Customers from the Republic are crossing the border in increasing numbers to snap up new cars for up to £10,000 less than they pay at home, a Belfast Telegraph investigation has discovered.
Major dealers are reporting that one in five of the vehicles they sell are going to southern customers taking advantage of the favourable exchange rate.
Priced around £26,000 here compared with €36,000 in the Republic, a Renault Koleos Dynamique represents just one example of the huge saving available for savvy shoppers.
Charles Hurst managing director, Andy Bruce, said: “The saving that can be made obviously varies between models, but is upwards of 20% on average.”
And there is growing evidence that southern shoppers are now making lifestyle changes based on lower charges in the service industry.
Belfast hotels have reported a new phenomenon of so-called “overnighters”, where southerners are coming up to the province to get all the bargains they can in one visit.
Chief executive of Northern Ireland Hotels Federation, Janice Gault, said: “There has been an influx of southerners staying for just one night in Belfast hotels at the moment because of shopping opportunities.”
Europa general manager, James McGinn, said visitors from the Republic are proving the perfect antidote to the usual post-Christmas downturn.
“There is a real opportunity for hotels in the north to offer and attract people from the south based on the euro’s position,” he said.
“We’ve seen a 25% pick up in rooms because of southerners coming up in what would normally be a quieter time. Since Christmas we’re filling up every Saturday night and in the majority the southern market would be the most dominant.”
Dentists are also reporting a rapid increase in patients from the Republic because of the huge savings on treatment.
Jim Braden, of Braden Dental Care in Belfast, has seen a huge surge of new patients coming from far-flung parts of Ireland, which he said reflects the slide of sterling against the euro.
“We’ve had patients from Cork and Kerry, although the majority come from the corridor down to Dublin and Dublin itself,” he said.
“A lot of people are coming by car and train, although we do have clients who take the plane. They tell us it’s worthwhile financially to fly from Cork.
“We’ve been operating for six years and have always had patients from the south, but recently 50% of our new clients have been from the Republic and that’s quite a big statistic.”