The process to buy a second hand car is full of question marks. It does not help that car dealers are portrayed as crooks in all movies. To know whom you can trust is a challenge for everyone and being a foreigner certainly does not make it any easier.
Ideally, the market for second hand cars is perfect – the summaries of models and their production years show as much variations as the prices. However, a lack of knowledge about what you are buying makes it everything but transparent, something that rapidly struck my wife and me when we recently decided on a car. And right after that did we understand that those of our friends who possess some level of expertise on the matter live far away from here.
For two risk avert Swedes it felt like swimming in open waters but we found a first contact with solid ground in Spanish consumer law. According to this, authorized car dealers have to sell second hand cars with a 1-year guarantee providing the customer with quite extensive rights (at least during the first 6 months of ownership). This was enough to convince us to stay with the professionals and not go through the classifieds you find in media. A consequence of the law is that professional dealers avoid old cars, since living up to the guarantee is too expensive compared to the price you can charge. In fact, most second hand dealers here pride themselves of working only with selected semi-new cars which they seem to sell with a standard discount of 20% versus the price of a new car of the same model.
That was above our budget for the model we had in mind, so we were happy to find JouNou (Rambla de Garraf) where they work also with older cars (five years seems to be the oldest), but that is not the only advantage. The company is the official concessionary of, among others, Opel and SAAB, but have a rich second hand supply of all brands and models. We were happy to be received by salesman who was accommodating but not pushy. From the first moment he made a solid impression by taking down all questions which he could not answer on the spot in order to come back with answers later on, which he infallibly also did.
When we had made our pick and it was time for me to test drive and check up on the car, the salesman left me in peace to do so largely by myself, something I greatly appreciated. Social people who do not know too much about cars will most likely buy someone who does a cup of coffee and then bring that person to let him comment on the possible object. Introvert ones will prefer impersonal advice on the Internet compiled by related authorities and well-known consumer organisations. Living up to the prejudice about Swedes I, of course, did the latter and spent quite some time ticking off items in printed out checklists, in Swedish as well as in Spanish. To work with lists in two languages is worth recommending to anyone who is not a native speaker. On the one hand you need to fully grasp what you are actually checking, but at the same time you then need to be able to ask and comment about it in Spanish.
It is too early to make any comments on how the car will work long term, but so far we are very content. It was delivered not only with a new coating but also impeccably cleaned. To our oldest son it is better than a new car, since it does not smell of plastic. An additional advantage of having bought the car from a dealer is that the paperwork to register us as new owners forms part of the purchase contract. That service clearly has a higher value to immigrants like us than to locals who know the routines here.