How 'straight' talking could have saved us €1,500
Garage Watch: Toyota Dealer, Walsh's Garage, Hebron Road, Kilkenny
We pulled in, off the Hebron Road, just before Kilkenny City and into Walsh's garage with €7,000 in our back pocket.
Well not exactly in our pocket but, shall we say, available.
We felt confident we would do business but the big question was: did this garage have enough second-hand stock to offer choice to the used-car buyer?
We cruised into the conveniently located 'customer parking' spaces by the door of the complex, scanning the surrounding forecourt for early contenders.
Immediately after entering the showroom we were greeted by Vanessa, who had a used-car price list in our hands and the offer of tea or coffee before we had the time to say 'black and amber'.
The first thing that stood out on the list was the proviso at the top of the page: 'The prices quoted below assume that you have a vehicle to trade in. If you do not, please request a 'straight price' from our sales staff.'
We found the inclusion both interesting and a touch reassuring, not least because we were struggling to find much on the list that came within an Irish mile of our budget.
We said we'd better have a chat with a salesman.
We were sitting down with Philip Lawlor some five minutes later.
After learning of our budget, Philip anticipated the direction our conversation was heading before we even got the words out. "Generally, if you aren't trading in, you can take €1,500 from the display price," he said. "I don't have much at the minute for you, except a Focus out front, and a Corolla to come in next week."
The reason Walsh's had so many second-hand cars for double or triple our budget was simple.
Despite the fact it put a limit on our bargain-buying aspirations, broadly speaking it was probably indicative of green shoots reappearing in the motor industry in the area.
"We smashed our first target set by Toyota, and sold plenty of new cars.
"People traded in and that's why we have a yard full of fresh second-hands," said Philip.
Indeed, most in the yard were younger than four years and had price tags befitting their age and condition.
The one car on site that could possibly provide a match for us was a 2007 5-door Ford Focus. It had a 1.6-litre petrol engine, metallic black paint and 139,000 kms on the clock.
Liking what we saw, we agreed to a test drive. There was a brief issue with the car's battery – lights had been accidentally left on overnight, draining its power. But Philip quickly sorted that for us and it wasn't long before we were out on the road putting the Focus through its paces.
The car drove well, had been looked after and, as an added plus, was already kitted out with Bluetooth.
Definitely not a bad option, but sensing our diffidence to buy, Philip, like all good salesmen, took down our details, kept our budget and specifications on file, and promised to call if something more suitable comes in.
Before we left, Philip told us that the garage was planning a sale the following week to "get fresh second-hand stock down".
He was hopeful that a few more vehicles in our price bracket would be traded in against the newer second hands.
We might just call again, you know.
We liked: Professionalism of staff and how they dealt with us, neatly arranged showrooms and stock.
We disliked: On the day, we would have liked to have a few more options for our budget.
Customer Parking: 8
Customer facilities: 7
Customer service: 8.0
Models on display: 6.5