Car Sales: Do Gentlemen’s Agreements Apply?

By | December 20, 2013

Car Sales: Do Gentlemen’s Agreements Apply? Is your word your bond?

What if you are offered much more money for what you are selling?

What if as a buyer, a much better deal just fell in your lap?

A guy recently said to me about a car transaction: “I’m old school and for me trust is everything, even if no deposit was given” – This was a guy who had agreed in principle to buy a car over the telephone and email. The seller sold the car to someone else while this guy was making arrangements to collect it and pay.

The old school guy thought the seller had committed some heinous crime. I didn’t agree. I said without a deposit there is no firm deal.

Even with a deposit, the seller would have had the option to refund it and accept more money from someone else. I might frown on someone who does that, but not much can be done. At the end of the day, it is his car to do as he pleases with until you have paid for it and drove away in it.

If I were selling something and someone was talking a good job but hadn’t put the money on the table, or even a good non-returnable deposit, I would not consider him serious and the car would still be for sale.

I learned years ago that speed is of the essence when buying anything at right money.

When I got the call that [what is now] my car was available to view, it was about 10am, I dropped what I was doing drove right over and it was on my drive paid for by 2pm. To do otherwise would have risked me losing it. And understandably so.

Gentlemen’s agreements are all very well if backed up by a non-returnable grand in twenties as a deposit. Without some money, its just some folks talking.

Here is what happened with a car I recently bought:

I did a provisional deal with my neighbour, who is a trader, on a Range Rover he had. I really wanted black with black leather, and this one was green with cream leather, but a very nice car, and he chooses cars well and knows his eggs, so I thought I would compromise on colour.

Instead of asking him to hold it as such, I said I would have my money ready within a week or two, and if he still had it I would have it.

Then he started driving all over the world in it. I offered him £2k deposit to park it up on his drive till I was ready – I didn’t want 2k extra miles on it. He declined and said he enjoyed driving it.

So a week or two later, I was ready. I collared him walking his dog early evening and said pop round with the docs and keys and I would cross his palm with some cash and do the deal. Naturally, I was itching to get my new motor.

He starts humming and hawing saying he had had a long day, was tired and maybe we will do it tomorrow. Confused

I dunno about you chaps, but someone is offering me five figures, I am there faster than you can turn on the light. How long does it take to give a bloke a log book and count some money? (I even have a machine for the latter.)

The following morning I collared him again and said “lets get on with it”. He said he wanted to use it today as he had some errands to do, wanted to get it mini valeted for me and lets fix 4pm as a time to do the deal. I just wanted to smoke off to work in it. As you do. But I reluctantly agreed 4pm anyway. Had he have delayed then, I would have said keep it. I was getting a bit miffed by now.

To rewind a tad, a few weeks prior, a chap I know who sells vans heard word of a nice black Range Rover coming in via a friend of a friend. “My mate said it is a proper thing” was the only cagey description I had of a car that may never materialise. Back then I expressed interest at having first look if and when it ever arrived. That was all a bit wishy washy and nothing to hang your hat on.

Then what happened……. 

Half an hour after I had agreed to do the deal at 4pm, the other guy calls me up and says “Remember that Range Rover we talked about? Its here and exactly the one you wanted – and mint. Its in the trader and the phone is melting, but I promised you first shout, so get over here if you want first call”. 

Range Rover Sport

Well it was my preferred colour and spec, but it was also half the miles, a year newer, one owner against three, and a grand cheaper than the one I had just agreed to buy. It was a no brainer on-the-spot buy. £2k cheaper than it was in the trader at (he took no profit as he is old school with pals), and the phone was melting for it while I was there looking.

But that meant cocking on the one I had already agreed to buy. Shocked

Had my neighbour have taken the money when offered, the green one would have been on the drive and it would all be too late. As he had been faffing for two days and refused a deposit even, a more suitable one came along purely by chance. I reasoned it was his own fault for not taking the money when it was offered.

I had to make the call pulling out of the green one. I am very much a man of my word, and had he have thrown his dummy out of the pram, I would have bought it anyway and simply sold it on. As it was, he was pretty cool about it, he agreed the one I had found was a no-brainer at the money, and he has since popped a dateless plate on his one and decided to use it as his own car over winter.

So in that particular case, no harm was done, but in that case, I very uncharacteristically reneged on a deal I had verbally agreed to – although no money had changed hands. Which I think is the crux of the matter.

So what do you think? 

Is a deal not a deal without money on the table?

Or is a gentleman’s agreement more important?

Or is a seller getting more money, or a buyer finding a much better car at the last minute a no-brainer?

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