DRIVERS can save over €4,000 by buying second-hand cars in Britain instead of at home in Ireland.
A survey by the Irish Independent highlights the huge price-savings that have prompted a massive surge in secondhand car imports during 2013.
We found price savings of up to €4,500 on cars even after you pay Vehicle Registration Tax to the Revenue for the privilege of importing a car from an EU neighbour.
The biggest saving was on a three-year-old Nissan Qashqai, where the UK purchase price was just over €13,000 compared with almost €20,000 from an Irish dealer.
Even when you add on the hefty €2,434 in tax demanded by the Revenue for importing this car which brings the total price to €15,500, the saving is still very substantial at €4,500.
On a high-end BMW 5-series car you could save as much as €3,500 by buying in the UK, while for a five-year-old Volkswagen Golf you could make a saving of nearly €4,000.
Central Statistics Office (CSO) figures show there were 46,581 second-hand cars imported to Ireland in the first 11 months of 2013 -- and that figure has soared by 33pc since the same time last year.
Ford, Volkswagen, Audi and Toyota are the most popular second-hand imports, a breakdown of CSO data for November shows. Luxury makes such as BMW and Audi are popular with drivers sourcing cars from the UK, probably because of large savings, whereas for smaller cars like the Toyota Yaris, our survey found it actually cost more to import one.
Automobile Association (AA) spokesman Conor Faughnan said you could undoubtedly get good value purchasing cars in Britain but there were also serious risks you had to be aware of as there was less comeback if you had a problem. Figures from car checking site Cartel indicate that 18pc of imported cars have been "clocked" to give a false mileage reading. That compares with 9pc for cars bought locally as some unscrupulous sellers saw overseas buyers as an easier target, said Mr Faughnan.
It is vital to do a lot of research before buying in Britain and in particular to get a car history check done -- typically for around €25 -- to make sure the car had not been in a crash or stolen.
Drivers should also purchase from dealers registered with SMMT -- the UK equivalent of the Society of the Irish Motor Industry (SIMI) -- which means you are buying from a reputable source, and have comeback if there are any faults.
It is also very important if you are spending thousands of euro on a car to get a proper inspection done to check for faults or clocking.
Mr Faughnan said while the cost of this was €250-300 with AA -- but possibly less with other providers -- it often showed up much more expensive problems and ensured minor faults were sorted out before purchase.
"It also keeps dealers on their toes as if an inspection shows the car is fundamentally sound but has a few minor faults such as a loose seat or something, you will probably be able to get those fixed, so it'll more than pay for itself," he said.
Drivers also need to be very aware that VRT is levied based on the Revenue's assessment of its open market value in Ireland rather than its UK price tag which might be lower.
"Every year we get people crying in to us that their VRT bill was much higher than they expected because they hadn't done their research properly on that," Mr Faughnan said.
Our survey compared cars of similar age, mileage and specification, though obviously they can never be identical.