Ever bought a second hand car?

Ever bought a second hand car? I sold my car this week and bought a ‘new’ one – new in the sense of new to me, but obviously not brand new. Foreign readers of this blog would probably fall off their seats if they knew how expensive cars are in Ireland.

For a start, we pay more for our vehicles because of a tax known as Vehicle Registration Tax which adds 25 per cent to the cost of a car and on top of that we pay around €1.10 a litre of petrol. It costs me €55 to €60 to fill my tank with petrol and in my old car, I got around 320 miles for that. So motoring is an expensive business.

I’ve owned three cars to date, so this newly acquired one is the fourth. So I’ve sold three in the past, but I learned something new this week. The car I was selling was not a bad one, and I guessed it was worth a certain figure. However, I had the good fortune to bump into a friend of a friend who works in a garage buying and selling cars, so I asked him what it was worth. I expected him to put his hands in his pockets, look off in the distance and pull a figure out of his head, based on his exhaustive knowledge of the second hand motor business.

But he didn’t. Instead he pulled a small book out of his pocket and showed me the cover in a conspiratorial manner – nod nod, wink wink, say no more, say no more – and it was a guide produced for garages listing thousands of types of second hand cars and their values. The cover had ‘confidential’ written on it and the salesman told me it is issued every month and salesmen are told not to show it to punters under any circumstances.

I was slightly shocked. He told me the true value of my car and said he’d give me that price on a trade-in if I wanted to sell it on. Sadly he didn’t have the make or model I was looking for, so I didn’t but I was extremely grateful for his honesty. His tip also meant that when I found the car I did want from another garage I was able to see clearly through the salesman’s patter.

I was able to say, “Listen mate, this is what I want for it, take it or leave it,” knowing that while he tried to get me to accept less for it, I knew the figure he would take. And he did. Makes me think about the times I’ve had used car salesmen tell me the car I was selling wasn’t worth a fraction of what I thought it was. Hmm.

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