July 23, 2014

Regional variations in car prices – a traders tale

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Many many years ago when Mrs Thatcher ruled the world and consumers got excited if their new car came with cloth trim, I would regularly get the overnight train (dubbed the “Red eye” because it was almost impossible to sleep on it) from London to Glasgow. This wasn’t to sample the delights of Scottish hospitality or have an early morning drink (6.30am!) in various pubs around the city centre market that never seemed to close, but to visit the numerous car auction Rooms that existed side by side back then in a place called Grahame Square. And that’s exactly what it was, a huge undercover square where three different auction houses all competed for your business at the same time.

As I remember it, two of them sold the usual suspects, i.e. nearly new vehicles through to the ten year old bangers of the time, Hillman Avengers, Austin Maxi, Ford Cortina MK 3 and the like, while the other dealt in Commercials and very cheap Ex “Forestry Commission” Land Rovers.

But, I hear you ask, was it really worth braving British Rail sandwiches and ditch-water tea, unheated carriages (at least from Crewe anyway) and the inevitable eight to ten hour drive home? Well Yes, most certainly, back then very few Dealers from way down south could be bothered with what was a very tiring, usually boring, but immensely profitable journey.

Cars were and still are, cheaper by region. Only last week I was speaking to the head of transport at a major auction house just outside London, wondering why my transporter of six cars was taking longer than usual to load and deliver. He was quick to explain;

“See those two transporters over there?”

Which I clearly could, loaded with eight nearly new cars a piece,

“Got to get those off first, they’re going down to Devon you see.”

On delving deeper it transpires the dealer in question travels all the way up to this neck of the woods every month or so, to buy what he considers, “much cheaper stock”. With the proximity to London also giving him much needed variation and choice, even after taking into account time, expenses, and not least delivery costs, it’s still worth his while.

This rule isn’t restricted to just used vehicles either, a quick phone around the country also showed some quite amazing price disparity region to region on selected new models, as different Dealers will almost certainly have differing targets to achieve before year end. If you can be bothered with a bit of travelling and a little phone or Internet investigation, you could in theory save yourself many hundreds of pounds.

Now the web being what it is, if you are reading this north of the border then worry not, you already have some very cheap used cars right on your doorstep (although when buying new it’s still worth doing some homework). If however, you reside in deepest, darkest Cornwall and feel now’s the time for that new motor, do some or all of the above rather sharpish.

The added benefit is you’re more likely to get spring water than ditch-water on the train nowadays, and a morning’s work could well turn out to be a month’s wages saved, and in the current climate, that must be worth pursuing!


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