UK consumers are more confident of getting a better new car deal than ever before, but still think manufacturers are being ‘greedy’ with over-inflated prices.

Independent monitor surveyed over 3,500 car buyers between 27 July and 7 August and found that 61% felt more positive about their chances of negotiating a reasonable discount off their new car than they did the last time they bought – an average of 34 months ago.

However, 84% of the sample still believe that car prices are too high in the UK, with the blame clearly being laid firmly at the door of the manufacturers: Two-thirds felt the carmakers were being “greedy” with only 2% recognising the disparity caused by varying tax rates across Europe.

A further 14% considered dealers were keeping prices artificially high.

The survey found that UK media has played a considerable role in convincing 64% of consumers that prices have nevertheless fallen over the past two years. A further one in five remain unsure of whether prices have actually fallen in real terms.

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“The question of whether prices have or haven’t fallen may still confuse the consumer, but they’ve certainly embraced the concept of not buying from the first dealer they visit, and the notion of hunting down bigger savings,” a CarPriceCheck spokesman said.

“We’ve seen a culture shift since the hey-days of the Rip Off Britain campaign back in 1999. Today, the first words a dealer is likely to hear from a customer is ‘what kind of discount can I expect from you?’…something that was alien to the majority of car buyers two or three years ago.”

The survey also looked at the possibility of supermarkets entering the new car market following the introduction of new European Union rules which come into force from 2003. The response was cautious.

Only 32% of the sample said that they would buy from a supermarket but even then only if the price was lower than elsewhere. However, a massive 62% were unconvinced that they could offer enough choice and after-sales support to persuade them to part with their cash.

CarPriceCheck data shows that new car transaction prices in the UK have fallen by a third of one percent in the opening six months of 2002 (January to June) – the equivalent of a £36 saving on a £12,000 family hatchback.