Over the last 17 years I’ve bought four motorbikes, six cars, one jeep and spent hundreds of hours thinking about my next vehicle purchase and every single time, Autotrader has been the bedrock of my decision. Where else is so much choice so readily available and so easily comparable? Where else can you find a Mini and a Range Rover for the same money with only the need to trade off between space, cost, miles to the gallon, insurance group, 0-60 time, power, owner reviews etc between you and an impulse buy?
John Madejski’s Autotrader was a wonderful creation, something that no car buyer should be without. However, this week’s announcement that as of next month Autotrader will no longer be available in printed format got me thinking, when did I last actually buy a copy? I’ve used the website, downloaded the smartphone app and spent plenty of time on the ipad but I don’t think I’ve bought the magazine for about ten years.
I realised that long gone are the days of turning page corners, circling pictures of cars that look like a bargain, comparing the private sales to the dealer pages in the local paper and making phone calls to some distant dealership to enquire if the mileage is genuine or not. In a few clicks I can now filter thousands of cars to a shortlist of ten or so based on my own personal criteria, I can compare all of the stats side by side, search nationally and locally to make sure I’m not missing anything and I can save the favourites to look at over and over again, wherever I take my phone or ipad. I can share my choices with friends and everything is updated regularly without the need to buy a new copy. And best of all, it’s free – I’ve never had to buy the app or pay a subscription for my endless hours of info-tainment.
So whilst the announcement that Autotrader, so long a mainstay of newsagent shelves, will no longer be available in print seemed shocking at first, with hindsight I’m not sure that I’d glance up from my app to even notice. Clearly the future of car buying is electronic, portable and interactive and in a world where we’re glued to electronic devices of some sort almost 24/7, there seems no place for a cumbersome, dated magazine that leaves ink on your fingers … besides, I don’t want to get ink marks on my new iPhone, do I?