HUGE numbers of used cars are changing hands in private -- not garage -- deals, according to newly compiled figures.
There were nearly 400,000 'private' transactions last year with cars in the top 20 sales slots all aged 10 years or more.
This compares with significantly fewer deals between companies/individuals and garages.
The figures, compiled by Motorcheck.ie, are seen as a reflection of more people buying less expensive cars in the midst of the severe economic climate.
Buyers are taking some risks in buying this way, but obviously a lack of money is the root cause.
The statistics will also prompt fresh suspicions from within the industry generally that some people are making a 'business' out of selling 'privately'.
As the accompanying figures show, there were nearly 400,000 private sales last year.
A certain proportion of these would represent deals between car owners selling privately to each other in legitimate circumstances. But many observers are sceptical that such transactions represent such a huge number, raising possible Revenue issues of VAT on purchase and tax evasion.
Apart from such potential undertones, however, the figures highlight the breadth of activity in the car market generally.
They also highlight the extraordinary number of cars being sold that are aged 10 years or more -- much older than garage trades.
We tend to overlook the second-hand side of the market as we concentrate on how any new cars are registered or sold in a specific period. New-car registrations for October will show further falls on last year.
Motorcheck.ie chief Shane Teskey says: "It's clear from our analysis that an overwhelming majority (over 75pc) of second-hand buyers are avoiding their local dealer and turning to the private market. This is in part due to economic circumstances that encourage 'bargain hunting' but it's also fair to assume that private buyers are getting much smarter about how they shop."
He added: "Every day we see examples of cars in the market that have been clocked, written off or still under finance. For anyone considering the purchase of a car from a private seller we strongly recommend an official check/report. It's inexpensive (reports start at €20) and could help you to avoid making a very costly mistake."
Vehicle data expert Cartell.ie reports that the proportion of vehicles offered for sale with finance outstanding remains stagnant at 11pc.
The figure has remained consistent for the last 12 months which suggests finance levels have tapered off. Historically, the highest level recorded by the company is 16pc.