Buying a car from Cinch

I wanted to write a review of the experience of buying a car through Cinch — although quite a lot of what I have to say could be said of Cazoo, so I’ll also discuss that because that’s where my OH got her car.

Although we have been a two-car family for quite a while, I draw the line at being the (local average) three-car family. So when it was time for the kids to learn to drive, I replaced my late lamented automatic VW Golf with a manual VW Polo. And – in spite of falling out of love with Volkswagen – I quite liked the low running costs of this quite shitty little car, so I have kept it for years.

It’s not in good nick. Even though I didn’t even have the alloys on it for several years (I put on some winter wheels and couldn’t be bothered to take them off… pandemic, etc.), they’re in a sorry state. Plus there’s the big dent and scratch in the bodywork from when daughter #2 was trying to drive into a narrow stone gateway. Plus it’s covered in actual moss and has always been susceptible to the automotive equivalent of rising damp. Plus I hate it and haven’t looked after it.

In spite of these years of neglect and abuse, it still starts first time and even though it’s 10 years old it has under 50,000 miles on it, because it turns out when you hate your car you don’t drive it much. Less than 4000 miles a year!

All of which leads up to the moment my inertia was overcome and I clicked “buy” on a used car from Cinch.

My OH had previously done this on Cazoo. Our old Touran was a high miler and I was just idly clicking around when I came across a Tiguan in orange: sold. It was her dream car. It was delivered inside a week; the Touran, after very close scrutiny by the delivery driver, was taken as part-exchange, and my OH then had just 7 days to decide to keep the car (she did).

I’ve been going on these web sites, off and on, for a year or so, but I was never in a hurry and didn’t really know what I wanted. After promising myself a few years ago that I would not buy another VW, I knew I couldn’t bring myself to get anything else. This is not badge snobbery, it’s just a reluctance to change. And by now I’ve got such a (39-year) streak going, I don’t want to break it.

The sensible thing to do was get another Golf. But the truth is, I never much liked driving the Golf. I’m not a fan of the wheel-at-each-corner rollerskate type of car. I don’t like skittering around corners. And I like a car shaped car: a saloon, or coupé, something that at least looks like it has a conventional boot. My benchmark here is the old VW Polo saloon, of which I have driven two, both back in the day when Polos were perfectly comfortable to drive. The Polo saloon I had with the 1.6 engine: that was a good car. I also had a Bora, which was the old Golf with a boot. Again, a great car to drive, feeling better balanced and more planted than the hatchback.

Passats being the most boring cars in the universe, I ended up with a yen for a VW Arteon. These look prettier than the Passat, but are pretty similar inside, although with more leg room at the back. And I know from driving a Passat estate for a few years that this is a car that makes you feel secure on the road.

After this notion entered my head, it was a question of waiting for the right one.

Well: the right one went wrong, as previously reported, so I ended up with a slightly less right one on order. The price seemed reasonable, and not having to pretend to haggle is worth three times as much as you would save by doing it. I have a few regrets/moans about the not-right-one, which I’ll get off my chest later.

Cinch had not alarmed me unduly with the one that went wrong; they processed the deposit refund swiftly and were very responsive. I even got an email from the first person I’d spoken to on the phone after I’d phoned and spoken to somebody else: in other words, she was keeping an eye on the account. So I had no qualms about ordering from them again. If you’re a fan of avoiding interaction with humans, it works quite well. Doing all the finance forms online was so much better for me than having to sit with some 25-year-old in a shiny suit and reveal unto them all your private financial info. Everything is achieved online, then you get an email confirming it’s all gone through, and you can book your delivery date. You get an email with information about how to tax it, and an offer for 3 days drive away insurance. 

Sidebar: The only real issue with buying on line is with phone calls, which I blame the iPhone for more than anything. As my friend Roy said when I bought my first iPhone: “You might want to get another phone to use as a phone.” Things haven’t improved. The iPhone is just about impossible to use as a phone. I also have an issue with those headsets people wear in call centres: distortion of the voice. Cheap crap, or wearing it wrong? Who knows.

