice from our local dealer

We called Lexus in Colindale and explained the issue to a member of the service team. It was like getting blood out of a stone. He wouldn’t tell me how much either of these parts would cost, even though I explained that I knew that the fault hadn’t been pinned down. We wanted a rough idea so that we could decide whether to fix it or sell it. After going round and round in circles for a few minutes, he finally said that if it was the ECU, the parts alone would cost £1,000. He stressed that we would need to pay another £186 for them to do their own diagnostics but we would get half of this back if we got the car fixed by them.

I didn’t have much faith in what I’d heard, for a number of reasons. 1) he was so reluctant to tell me the price of the parts 2) it seemed as if he didn’t know and didn’t want to admit that 3) he called it an ECU and I didn’t know if that was the same part that I had referred to several times during the conversation

We asked other garages but they said that they didn’t have the right software to program it and it may involve some coding, which they couldn’t do.

At some point, between all of the above and valuing the car, when I thought we could part exchange the car, I somehow got in touch with Lexus in Cambridge. I got some accurate guidance from the salesman there. He was amazing! He read what I said, asked the service team how much either of the parts would cost, told me how long it would take for them to fit it, the cost per hour and the total estimated cost. The parts and labour would cost between £800 and £1000. This is NOT what the guy in Colindale said!

The value of the car

We checked AutoTrader and this is what we found.

Reality check

Based on the above, we knew that we wouldn’t get £2820 for the car, because of the electrical fault.

We checked out some sites and the ones that asked if there was an electrical fault, either didn’t want it or didn’t offer much.

We decided to find out how much it was worth to scrap the car and were offered between £67 and £500.

Interesting fact

I had gone onto some forums to see if others had experienced a similar issue and find out how they fixed it and how much it cost.

I found out the following:

There is always going to be a parasitic drain because things like GPS, radio presets, clock and other stuff need to keep their settings.

Around 36mA is considered to be normal. Some cars go up towards 50mA. But anything above that and there’s a fault somewhere that needs to be found.

Our fault was 0.4 which is 400mA i.e. way above normal!

Selling the car

I got a few quotes from various companies but they didn’t ask about electrical faults specifically, so I knew they wouldn’t give us what they offered.

I tried to email them, explain the issue and ask for another valuation. I was surprised to find that many of them didn’t reply and one bounced because their inbox was full.

I spoke with The Car Buying Group who said they would take the car but knock £200 off the original valuation.

All’s well that ends well

Certain aspects of the above i.e. finding a fault in the car, thinking that we had fixed it, finding out that the fault remained, getting a specialist to diagnose the fault, researching how to deal with it and then deciding to sell it; was stressful. However, I’m glad to say that the final chapter of it went really well. The company made things simple, straightforward and efficient, which helped me protect the amount of time and energy that needed to be put towards it. Find out more about that here.

Why we decided NOT to go to cargiant

We have purchased cars from cargiant before. We naively went there thinking that we could test drives a few cars back to back and compare, but this isn’t what happens in reality.

They have a process and there’s often a long wait before they let you test drive a car and there are long waits in between test drives. Also, they don’t specialise in a certain brand or know cars in-depth, like a staff in a dealership might. Also, we didn’t like the fact that we had to find the car, in what was essentially, a huge car park, and then wait for someone to find us to accompany us on the test drive. Thus we thought we’d approach the dealers, share our criteria, make a shortlist of the cars we wanted to test drive, make an appointment with the dealers to do this and then discuss which car would suit us best.

Finding a new car

We knew we wanted something smaller than what we had before and we wanted something ‘green.’ So I created a template to send out to various dealers/brands, explaining the type of car we wanted, the requirements we had, the types of journeys we would be making because of what we were told in Kwik Fit (see above) and what our budget was.

I was amazed to find that many of the websites didn’t have a contact form or an email address. They seemed to prefer for their potential customers to use the site to find their local branch and then call or visit them directly! In this day and age, I found that surprising. They were making customers jump through hoops instead of making things easier.

Getting replies from car dealers

A number of companies wrote back asking me to book an appointment with them, rather than, suggesting models which fit the specifics in the email. Others didn’t read it properly and suggested something that didn’t suit our needs at all. Some were spot on at doing what was needed.

We were without a car and wanted to do as much of the research before having to step into a showroom. There was no point in booking multiple appointments only to find that all their cars contained genuine leather or they only sold hybrids that needed to be plugged-in, as opposed to, self-charging ones.

Hiring a car

We wanted to do it right and avoid having buyer’s remorse so we thought it would be a good short term investment to create a shortlist and hire those cars for the day. This would give us a better idea of whether it would suit our needs or not. We planned to hire it on a day when we could utilise it the most, so it was practical, as well as, informative.

Unfortunately, apart from Enterprise, all the places that hired cars didn’t have any hybrids. Enterprise only had 1 which wasn’t a small car. It was the Hyundai IONIQ.

I’m so glad that we hired it for the day because I don’t think we would have been so sure about whether to buy it or not after a short test drive. It was a no! The angle of the seat wasn’t flat so my knees were higher than my hips and somehow the back of the seat and the headrest was really uncomfortable, no matter how much I adjusted it. Lastly, I couldn’t raise the seat high enough to feel like I could see enough.

