The Casual Father: Family wagon sends sports car dreams up in smoke

Michael Steward

Michael Steward - Credit: Archant

It’s been a while since I’ve bought a car. In fact, that’s a lie, I’ve never even bought a car from an actual showroom. My wheels over the years have either been passed down to me or bought from my parents in a generous sort of pay-back scheme, which doesn’t wind up with a visit from individuals wearing long leather trench coats if you default on a month or two.

With the current vehicle driving painfully ever closer into the great scrap yard in the sky, and a new addition even nearer to making an appearance, the time is now for a new motor.

The excitement of being able to waltz into a car showroom with intentions to actually buy something soon subsides when the wife quickly reminds me that we’re shopping for a “family” car.

The term instantly fills me with visions of a grey 1980s Volvo Estate, and all of a sudden I feel quite old, and if I’m being completely honest, slightly bitter.

I don’t want to have to think about boot space, or the number of air bags, or whether the model has an Isofix safety system, I don’t even know what an Isofix is. I want a Porsche, or something close.

What happened to choosing a car on speed, looks and style? I ask the wife. “I don’t know,” she replies, “but none of those things apply to any car you’ve ever owned.”

My mood is not lightened by the showroom experience. We don’t even get spoken to in the first two, despite the fact that we’re basically a walking sale, although reflecting on it, silence is considerably more enjoyable than listening to car salesmen talk.

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“If you tell me you want the car now, I can take £2,000 off it mate,” says one, “I’ll have to make a phone call, but I’ll do it for you if you want it today.”

No sale.

Another backs away from the hard sell approach and engages me in an SUV v hatchback debate. The sales technique is preferable, but he waffles on so much, I can’t wait to get out of the door.

No sale.

The next is a wily campaigner, quite sharp and quick-witted. I like him, but you can still tell he would sell his own family for a couple of quid. We say goodbye after he fails to show us anything within budget, despite the fact we informed him of our top price at the very start.

No sale.

Finally, the internet comes to the rescue and the boot is firmly on the other foot as the wife and I discuss our bartering tactics to get the vehicle’s price down on the way to the dealership.

“The price is the price,” says a man, stone faced when we get there, “you can take it or leave it.”

We conclude the deal, receiving a discount of £0.00. “That was no fun,” says the wife. “I wanted to haggle.”

Haggling or not, we are now the proud new owners of a car with great boot space, plenty of airbags, and Isofix compatibility. Which, apparently, is a superior way of plugging your child’s car seat in.

Oh well, at least the kid can ride in comfort while I dream of a Porsche.

Note: Congratulations to the Stewards, whose baby girl Elizabeth was born on Friday, October 16.