Having taxed the one that went wrong, set up a direct debit with DVLA, and then had to cancel, I can tell you that it’s not necessarily a huge hassle. Because you’ve never been in possession of the non-delivered car, you can just cancel your DD and ignore the follow-up email. The insurance change was a bit more of a ball-ache, so I decided to wait until the car was sitting on my drive before changing it all again. It’s good therefore to have the three free days.

You get a courtesy phone call from Cinch a day before delivery. This is no guarantee that the delivery will happen, however, because it seems as if their “250+ checks” don’t take place until just before the car is driven off the lot. In the case of my went-wrong order, it was only then that the warning light was discovered.

My OH’s car from Cazoo, by the way, was delivered on the back of a Cazoo-branded truck, and the car itself is hidden away inside the lorry until they start lowering the ramp. Both Cazoo and Cinch offer pick-up centres, and Cazoo now charge £99 for delivery, so add that to the price of the cars as you browse. Cinch was still free delivery when I ordered, although the very idea is nonsense, because it’s all built into the price. Anyway, Cinch don’t come up your street with the car concealed behind a curtain on a truck. They just drive it to you. So the first delivery that went wrong really went wrong because it was a non-runner and the AA couldn’t fix it.

When my OH’s big orange Tiguan was delivered, you could practically see the curtains twitching in the houses opposite. I don’t know how they reacted to mine. I got home from work on Friday and on checking my phone saw a text from the driver saying she could deliver early if it was convenient. As I typed the reply: not a good idea because of the school run chaos outside our house, I turned around and there was a big yellow car on the drive. Luckily, she’d arrived just as the last parents were leaving. We now have the most garish pair of cars on the street. Result!

Whereas the Cazoo driver had gone over the old Touran with a fine tooth comb, the Cinch driver just took the Polo keys off me, jumped in, and drove away. All in all, a pretty good experience. The car was clean, the paperwork easy. I just went to the DVLA web site, told them I’d sold the Polo, then changed my insurance over — also online. Cinch’s “welcome gift” does not match Cazoo’s, however. My OH got a branded umbrella, demister, and ice scraper. I got a garish branded sippy cup and a garish branded fold-away shopping bag. Cazoo’s branding is classier, I have to say.

The Wrong Arteon

Perhaps the most upsetting thing in the whole enterprise was that my dream car was the original one I ordered. It was red, it was the Elegance trim, tuned for comfort rather than “sport”, and the options ticked were the options I valued: basic stuff like Apple CarPlay, but also convenience for the rear passengers such as their own climate zone and USB etc.

If you read reviews of the Arteon, you’ll come across phrases like “Nice car, but why would you buy this when you could buy an Audi?” Clarkson wrote in The Sunday Times,

Before you sign on the dotted line you’ve got to think: “No, I don’t want a Mercedes CLS or a BMW 4-series or an Audi A5 Sportback. I want that sort of thing but with a VW badge at the front and a boot the size of the Blue John Cavern at the back.”

This made me laugh because this is exactly who I am. Mr 39-years-of-Volkswagens. I don’t want rear wheel drive, I don’t want “sportiness” and I don’t want a fucking Audi. My inverse badge snobbery is that when I see an Audi badge, I see a tosser behind the wheel, and I don’t want to be that person. So the Arteon really was my personal dream car.

The only problem is, the wrong Arteon is just slightly off-axis. The colour, yellow(ish): fine. The R-Line trim and suspension, not so much. And although R-Line is supposed to be the slightly more expensive option, whoever specified this didn’t tick any of my boxes. So there’s no Apple CarPlay, dammit, and the rear passengers aren’t quite as cosseted. 

It does have a big boot though. And I reckon I could get it from front door to front door, Buckingham to Auxelles, without needing to top up the fuel tank. Vorsprung!


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