Check your rearview mirror . . . it's the Great British car invasion
Grainne Cunningham on how to get your dream machine as more and more cars are imported from the UK
There has been a massive increase in the number of UK cars being imported here for private use over the past year. According to the Society of the Irish Motor Industry (SIMI), almost 43,000 used cars were been imported into Ireland so far in 2013.
The number of imports represents a 36pc increase on figures for 2012. According to SIMI, at least some of that rise is due the lack of '08, '09, '10 cars available in the Irish market (because so few were sold here) and so dealers are bringing them over from the UK to satisfy demand. But with such a high number of private individuals doing the same, Smart Consumer sniffed a bargain and decided to investigate.
The first obstacle to buying a car from Britain is the dizzying array of choice from numerous second-hand car websites. There are an estimated 50,000 vehicles on sale in the UK in any given week.
However, there is plenty of good online advice about how to go about choosing, sourcing and buying your dream car and the online prices are very attractive when you compare like for like with what is available here.
Many car hunters may feel they don't have the time or the expertise to go through the selection process themselves or are wary of getting stung.
UK Car Imports, a company trading in north Dublin, offers to take away most of the hassle and some of the risk while still giving buyers and dealers access to the vast British market.
Put simply, the company will find the make and model of car you want, bid for it at auction, import the car, register it for Vehicle Registration Tax and valet it. You collect your freshly washed car, complete with Irish registration plate and a 12-month warranty to boot, but you will almost certainly pay considerably less than for the same make and model here.
According to company owner Richard Smith, "There is massive value to be had – between 10pc and 30pc price difference. For instance, on an Audi A6, there could be up to €7,000 in the difference.
"While some dealers may match our price with individual cars, our prices are, on average, consistently lower than Irish prices, from 15pc on a 2010 Qashqai to 20pc on a 2010 Hyundai i30 to 30pc for an Astra on a 2010 plate," Mr Smith says.
In general, British cars have a higher specification than those sold in this country, eg alloy wheels, sat nav, leather upholstery and air conditioning come as standard while they are considered extras here.
UK Car Imports has its own British-based buyer who travels to local car auctions and keeps the buyer in touch with the process every step of the way. Discover more at www.UKcarimports.ie.
But you don't have to use a middleman and, if the leg work doesn't bother you, you can do it all yourself.
Despite the bargains to be had, a SIMI spokeswoman offers the following advice: "If someone is thinking about buying a car from the UK for example, the first thing we would say is to shop around here . . . dealers are certainly open to negotiation.
"In addition, when a person buys a used car from a SIMI member, they have their consumer rights . . . [and] the back-up of the SIMI's free complaints service.
"However, if something goes wrong with a car you purchased abroad, you don't have this back-up," she says.