Motor Pickers interview with the cast

Motor Pickers is coming to Quest very soon, so we had a chat with the show hosts Helen and Paul about all things cars, saving money, and naturally, TV! Read on to find out how influential the James Bond movies are to the both of them, and why we're excited for this brand new series.

Meet Helen Stanley

She designs and builds bespoke cars, making sure her customers walk away feeling a connection with their new purchase. 

Helen Motor Pickers

Meet Paul Cowland

He's been trading motors his entire life, and he knows a thing or two about finding you your perfect car!

Paul Motor Pickers


1. What are your thoughts on purchasing a car without seeing it?  

Paul: You can buy a car blind but there are several caveats. One, buy it from somebody that you know; Two, buy it if there are lots of pictures, a great description and ask someone to do what’s called a ‘Walkaround’, so literally get them to describe the car, go around looking at the tyres, the windscreen, the paint as they describe it to you. You can see things that they’ve missed if you ask them to go round the car and describe it. Just remember if you do buy a car remotely and it’s delivered blind, you do have the distant selling regulations to help you. So if you buy a car at a distance and it’s not as described this law allows you to take it back.  

2. For second-hand cars, there are quite a lot of restrictions while purchasing at the moment due to Covid-19. What are your thoughts or recommendations around this?  

Paul: You can sanitise a car down, and any good dealership would let you have the car for a long period, and let you take all the time you need. It would be bad salesmanship [to be restricted during the pandemic]

3. When looking for your next car, what would you recommend would be suitable in terms of the following: 

  • Age of car 

  • Mileage  

  • Previous owners 

Helen: I’m terrible because when I see a picture of a car, I fall in love with it. But one thing I do try to avoid is, it’s fine if the car has had a few owners, but I make sure it’s got a good service history [because] if it has had those owners, then you [have to] make sure that they’ve looked after it. You can ask for evidence of this through paperwork and stamps of the service. As for mileage, I've been caught out with this before, I thought I was buying a low mileage car but it turned out to have been clocked, so, you know, where you can kind of avoid that again, go back through the service history, go back to the yearly MOTs, of which some of them will have the mileage on and just try and do a little bit of homework and see if the mileage that it says it has, adds up. You kind make a [better] decision with a bit of detective work. 

Paul: That’s a very top tip. Another tip is if you’ve got a dealer service history that’s got a stamp in it as well, [it’s] always worth ringing the dealer who’s supposedly done the work because you can often find that [a.] someone can nick a stamp from a dealer or [b.] make a stamp, [it costs] about 10 quid to do, and then they can just stamp up a box so it’s always worth correlating whether what’s meant to have been done has been done and you can save a world of pain. 

Helen: Paul is actually right, it is a bit of detective work, isn’t it, Paul?  

Paul: Yeah and that’s the fun part, and Hels’ Bells’ tip is brilliant, where you check the MOT mileage against the service mileage. It’s all online now as well, you can go on the government website and check MOTs, and if they don’t match the service history just run away! 

4. How can one learn to haggle? Should we be haggling more or less?  

Paul: Always more [haggling].  

Helen: I agree with Paul, you know somebody can always say ‘No’, and I think as long as you’re kind of polite, and you don’t take the mick, there’s nothing wrong with saying ‘Okay, well this is what it is but would you take this?’ or ‘I think it’s worth this’. I think as long as you’re polite about it, they know there’s no pressure on them. 

Paul: Although you say that, I mean Hels’ is right, it’s lovely to be polite, but my friend Rupert Pritchard off the ‘telleh’, he is the rudest haggler I’ve ever met, [but it’s] the most effective [thing]. He does this thing when someone gives him a price [for example] ‘Nine thousand pounds’, and he just goes ‘No’. [laughs] That’s what he says! He doesn’t say ‘Oh no that’s too much, I'm not paying that,’ he just says ‘No.’ And I'll tell you what it is the most effective negotiating tool I've ever seen because if you’re then the seller, where do you go from there? It’s all on the seller, it’s genius because as the seller you’ve gotta go ‘er, err, eight grand, seven grand’. [While he’s just sitting] there with [his] little grumpy face, and it’s the most genius thing I've ever seen. So I would say use the Drew Pritchard, just say ‘No,’ and let [the seller] do all the work. It’s 100% effective, it’s a bit rude but if you don’t mind being a bit rude to save one thousand pounds, [it’s worth it].  

5. What are the three fundamental questions we should ask before purchasing a car?  

Paul: What a great question that is, if I may start, [1.] ‘What do you need it for?’, [2.] ‘Who else have you got to put in it?’, [3.] ‘How much have you got to spend?’ They would be my three pillars because if you can answer them inclusively you can put yourself in the right car.  

Helen: I agree. 

6. What has been your best bargain so far? Tell us a bit about it.  

Helen: I was going to say you go, Paul because you’ve got a really big collection and a lot to choose from,  

Paul: Your Mazda was cheap, you didn’t pay much for [that] did you? 

Helen: No, but it was very rusty, so it didn’t turn out to be a bargain [laughs]. Probably [my best bargain was] my BMW Z3, because it really wasn’t very expensive, and I think it’s a future classic, [so] if I look after it and upkeep it/make sure it’s serviced, fix all the bits that are wrong with it, I think actually it’s going to be quite a good investment. It’s a car that I really love because it was a Bond car, a very pretty car.  

