The idea of spending a large sum of money on something that you’ve never personally seen or tried is not new. After all, plenty of people bid on houses via the phone.
But for someone whose line of work is to test drive and review cars, then give advice to others on what car to buy, the notion of buying a car sight unseen and un-driven is daunting. Alas, that’s exactly what I did last week.
Having given up hope of getting a Porsche Macan due to the long wait times and perhaps coming to the sad realisation that it was just too small and impractical for our growing family, the search for another new car started in December.
It had to be an SUV. Argue with me all you want, but the process of putting young kids in their seats is much easier when you don’t have to bend over. I’d love a fast German wagon, but unfortunately this was not about me, I was pretty much buying a car for the wife.
We have a rule in our family, my wife picks the house and decorations and I get to pick the cars. I figure it’s a safe bet, as she has better taste than me most of the time.
So the brief, as I said to my wife, was for a ‘not-too-big’ SUV that can have occasional-use sixth and seventh seats. I know for a fact that those seats will get used perhaps half a dozen times a year, but that’s enough of a reason for us.
The ‘not-so-big’ part rules out about a dozen seven-seaters. It’s mainly to limit my beloved from performing those car park incidents that make speeding tickets look cheap. But also for inner-city living a large SUV is hard to justify.
I was very keen on the Volvo XC90, which I drove in Spain last months, but as much as I liked it, it was too big and felt slightly unrefined. Then there’s the new Audi Q7, which I saw in Detroit earlier this year, but again, it’s massive. The choices in the medium-SUV category with seven seats are somewhat limited.
Other slightly larger but still doable potentials were the Toyota Kluger and Ford Territory. As much as I love the Territory, the lack of ISOFIX points and old interior were a big no-no and the Kluger... well, last I checked I was under 50 and still somewhat interested in life.
Besides, we did want something a bit more premium.
That left, literally, one doable choice. The soon to be released Land Rover Discovery Sport. But there wasn’t one in the country to drive.
This left me in a bit of a situation. I went to a Land Rover dealer and was told that there was already a three month waiting list that was growing by the day, so if I wanted one, I better get my order in now.
By my very nature I am an early adopter, I will pay more to have things first, so the appeal of the car would wear down on me if, like the Macan, I had to wait more than six months for its arrival while others were driving around in theirs. The choice had to be made very quickly.
I let my wife pick the exterior colour (Kaikoura Stone), which I then quickly changed (to Corris Grey). I then picked white for the interior, which was also quickly changed to black as I watched our three-year-old walk out of a test vehicle with a white interior.
This whole process led me to become a proper car buyer. I Googled the Discovery Sport and, funnily enough, read our own review. It was largely positive. I then read the review of the SUV on multiple other Australian and European sites. I need both validation and reassurance.
I then watched our video on it, then other people’s video on it. I realised what the feeling is like to buy something of great value just by reading other’s opinions. There’s a lot of trust involved, one which I now fully appreciate from the other side.
Alas, I walked into a Land Rover dealer and ordered the car and put my deposit down. Ironically, my co-founder, Anthony Crawford, ordered the exact same car, that’s how much we agree on cars! So we bought two in the exact same interior an exterior colour combination. In my week’s worth of hesitation, I lost a whole freaking month in build time, so now our car arrives in July.
Statistically 4/10 people who buy a car do so without a test drive, a number that perplexed me. Now that I am in that group I am not even remotely horrified… okay, maybe just a little horrified.