Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Buying a Car in Scotland

For all intents and purposes, buying a car in Scotland looks a lot like buying a car in the States. Let me assure you, it is quite different. The main difference is the car salesmen. In the States, we couldn’t so much as step foot onto a car lot without someone immediately offering to help us out. So persuasive were these US salesmen that Jonathan once took my car in for an oil change and left with a brand new car. Don’t expect that sort of sales pitch in Scotland.

Two days before we bought our car, we went to the dealerships during business hours to scope out the front runners from our Internet search. We expected someone to greet us, rattle off the car’s specs, knock a couple thousand off the price, etc, but no one approached us at all.  In fact at one point we saw a salesman come out onto the lot and we braced ourselves for the pitch, but to our surprise he just kept on walking by us. Strange. I may be wrong about this, but I think car salesmen are on salary in the UK, rather than working off of commission, which would explain their hesitancy to come and chat us up in the cold and rainy Scottish weather.
Running out of time before our rental car needed to be returned, we headed out on Friday morning with a mission to test drive some cars. After walking inside the dealership to seek out sales associates (who all avoided eye contact, by the way), we ended up test driving a Land Rover Freelander, and Audi A4 station wagon, and a BMW X1.
Though we loved the look and feel of the Audi, it was ruled out because despite being considerably more expensive than the other two, it didn’t have leather seats and it didn’t have seat warmers. Let me repeat: It did not have seat warmers. In Aberdeen. That’s a deal breaker if I ever heard one. I wasn’t aware that they even made luxury vehicles without seat warmers anymore. Even our rental Vauxhall had not only seat warmers, but a steering wheel warmer as well.
So with the Audi ruled out, our decision came down to the Freelander or the X1. The Freelander was more economical, more rugged, and we liked the general style of it. The X1 was more luxurious with a backup camera, navigation system, and rear DVD players.
Ultimately it came down to size. The BMW X1 was the smallest car that we could get that would still hold our dogs in the back.
I promise, I'm not that bad of a photographer; the car is parked on a slope.
I think it's smaller frame will make it easier to drive, both on the hectic roads of the city and the smaller roads in the country. And even though it can’t climb rocks like the Freelander can, it’s still okay for driving in the snow so that we can hit the Grampian slopes come next winter.
Another aspect of buying a car in Scotland that differed greatly from any experience we've had in the States is the haggling over price. Even though we were paying in cash, there was little negotiation over asking price. When Jon point blank posed the question of lowering the cost, the salesman said "we'll knock off $1,000 pounds", which from what I hear is a pretty standard answer. Of course, 1,000 pounds translates to $1,600 so that's nothing to scoff at. I think that as a buyer, you have more power if you're looking at a manual versus an automatic. When there is only one automatic on the lot, you lose a bit of your edge.
Buying a car was somewhat ant-climatic since we weren’t able to leave the dealership with our purchase. Even though we set up our bank account with HSBC last Wednesday, we still didn’t have our debit cards by Friday meaning we didn’t have a way to actually pay for the car. (By the way, the answer to ‘how do you buy a car in Scotland?’ is apparently ‘with a debit card’.) We put a deposit down using our US credit card and made a bank transfer on Friday afternoon, but since it didn’t actually post until Monday, we were stuck in the Vauxhall for the weekend.
All’s well that ends well however, and we got to bring our baby home Monday afternoon. Here are some pictures of our new Beamer.
Okay, I'm a pretty bad photographer.

We’re very smitten with her, and are currently taking suggestions for what to call her. I'm leaning towards 'Ruby' for her red leather seats. Red leather wouldn't have been my first choice, but hey, at least they are warm and toasty which is more than the Audi's more stylish black seats could say. And actually, they are quite growing on me. Europe goggles strike again!


  1. Ruby is a great name. It’s a good thing that you chose to buy than lease, as leasing appears to be a trend nowadays. Leasing lets you simply rent the vehicle for a set period of time. Once that term expires, you must return the vehicle to the dealership with nothing to show for your years of payments. Buying, on the other hand, definitely has its long-term ideals.

    Erwin Calverley

  2. Ruby suits the car really good. We named our yellow Volks, Drone, since BumbleBee is already taken. :D One thing I learned from car negotiations is to not look too interested when doing research on a dealership. Car sellers seem to know who really wants to buy or just eyeing cars out. It would be best to look like the latter so that you could downplay any situation.

    Tyra Shortino

  3. Great seats! :D I love the color. By the way, it would be best to apply leather conditioner on it once in a while. Generously spread the leather protection lotion on the seats and spread it aptly. There should be a wet film that is left on each piece of leather in the car. Doing this would prevent cracks and wear.

    Kerstin Shed

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  5. Hi, I'm curious, we're moving to the St. Andrew's area in August from the US. Do they do property tax over there for vehicles? And how do you register it and how much does it cost? Is it pretty similar to here?