It’s been a month now since Darren picked up his used BMW 730D from Terry the friendly car dealer and he’s put another 1000 miles on it already. The first month’s Direct Debit payment of £249 has just been taken from Darren’s bank account, an early reminder of his commitment for the next 5 years. In the last month he’s also spent £158 on Diesel and an extra £70 on insurance as it’s a much higher group than his old Focus was. Still, it does feel good to drive around in such a luxurious limousine and every journey really does feel like a special occasion. A couple of times in the last week, one of the warning lights on the dashboard came on but went off afterwards so he wasn’t too concerned. After all, he had a ‘warranty’ that would take care of anything that went wrong.
Driving home from work on a rainy Friday evening, Darren had a ‘minor altercation’ down a narrow road and managed to hit his nearside mirror against the driver’s mirror of a parked car. The outer casing remained intact but the mirror glass itself was completely smashed and you could no longer see anything in it. The next morning, Darren surveyed the broken mirror with dismay but thought that a quick trip to Halfords and £20 should see him get a replacement. The parts advisor (well, spotty teenager) at Halfords looked in his catalogue, then at the selection of replacement mirror glasses on the shelf and exclaimed. “Looks like it’s going to be dealer only mate”. After a quick Google on his phone, Darren discovered that the local BMW dealer parts department was indeed open until 12:00 on a Saturday so he made the short journey there in no time. Parking amongst the multitude of gleaming BMW’s outside, he briefly paused to notice that his was probably the oldest car there. As he stepped through the automatic glass doors to the reception, he couldn’t help but notice the opulent surroundings. Men in golfing clothes lounged on leather armchairs sipping lattes, waiting for their cars to be serviced. There was even a ‘Juice Bar’ with a well-stocked chiller cabinet and selection of newspapers and iPads to browse. A well-dressed receptionist directed Darren to the parts department and he pressed the bell on the counter.
Soon, a parts advisor appeared from the background. Darren explained what had happened to his mirror and said he just needed the glass. The parts advisor chap secretly smirked as he knew what was coming next. He’d been working at BMW for many years now and could already imagine Darren’s reaction when he tells him the price. “Yeah, I can get on for you on Monday, but it isn’t cheap”, he politely said.
Let’s pause for a moment to consider something. A mirror glass for many cars is nothing more than a shaped mirror, usually glued to a plastic backing and often containing an embedded heating element. A newish Vauxhall Astra mirror glass costs a fairly unreasonable £90. A Fiesta mirror glass is typically £40 from Ford. To put it into perspective however, you can buy a fairly decent 1080p 4K 50’ OLED ‘Smart’ television from Samsung for £400 so how much could a mirror glass for a 9 year old saloon car possibly cost?
“How much then?” asked Darren.
“£448 plus the VAT”, said the parts man calmly., “they’re auto-dimming on your model so have some electronics inside” He knew what was coming next.
Well, as you can imagine, Darren was a little shocked to say the least. “Err, thanks for that”, he spluttered, “I’ll let you know on Monday if I want to order one” before walking back towards the door. As he was leaving, another chap was getting into a BMW parked next to Darren’s. His was a 2 year old M3 Coupe with Competition Pack, 20” carbon black alloy wheels and a Milltek sport exhaust. “Nice car mate”, said Darren and the chap nodded in agreement. Darren didn’t know that the M3 owner had just parted with the thick end of £1600 for an oil service, 2 new tyres and some new front brake discs and pads! Oh, and the Milltek exhaust with its rorty note and 4 shiny chrome tailpipes cost the owner a further £1900 above the £58000 cost of the car!
Somewhat miffed, Darren drove back home, cursing every time he glanced at the shattered remains mirror. If he had to buy a new one from BMW, that would be the equivalent of two car finance payments and he’d have no money left for the rest of the month! In his mind he prepared for the conversation he’d be having with his partner, Amy. “Sorry dear, we can’t buy any food this month as I need to buy a new mirror”, would be a surefire way to begin an argument so he sensibly decided not to mention it and tried to enjoy his weekend. He’d do a little internet research later on and see if he could find a cheaper option.
Saturday night was ‘date night’. With babysitter booked until 11, they headed off for a ‘cheeky Nandos’ and then the cinema. Just as they were getting out of the car, Amy noticed the broken mirror glass and asked him what had happened. “Don’t worry”, he said, “I’ll get it sorted – should only be a few quid”. Normally, Darren wouldn’t even wince at the prospect of spending £150 on a night out, as he queued at the Nando’s counter to pay for their meal, he secretly wished they’d just stayed at home with Fish and Chips and a movie on Netflix. After all, he’s going to need all the money to buy the new mirror glass. He’d seen a slightly cheaper alternative on eBay from a seller in China for ‘only’ £250 which although half the price of the genuine BMW part, was still an awful lot of money for a piece of glass. As he paid the £56 for two cinema tickets, 2 small popcorns and 2 medium Cokes, he genuinely feared that his debit card would soon be declined. After all, with the car payment, the extra insurance and the cost of Diesel, his modest pay rise had all been swallowed.
It was a great evening though and as they relaxed with the movie, thoughts of money and mirrors vanished for the next 126 minutes until it was time to head home.
Leaving the car park and heading out onto the dual carriageway, Darren put his foot down a bit as the babysitter would soon be on overtime if they weren’t back soon. As the car accelerated, it gave an almighty shudder and on the center dashboard display, the ominous message ‘Transmission Faulty’ appeared. Unable to stop safely and keen to get home, Darren continued on his way, although only 3rd gear seemed to be working. His mood suddenly changed and even when Amy gently asked if he was OK, he seemed distant and was genuinely beginning to regret his decision to buy such a complex machine.
In bed that night, while Amy and the children snoozed, Darren did a little Google research on the fault his car now had. Browsing the numerous BMW owner forums, he became even more confused with each jumbled post he read. Some suggested that simply disconnecting the battery would cure it, others reckoned it would need a new gearbox for £8000! Tomorrow was Sunday and there were no garages open except FastFit places and neither was the dealer, Terry, from whom he’d bought the car.
He knew he’d have to wait until Monday to have anything done but in his mind he wasn’t too worried as he had his magical ‘warranty’ that would take care of everything with no cost to himself. In truth, he was more worried about the mirror!
Anyway dear reader (all 20 of you!), like Darren, you’re going to have to wait for the next gripping instament to find out what happens next. Did Darren’s warranty pay for a new gearbox with no questions asked or will he face financial ruin?