Big Mike

Big Mike 5: Why Billy Two Bags has got it right

Time 13 years ago

Isn’t it funny how, when it comes to choosing a used car, you suddenly start to consider models that you wouldn’t have touched with a cattle prod when they were new?

And isn’t it odd, too, that there are a good many motors that sold in their droves when new, but as a used car dealer/pre-owned carriage specialist you know has now become fearsome forecourt fodder. 

Peugeot 406, anyone? Or what about the most recent Nissan Primera – a car that in it previous incarnation would be snapped up by an eager mini-cabber within minutes of reaching your lot, but for reasons of complexity and fragility tends to fester unsold for far too long in third generation form.


Renault Laguna? Well, let’s just say the last conversation I had with one went a bit like this: ‘If you lie to me once more about your bloody tyre pressures you bing-bonging French git I’m going to drive you into a bridge parapet.’

For cheap transport, punters should really look at cars that nobody wanted when new, and nobody wanted used, either. If you’re good at your job, then chances are you drive one of these, or at least let the missus smoke around in one. 

I, for one, certainly never had a picture of a Nissan Maxima on my bedroom wall nor collected all the brochures, yet during my career I owned and loved six of them – cracking motors, nobody wanted them, they never broke down and you could write them down for peanuts when the disgruntled customer came in for a trade-in quote, yet still not lose the deal. 

Vauxhall Omegas, Ford (quick, hide, it’s coming to get you…) Scorpios, Rover 800s ditto, but without the clockwork reliability (it didn’t matter, because as soon as they conked I always pulled them to bits and flogged the parts on eBay).

As for the Mitsubishi Galant. Well, I love ‘em, and can’t help but think they’re curiously pretty too, yet nobody goes near them. Funny old world.

Still, I digress. With the over-hyped Credit Crunch Christmas coming up (give the media an inch of alliteration and they’ll grab themselves a mile…), there are some incredible used bargains out there at the moment, and while times may be tough at all ends of the motor trade, it’s the bargain basement where I believe there’s real scope.

And for evidence, you need look no further than my old mate Billy Two Bags. Bill’s nickname comes from what’s almost a fixed price approach to car sales. If it’s on his lot, it’s up at £1,995 (two grand, two bags of sand). 

Three years ago, Billy was selling Omegas and Scorpios, as well as sub-prime finance packages to people who, thanks to his charm offensive, were convinced that an ex-Motabiliy Citroen Xsara automatic was the answer to their motoring prayers.

Now there’s no sub-prime finance to sell anymore, Billy sells cars to people with real money, and as their choice is based on what cash they have in their bank account rather than what an optimistic computer thinks they can afford per week, they tend to have higher demands.

And that’s really put the squeeze on residual values of older models. Bad news if you’re looking to sell in the £3-£10k market, but great if you want to shift cheapies. Among Bill’s perfectly respectable stock I spied a 51-plate Citroen Picasso, an 02-plate Mondeo LX, a Y-plate Mk 4 Golf and even a 51-plate Zafira – all good solid stock in days of yore, but which, price-wise, have gone the way of the suburban semi of late. 

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This Christmas, there are going to be some crackers in the classifieds, and also a load of puddings. If you’ve got a used Scorpio, for example, save the advertising cost and scrap it while the Chinese are still recycling steel.

If you can afford to keep buying, stock up now while the silliness lasts, because as soon as the next bird flu epidemic, ill-advised military skirmish or celebrity divorce hits the headlines, the media focus will divert away from crunchy credit and we’ll all stop panicking our arses off.

At least I hope so as, on current form, there’s not a lot for us motor traders to smile about. Have a peaceful end to the year all, and let’s hope the new year brings with it a new found optimism!

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Car Dealer has been covering the motor trade since 2008 as both a print and digital publication. In 2020 the title went fully digital and now provides daily motoring updates on this website for the car industry. A digital magazine is published once a month.

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