Paul: It was a Bond car but it was the most blatantly shoehorned product placement Bond car [laughs] 

Helen: Still a Bond car!  

Paul: It was a Bond car but it was a bit like... really???? [more laughing] 

7. Are you both fans of the James Bond series, then? 

Paul: Oh I love James Bond.  

Helen: Yeah! 

Paul: I think if you love cars and anything related to cars you can’t not love James Bond because the whole franchise is geared around it. We [actually] went to shoot for a beautiful DB5, which was an exact replica of the Bond car BMT 216A which is between seven hundred and fifty and a million pounds now, and what a beautiful thing  

James Bond Car

Helen: What was your bargain, Paul? 

Paul: I did buy about a year and a half ago the most beautiful little old boy from new, Audi 80 with forty thousand miles on the clock, and it’s the wrong one, it’s the wrong colour, bit of a bronzy-gold, got the wrong gearbox, but it is like a brand new car. It’s literally like somebody has time warped this thing from 1991 through to the present day. The interior is like new, the bodywork is like new, the engine is like new, the underneath is like new, and it was just £800! When you drive it it still feels like the day it left the showroom. I love it to bits.  

8. What are your thoughts on electric cars? 

Paul: I’m going to cover my ears because you might hear swear words! [laughter] 

Helen: I do not like them. I’m a classic car fan, so it’s just not really in my DNA. But I get it, I understand that things have to move on, but, like I said I’m a classic car fan so I’m stuck in the world of petrol. They’re not for me. 

Paul: I kind of think they’re a necessary evil. I understand why we have to have them although I don’t think electric cars are the silver bullet that everybody thinks they are, I think hydrogen could be the one to watch. But if it means that we can all ride round in ridiculous big engine cars and it’s good for the planet, that I can take on board. And I kind of think it’s going to be a bit like driving your boring, sensible, electric car during the week, and then you drive your fun, fire-breathing petrol [car] at the weekend. That way it leaves [petrol] cars for the hobbyists. If that happens, that’s all good.  

9. What are the pros and cons of saving up or paying monthly? What would you recommend?  

Helen: I’ve never paid monthly for a car, I've always saved up and bought them, so it’s probably more one for Paul [to answer]. 

Paul: I just live for today. The con for saving up is, that’s three years of saving up when you could be driving around in the car you really want. You could die tomorrow! If you can afford it, finance a car. I just think live for now, buy the car of your dreams and just have some fun with It. Saving up is for losers!  

We think Paul might have gotten his inspiration from a certain blonde superhero...  

Watch weeknights on e4

Helen: [To be fair] I don’t have to save up for very long because most of my cars start off in life as absolute rubbish, [laughter] so I don’t have to save for very long to get them! 

Paul: You have [got] really cool cars though, you have great taste in cars! Even your rubbish cars are great rubbish cars [laughter].  

10. Do you have a favourite car? 

Helen: That’s really tough, [but] yeah I think my favourite is my BMW E30. At the minute that’s my favourite. Paul this is going to be a tough one for you! 

Paul: I don’t want to cast any gender stereotypes here but I'm just imagining that you ladies have more than one pair of shoes, or handbags... 

So do men!  

Well that’s how cars are [to me] really, so depending on the morning that you get up and what kind of day it is, where you’re going, you pick the appropriate outfit and shoe combo for that, and to me that’s how cars are for me. Depending on where I'm going, what the drive is like, [whatever car I pick] that’s my car of the day. 

In saying that then, do you view cars as an accessory?  

If you’ve ever seen me you know I have an apPAULling (sorry) dress and fashion sense, but I mean Helen is more than covering for me with her amazing fashion sense. So I'm dressed quite scruffily today, but cars are kind of how I express myself. Cars are what I get dressed into.  

Helen: For us, because we’re big petrol heads, cars are an extension of our personality, so yeah I think it’s nice to look at it like that and hopefully we’re instilling some of that to the contributors we have on the show because a lot of people start off with this kind of necessity in their head, but hopefully they leave us with a little bit more passion.  

Paul: It’s true because some people buy cars like I'd buy a washing machine. If I'm buying a washing machine it would literally be [a.] is it white? [b.] Does it fit the hole that the washing machine goes into? [c.] Does it [work]? If it conforms to those criteria and it was cheap, I'd buy it, and most people buy cars like that, and I think it’s really sad because [I want customers to] find a connection [with a car] rather than a car that just ticks all the boxes.  

11. And finally, what would you recommend as the most reliable and safe car for somebody on a budget?  

Paul: Volkswagen Golf. Whatever your budget, whatever you need a car to do, the Volkswagen Golf does it so brilliantly. You can buy an £800 one or a £8,000 one or an £18,000 one, whatever your budget allows, and it always is a brilliant car  

Helen: I do agree with you, but my head just goes to a non-practical area of the world and I would say an NMX5 because there’s quite a few different marks depending on your budget, and they’re all really great cars and they’ll all improve your driving 

Paul: How are you going to fit a Christmas tree in it? 

Good point. #ChristmasIsComing 

For more from the cast of Motor Pickers, tune in on 5th November on Quest at 10pm!