I live in the Village of the Damned, and every single person here has a sheet of A4 pinned to the windscreen of something four-wheeled, from a Japanese-import Estima to a Rover 400 and a recently repainted Nissan Cabstar.
And the trend is spreading too. I know this because I drove into town earlier and it looked like the 1995 motorshow. There was a Mondeo, a Vectra and a Ford Probe sitting in an orderly line facing the traffic, none of them advertised for more than 400 notes.
Of course, the very fact a car is for sale by the side of the road suggests a degree of desperation on the part of the vendor, and that the shed itself is worthy of a wide berth. It’s almost as if everyone has decided to liquidate their one remaining mobile asset – and conveniently forgotten there is something called the internet which makes the process ten times easier.
So far I haven’t been tempted to actually stop and take a closer look at anything. That would be easy enough, because I’m usually wobbling along on my push bike. But even at the 0.3 mph at which I motivate myself, I can see enough to know that I’m not missing anything, from faded plastic bumpers, bald tyres, missing wheel trims to the ‘I’ve seen the lions at Longleat’ window sticker.
So heaven knows what sort of appraisal you’re meant to make at 60mph as you sweep past on a busy ‘A’ road. Then you’ve got to find somewhere to turn around, come back, park up and then get to within about three feet to read the price, largely because it’s been written in pencil on brown cardboard.
If you ask me, the whole business model is flawed. The only potential audience for these clunkers are people walking away from broken-down wrecks of their own – and unless your current banger happens to expire right next to one of them, you’d do better to stick a pin into the bargain basement section of your local freesheet.
It’s eighteen years since I bought something off the side of the road, so if you’ve ever found a bargain on the verge then please let me know, because they all look like scrap to me.