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On the starting blocks for first used '51' sale

"So September 1 came and went, the public in the main still being unaware that a new number plate format came into existence. However with much publicity in the national and local press, the awareness factor must have grown somewhat with the great British public.

"But it is in the coming weeks that they will really get to know the new system, as vehicles can be visibly seen with the new style plates. Whether or not people rush out to their local showrooms to become the owner of a car with a new plate remains to be seen.

With the new plate comes an over-abundance of used part exchanges and having spoken to many dealers, the quality of these is falling something short of prime stock. The new plate has not created many perfect swappers, such as two year old low mileage, clean cars. They are more like three to five year old, higher mileage ones. These are exactly the same as those coming off fleets from contract hire and leasing companies, which when added together possibly create a glut. Unless sensible reserve prices are put on the entry form at auction they could be hanging around for quite a while.

This September sees many types of car entering the market at three years old for the first time. Vehicles that were launched in the UK market back in September and October 1998 are about to have their third birthday. Some of these are the BMW 3 Series, Ford's Focus and the Mazda 323, although there shouldn't be too many of these around to cause a problem. There is also the Mercedes-Benz A Class, Peugeot 206, Skoda Octavia and Suzuki Jimny. It doesn't seem two minutes ago that these vehicles were first seen on our roads, but all have now reached MoT testing time. The real test of course is in term of desirability in the used car market.

Also hitting the market now, albeit in low numbers, is the Alfa Romeo 156. Although it was originally launched in December 1997 it was a few months before it was available in any quantity, as orders far outstripped supply. The private buyer of three-year old cars has now got so much choice, with many quality vehicles to choose from. Cars that are now having their fourth birthday include the Toyota Avensis, Vauxhall Astra and Volkswagen Golf. All of these will make good family cars and at the prices being achieved they look like tremendous value to the private customer.

With all the extra vehicles coming to market this month you have to spare a thought for the car delivery companies. They are responsible for making sure that all the vehicles get to the right destination, at the right time, and in the same condition as when they set off. The drivers of these transporters are the unsung heroes; without them the trade could almost come to a grinding halt. They have to deal with long hours and all the regulations, but they still manage to deliver on time.

The debate on colour and how it affects the value of a vehicle is never going to go away. There are good desirable colours, there are average colours, and there are those that are simply unwanted. A case in point arose last week when two cars were entered into the same auction, one with 29,000 miles and the other 31,000. They were the same specification and virtually in the same condition. The higher mileage car made £4,000, but the lower mileage one made just over £3,000. One was silver, the other a nasty shade of orange – guess which made the most!

'51' at auction
The race will be on in exactly three months' time to see who can dispose of the first of this September's '51' reg cars. Will it be manufacturers, dealers or rental companies? Whoever it is, it will be interesting to see what the premium is over 'Y' platers for the very first to be found in the market. I'll have a bet and say it will be substantial, when compared to last year's 'X' registration premium over the 'W' plate.

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