It is now not possible for a day to go past without at least one person ringing me up and telling me an ever more outrageous tale about the price at which a certain car has changed hands.

Merc wagon1 Today’s came from a gentleman whom I have known since I was a child and is the last person on the planet to make something like this up.

He needs a large SUV for towing purposes, but was happy to have a petrol-powered car because he’ll only do about 5000 miles a year in it. He found one such car from a premium brand that, with a few optional goodies, should retail for £40,000. He paid £18,000 for it. New.

Nor are these bargains restricted to large and unpopular SUVs. A dealer I know insists there is now effectively no such thing as an undiscounted car. ‘Don’t do the deal until you can see the whites of their eyes’ was his uncompromising advice to buyers before going on to predict things will get still worse before they get better.