Would you buy a used car from a used car salesman? The answer is an old joke, but Virginians are giving it an unusual twist. They're buying used cars at a significant rate.

According to the Virginia Division of Motor Vehicles, used car sales rose 3.5 percent in August over the same month last year, while new car sales dropped 2.1 percent.

Because of high new car prices, "Many of our used car dealers are reporting to us perhaps the best first six to eight months of the year, as compared to any other year they have been in business," according to David Bolling of Richmond, who represents the Virginia Independent Auto Dealers Association.

State Motor Vehicles Commissioner Donald Williams said people "just don't have the money to buy new cars this year."

In actual numbers, new car dealers in Virginia sold 23,705 cars last month, compared with 24,225 in the same month last year. By comparison, the state titled 92,605 used cars last month, compared with 89,458 in August 1981.

For used car dealers, that's the good news. The bad news is that a drop in the sale of new cars will eventually make it hard to find good used cars to sell, Bolling said, noting: "After all, our product is generated by a new car sale."