After almost 3 years of operating one of Singapore’s fastest growing consignment services, we found that the overall experience of a car owner selling his car has been remarkably improved by various innovative services from Auction platforms to Consignment services.
However, little has changed for the average car buyer. We speak to hundreds of car buyers every month and many have shared with us that shopping for a used car can sometimes be exasperating. We frequently hear about concerns such as:
- How do you know if you are not getting ripped off?
- What do you need to look out for to avoid problems that are expensive and inconvenient to fix?
- Many are uncomfortable tackling awkward negotiations with pushy salesperson
- How can you be sure that you are treated fairly as a consumer?
And that’s just the tip of the ice berg…
Our objective has always been to make automotive transactions as easy as possible. And we have decided to launch our Car Shopping service to help you avoid all the potential pitfalls of buying a used car yourself.
We manage to seat down with our ever busy Sales Director Francis and have a quick conversation about Otua’s Car Shopping Service.
(Otua.sg) Why did you get into the car business?
I’ve always had a deep passion and interests for cars. After serving in the Special Ops Command of the Singapore Police Force for many years, I quickly realised that if I do not chase after my passions in automotive soon, I might not have the chance to do it in the future.
So how did you manage to land your first job in the car business?
To be honest, I originally wanted to find a role in a car workshop. So I begun scouring for any jobs I could find related to the car industry through Job Portals.
Since I did not have any prior experience nor qualifications, the only ones who replied to my applications were car dealerships. I eventually got my first job as a Car Salesperson in 2015.
How did you learn to sell cars?
I was pretty much self taught. I can still remember the learning curve for selling used cars was really steep compared to new cars. This is mostly because no 2 used cars are ever the same (even if they are the same make/model), the previous owners’ driving habits and maintenance history makes a huge difference in the vehicle’s condition.
At most traditional car dealerships, the veteran salespersons and managers don’t really teach. I still remember my ex-boss telling me to survive on my own. He said that if I can’t survive, it just means I have no talent and should leave the business.
The lack of proper training and our salaries being tied closely to our sales performance is probably the largest reason why service standards could vary so much across the industry. Your regular car sales person would be too busy chasing sales so they can survive at the end of the month…
Was it also difficult to learn how to negotiate prices?
Definitely. It’s incredibly difficult to learn the nuances of negotiation tactics. Buyers need to understand that the car’s selling price is pretty much determined by the car dealership’s boss or purchaser.
Oftentimes, the salesperson has little to no say on the amount of discounts given. In fact, when I was still working for dealerships, they would often reward us with higher commissions if we give lesser discounts.
So how does Otua.sg help car buyers get the best price?
I would say that talking to the right person is essential if you wish to get the best price possible. Having networked and built relationships with various dealerships in Singapore, it gives us an advantage when we are hunting for a good deal for our buyers; we are able to go straight to the decision makers rather than the salesperson.
Going through our Car Experts also relieves the dealership from paying sales commissions to their salespersons. This savings are typically transferred to our buyers as further savings.
How do you know if you have gotten a good deal for your buyers?
We have a team of valuation experts. They keep a record of all historical transaction prices that they can get their hands on. But most importantly, our team clearly understands every single aspect of how car dealerships make money.
Why did you leave a regular car dealership for Otua.sg?
Being a car enthusiast, I have always found it challenging to sit in front of people whom I have built such great rapport and watch them spend more money than they had to on cars that would later give them further problems on the road.
It’s also no secret that the car trade has a somewhat ambiguous reputation. Service standards varies and there is a lack of support to help car buyers make better decisions. I am really glad that Otua.sg decided to try their very best to change that.
What does Otua Car Shopper offer for people who use your service?
We offer a professional non-biased end to end car shopping experience.
- We have a team of Car Experts who help you hunt and shortlist cars that fit your needs and budget
- Not sure what to look out for during a viewing? our Car Experts will accompany you to the viewings and testing of the car
- Too embarrassed to ask for a discount? Leave the tough awkward negotiations to us
- Our non-biased pre-purchase inspection protects you from nasty surprises arising from potential costly repairs or defects
- We are partnered with several financial institutions and banks to provide you with the best rates and flexible loan options
In short, we help you save time and money.
How much do you charge for your service?
We charge a flat transparent fee starting from $300 for any COE Asian car. When you hire any of our Car Experts, you actually hire the entire company of Valuation specialists and Financing Specialists to help you comb through the entire market for your dream car.
Can you give us an example of a deal you successfully matched recently?
This customer left a deep impression in me because he has very specific requirements for his next car. He wanted a relatively young car with manual transmissions, fuel efficient, reasonably reliable and overall low maintenance on the roads.
It’s actually pretty rare to find younger cars with manual transmissions this days and we had a great time discussing and going through the different options available. In the end, we both agreed to settle on the Hyundai KONA.
Not only was the car the cheapest in the market (by depreciation) but we even managed to help him drop his monthly installments from $1200 to $8XX per month! (from his previous car) Needless to say, he was extremely satisfied with our service and have referred many other customers to me.
What is the difference between what you do and a Car broker?
The biggest difference? You are engaging an entire company with Otua.sg while Car brokers are usually free-lancers or 1 man shows.
Also, our service goes beyond just looking for a good car for you. We like to think that we go the full distance including pre and after-sales services.
When you were a dealer, did you do deals with brokers regularly?
I have met several car brokers over the years. However, I rarely work with any of them because of the way they charge their clients. They typically ask for high commissions or referral fees from dealerships. This usually means that the car dealer would have to mark up the car price further.
Where do most car buyers go wrong while shopping for a car?
There are plenty of mistakes, hahaha. The most common one – many customers think that buying an expensive make/model = reliability. This is not always true. A continental brand is rarely more reliable that your bread and butter Japanese cars.
Also, mileage is not everything. The car’s maintenance history, servicing records and accidental history is far more important that the numbers you see on the odometer.
If a buyer has an existing car, how do you handle that?
Well, Otua.sg is also one of Singapore’s largest consignment service platform. Your Car Experts are all equipped to provide a valuation on your current car and advice you on the best course of action.
Depending on your needs, we can help you to find a direct buyer from our large portfolio of ready buyers or we can take your car off your hands immediately if you are looking for an urgent sale.
Well, thank you for your time. Any last advice for car shopping?
It is always important to understand the full cost of ownership of a car. Many young adults tend to punch above their weight and struggle to maintain their car properly. This usually means that a minor technical issue would gradually evolve into a major problem that could cost thousands of dollars to fix.
Well, that’s all we have. We hope you enjoyed the short interview with our Sales Director Francis. And remember, if you are looking to shop for a car, do try our new Car Shopping Service here.