As a regular visitor to the Auto Trader website in his search for a new car Simon Johnson from Blackpool had become accustomed to seeing deliberately misleading listings with false prices and mileage figures. But even he was shocked by what he was told when he called a local dealer to enquire about a ’57 plate VW Golf that was listed for just £300 despite only having done 5,000 miles.
‘I was looking for a car within 20 miles of my house, for under £4k and with less than 60,000 miles on the clock. When this came up I immediately expected it to be one of those where the dealer claims that auto trader has made a mistake and there is a 0 missing off the price and the mileage. Everybody knows that they are deliberately listed like that to get them to appear in the searches of people who won’t be interested, but even at £3k and 50,000 miles that would still be a great deal. So I gave them a call and that was when the problems started.’
Simon was told by the dealer, as he expected, that Auto Trader had made a mistake and the price should indeed have been £3,000. When he asked about the mileage he was informed that too was a mistake and the actual mileage was 115,000. Still interested at this price the dealer then revealed that there were also a few differences to the description in the advert.
‘I was still keen and wanted to arrange a viewing so he said he first had to make me aware that there were a couple of other minor things not quite consistent with the description too. The colour was listed as metallic blue but was actually a kind of grey, there were no electric windows or air conditioning, but it did come with body coloured bumpers and full service history. I decided it was still worth a look.’
It was only when Simon arrived at the dealership that he discovered that the ‘car’ was actually a 15 year old donkey, called Paul. Unimpressed by the offer of a knock down price of £2,500, cheap running costs and fuel economy up to 45 miles per carrot his search for a new car continues.
Upon enquiring about the claim of a full service history Simon was offered a video tape allegedly showing documentary evidence of the donkey being serviced. He decided against viewing it.
This is thought to be the second worst case of misleading advertising on the website, only topped by a ’53 plate Honda Accord listed for 99p, which was in fact a bar of Cadbury’s dairy milk.