Booking the test drives

Finally, we managed to book some test drives and what a palaver that became! I spoke with all the companies, explained that we didn’t have a car, that hubby had taken time off work so we needed to fit multiple test drives in within a short period of time, we wouldn’t be discussing finances but simply driving, discussing and creating a shortlist, after which we would return.

Citygate Ruislip

Our first stop was Citygate in Ruislip. I had shared all of the above with one salesperson but we were going to meet someone else as he wasn’t in that day.

I assumed that the car would be ready and that we would be in and out within 30 – 45 minutes.

We sat down and the salesman wanted to check that the car we wanted to test drive was well suited to our requirements, but quite frankly we didn’t need to revisit that nor did we have the time to discuss it! That wasn’t a great start. Then he needed our licences so he could do various checks. That was quick and painless.

However, when it came to accessing the car, even though I had done my best to explain our situation when I booked the appointment, the car wasn’t ready. It was blocked in by several cars and gaining access to it took over 15 minutes!

Anyway, we completed the test drive and left for our next appointment.

Lexus in Colindale

We got to our appointment with Lexus, just in time and were greeted by a member of staff who asked if he could help us. I explained that we had an appointment to test drive a couple of cars. He immediately said that we couldn’t do that. They only allow one test drive per visit as their insurance doesn’t allow anything else!

We explained that this negated the trip, the time off work and the multiple phone calls and emails to arrange the appointment! He said he would speak to his manager and come back to us.

We waited between 5 and 10 minutes after which someone approached us and said he would be accompanying us on the test drives. He began showing us around the car and the boot space when we explained that we needed to get on with the test drive etc etc etc. We were surprised that the previous person hadn’t explained all that to him! We were further surprised to hear him say that the other guy shouldn’t have said that we could only have 1 test drive because they’re here to work around the customers. A lot of contradictory information!

Anyway, we did the test drives and moved on.

Toyota in Colindale

While we were waiting for the manager to authorise multiple test drives in Lexus (see above) I called Toyota and explained what had happened in Lexus in order to avoid this happening when we got to Toyota. I did this because they are both part of Jemca.

We spoke to a sale representative who said they had the same policy and we shouldn’t have been told that we could have multiple test drives. He said the people who said it was fine are in a call centre and they don’t know. As far as we were concerned, that was an internal issue and quite frankly, not our problem. We just needed someone to authorise the test drives. I explained that we wanted him to speak with the powers that be, while we were in Lexus to avoid wasting time when we get to Toyota. He said he would speak with his manager and get back to us.

He then asked us what time our appointment was. I explained that, on two occasions, we were told that it was fine if we turned up earlier or later, as they could make adjustments to accommodate us because we weren’t sure how long we would be at Lexus. Apparently that wasn’t right either! They work on an appointment basis and need customers to stick to the agreed timings.

This was all before we got to the appointment. After arriving, it seemed to take ages for them to do the checks on our licence. Once it was done, we did 2 test drives and went to our final appointment.

Kia in Colindale

When I booked the appointment, the salesman didn’t seem very happy about the timing of it. He pretty much said that the test drive was pointless as we would be stuck in traffic and not get much driving done. I explained that this was the only time we had, hubby had taken time off, we had no car and that we had appointments beforehand. He booked the appointment, I felt, reluctantly.

We got to the appointment and before we sat down, he asked us where we had been and who we went on the test drives with. He knew a lot of the staff in Toyota and perhaps he wanted to connect with us about that.

He asked us if we wanted a new or used car and then explained that the drive of the new Kia Niro would be the same as the older ones. The only difference was the shape and a few other bits and bobs. I’ll come back to this later.

We went for the test drive and it was the longest one we had, traffic wasn’t an issue and both of us loved the experience. We discussed a few figures and said we would go away and think about it.

It had been a long day and I couldn’t process any more information. I needed to have something to eat and switch off from cars for a while.

Kia in Eastcote

We decided that we wanted to test drive the Niro again. Eastcote was nearer to us so I gave them a call.

I spoke with a lovely chap. He said they had about 7 in stock, so I asked him to send the year, mileage, cost, spec and colour of the ones they had.

We looked over the information that he emailed over and booked the test drives. Unfortunately, when we got there we found out that all of the cars weren’t there! Of the 2 that we were really keen on, 1 was at their site in High Wycombe and the other was with a member of staff who wasn’t there as it was his day off!

We got talking to the salesman and he was very keen on us trying the 2019 plate. He said that the drive on it was the same as the new model and that they drove completely differently to the older ones. This is not what we were told at Kia in Colindale!

We spent some time discussing figures and then went home without doing a single test drive.

I returned the next day and did the test drive without hubby as he was away for the week and found that the salesman was right! The drive was so so different! Suraj and I both thought the older model felt smooth and slick. This one felt even smoother, even lighter and zippier too.

All’s well that ends well

After that, we did some research on numbers and I’m really happy to tell you that the platform we used to find the replacement vehicle was awesome! Like I mentioned above, the experience was made simple, straightforward and efficient, which helped prevent time and energy being wasted unnecessarily. You can find out what happened here.

Was the above better than going to cargiant?

For us, it worked out really well.

We spent between 1:30 p.m. and about 6:00 p.m. travelling to four different dealerships, test drove six cars and even talked a little bit about numbers.

cargiant didn’t have a newer model of the Niro car, so we couldn’t have made the purchase from them anyway.

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