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Opinion: are we overthinking car buying?

This month, a chat with a neighbour leads to a revelation

Published: 03 Oct 2022

I am trying, and failing, to jam another stack of flattened Amazon boxes into our recycling bin, when I notice Bob beckoning furtively from across the road.

Bob lives on our street. We’re on first-name terms. We’re definitely not on ‘beckoning furtively from across the road’ terms.

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Nonetheless, Bob continues beckoning. I abandon the boxes, and wander across the street to join him.

“Just bought a new car!” Bob announces in a conspiratorial whisper. Bob knows I vaguely work in cars, which I guess makes this opening gambit marginally less strange.

“What is it?” I say.

Saying nothing, Bob gestures to me to follow him down the street. I do. He stops with a flourish next to... a Toyota C-HR.

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“Toyota C-HR!” triumphs Bob. “What do you think?”

“It’s... very blue!” I reply, hoping he won’t notice this is a statement of fact rather than an actual opinion. Not that I’ve got anything against the C-HR, exactly. I’m just intrigued quite what criteria would lead you to plump for a C-HR over one of its many, many, many, many rivals, and to be so clearly delighted with your decision.

“What made you go for the C-HR?” I ask.

Bob looks at me in confusion. “I... saw it and I... liked it?” he replies. “Why, is there something wrong with it?”

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I’d long assumed that everyone buys cars the way that I – and, I’m guessing, you? – buy cars. By hoovering every crumb of information available, by crunching the numbers, by poring over reviews, by phoning Paul Horrell at 10pm after a couple of pints. But I’m increasingly realising that a lot of people don’t buy cars that way. They see something they like, decide they can broadly afford it, and then just... buy it.

Obviously what I’m supposed to say here is: insane way to buy a car, Bob. Why would you plunge into likely the second-biggest purchase of your life without sweating every detail? How could you ever rest easy without being sure you’d got absolutely, definitively, statistically the best car for you?

However. I am near certain that Bob, having purchased his C-HR, won’t be waking up at 4am, worrying that his residuals might have been a few per cent better if he’d opted for the Honda HR-V instead, or that a lightly used Audi Q3 could have been the better bet. I suspect Bob – dear, sweet, naive Bob, who I’m hoping doesn’t read – will be far more content with his purchase than I have been with any car I’ve ever bought.

“Nothing wrong with it at all!” I reassure Bob cheerily. “Great car. You’ll love it. Very blue!”

And Bob trots off down the street, shiny new key fob in hand. He saw it, he liked it, he bought it. Maybe that’s how to choose a car. Maybe we should all #BeMoreBob.

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