Smart Consumer: Price wars - how does your county rate?
What are the dearest -- and the cheapest -- counties in Ireland? Are Cavan people canny with their cash and Kerrymen as cute as they say?
Does tough competition make the capital tops for prices? How are Border counties dealing with competition from the North? This week's "survey of surveys" should provide the answers. Click here to see a list of prices from around the country.
It combines our original research with the latest data from top consumer groups to separate the priciest places from the best counties for spending your cash.
The cheapest fuel prices seem to be found near our main road routes especially close to the border.
Three of the cheapest stations listed on www.pumps.ie were in Ardee and Dundalk near the M1, while another at Ashbourne was just off it.
The Cork/Rosslare route accounts for another three. Four are off the M6 (two in Athlone), and two are on the M8 route.
Cavan does consistently well in these surveys -- compiled by voluntary contributors to the website. An Excol garage at Kilconny, which was joint first last week, was joint third yesterday at 126.9c a litre.
However, on August 18th, Bandon, Co. Cork scooped the plaudits for the two cheapest garages in Ireland -- Great Gas at Bypass Road and Esso on the Cork Road, both charging 125.9c at the pumps.
(www.pumps.ie lists prices supplied by contributors to its website but not all garages may be covered.)
The cheapest homes in Ireland are in Longford, where the average three-bed semi-d can be snapped up for €143,000, according to the latest Daft.ie report.
Not far behind are Roscommon, Leitrim, Cavan and Monaghan.
The dearest homes are Dublin at €308,800, followed by Wicklow (€301k), Cork (€238k) Galway (€236k) and Kildare (€236k).
In our recent survey of 140 dry cleaners, the cheapest among the 140 who responded to our survey was Express in Drogheda, Co Louth. Impress in Dublin's Blanchardstown was second cheapest, with Inchicore, D7 and D8 also among the cheapest areas in the land.
However, Dubliners also get taken to the cleaners on the southside where the dearest price for a suit was at nearly €20.
That's twice as much as you could pay (at that time) in Cavan at the Virginia Express.
The dearest region on average was Galway, where you will get cleaned out at €16.33 a suit.
When South Dublin dentists say 'open wide', they mean your wallet, not your mouth!
That was the dearest place by far for dental work, according to a recent survey by the National Consumer Agency.
It costs €336 on average for four basic procedures there, including examination, scale and polish, extraction and combined scale and polish. That's nearly as painful -- and expensive -- as a root canal.
The cheapest was Waterford, where the average price for those procedures came to just €239. The dearest place outside Dublin was, once more, Galway city, at €294.
Doctors' fees don't vary that much, they are all pretty dear, according to another NCA survey carried out last March.
The average cost for a GP visit ranged from €46.36 in Tralee/ Killarney to €52.81 in Waterford.
The main factor with GP pricing -- and the cost of other services surveyed by the NCA -- "is the number of service providers in the area and consumers' willingness to shop around," according to Feargal O'Leary, assistant director, research and policy at the NCA.
"I thought the Border area might be cheaper overall (for GP fees) but it turned out to be the Ennis/Gort region," he says.
Men can pay as little as €4.99 for a haircut -- while women can blow 30 times that much.
This was revealed in the latest issue of Consumer Choice magazine. A random sample of hairdresser prices showed the dearest prices among 15 hairdressers surveyed nationwide was €210 for highlights with a wash, cut and blow dry on Dublin's Dame Street. However, the same chain was quoted as charging €155+ in Cork and €136+ in Galway.
Similarly, Peter Mark's outlet on Dublin's Henry Street was considerably cheaper than its branch across the Liffey in the St Stephen's Green Centre, according to Consumer Choice.
On average, Dublin was dearest for ladies' hair care, followed by Cork, Limerick and Maynooth. The cheapest of the 15 chosen were Sligo (Salon 2), Carlow (Linda Maher) and Gorey (Hair Stop) in that order.
Consumer Choice advises women to trim their costs by seeking out mobile hairdressers on sites like www.gumtree.ie or Polish or Asian outlets, which tend to be much cheaper than the locals.
The cheapest of 15 barbers surveyed was Dillon Hair Studio on Dublin's Wellington Quay, where prices start at €4.99.
Across the Liffey, men's haircuts can be much dearer at up to €26 in one outlet near Grafton St, according to Consumer Choice.
Some parts of Ireland are definitely pricier than others and some offer better deals.
Galway city pops up regularly among the costliest. It's the most expensive on average for dry cleaning, the dearest outside Dublin for dental care and has some of the priciest property and hair cuts.
Why do Galwegians pay more? Surely a student city should keep prices low?
Perhaps this is more than offset by the fact that it has money flowing in as a major tourism, educational and administration centre and is far from competitive pressures.
So which are the cheapest counties? Cavan is best for petrol and good value for property and dry cleaning.
But the Deise isn't dear either -- Waterford is joint cheapest for petrol and tops for dry cleaning and dental care. (It's dearest for GP fees but these were tightly bunched and it's only €2.81 above the €50 national average per visit.)
The Wee County also has wee prices. Louth shares top spot for petrol and had the cheapest dry cleaners in our recent survey of 140 nationwide.
And what about the aforementioned "Kerry cuteness"? The Kingdom at least scoops one All-Ireland title this year -- although the fact that it's for cheap petrol and is shared with Louth, Waterford, Cavan and Offaly won't console its GAA purists.
Nor will a county that aspires to be the best be assuaged by Kerry's second place in the cheapest GP fees table.
The good news is that the recession is forcing prices down -- as shown by the latest NCA survey, which reveals a 14pc drop in grocery prices.
"It's not a choice any more. People have to make their wallets go further. They are doing the hard work but it's very hard work in some places," says the NCA's Feargal O'Leary.
This was borne out in our dry-cleaning survey. One outlet in Fermoy -- Bohan's -- admitted it was among the cheapest because the town had been ravaged by unemployment.
Likewise, it's probably no coincidence that Louth, Cavan and Waterford are cheap given their economic fortunes of late.