David required a new car for use in France
Thought you might like to see the following article which I sent to the Daily Telegraph last night.
"I don't take risks when it comes to money. It's what comes of being born in Yorkshire, I suppose. But when my wife and I finally decided to quit the UK and retire to Brittany we were forced to consider what might happen to our reliable and cheap-to-run Toyota Avensis, especially when we heard lurid tales of ex-pats banging their heads on the wall after running up against the French registration authorities. After much surfing the net, and trips to a couple of left hand drive specialists in the UK, I came across 1st Car Imports, a small family business based in Lincolnshire. It's owner, Doug Turnbull told me of a car supermarket in Belgium who buy up surplus and bankrupt stock and sell at huge discounts.
"I wanted a Toyota because I have always found them reliable and cheap to run and a recent acquisition of a standard poodle meant we needed more headroom in the back. Doug came back with the answer, a brand new Toyota Verso D4-D 7-seater to high specification including rear view camera, sat-nav, air-con and cruise control.
"Being a left hooker it would mean we would sail through the French licensing gate with no need to change headlamps and speedo....but it was the price which really sold it. The dealer were selling the car at a shade of £16,000 excl. VAT which would make it at least £2,000 cheaper than its UK counterpart. But that's only part of the story. Car prices in France have been going through the roof and the same car in France would cost 32,000 euros including their 19.6% VAT.
"The snags? Well first, I was buying blind. But a quick trip to the very helpful guys at the Westover Toyota garage in Salisbury meant I could get a test drive of a near-as-dammit Verso...and they also quoted me just a hundred quid for a PDI if I had the Belgian car delivered to them. I also would have to cough up £250 commission for Doug Turnbull and about £500 for covered delivery from Antwerp, after which I would then pay UK VAT. It still seemed a great bargain. But was it too good to be true?
"I looked at all the angles. First, I would be sending £16 grand directly to someone I had never met in a foreign country. Next, the car could not be insured until it was registered......what if it got nicked somewhere along the line?
"It all seemed highly problematical and I was scared stiff it could all go wrong. In fact I made myself a bit unpopular with Doug Turnbull and the guy handling the registration by asking so many questions. One major issue was the warranty. No problem, said Turnbull. It comes with a three year pan-European warranty from Toyota.
"I had no choice but to take him at his word or lose the chance of a great deal.
"The car duly arrived in the UK and was delivered to Salisbury where, once inside the compound it was covered by Westover's site insurance. Smart move, that. On arrival it had just five kilometers on its odometer and various bits of packing showing it really was new. Just a few days later I collected it and suffice to say I am delighted. It's true there were risks but my fears proved unfounded. We are now living in France and have checked out the warranty and Toyota Eurocare, the EC equivalent of Club Toyota here in the UK, and both are up and running. The only remaining downside? It was only after I got the car I discovered it doesn't have a spare wheel, just a tube of goo and an air compressor. That's something I intend to do something about but, for now, I am one contented driver with more Euros to spare on my weekly wine bill than I would otherwise have!
Former BBC Radio Producer