Monday 16 September 2019

Driving a hard bargain on your first car

Young motorists should take care to make sure they get the real deal, writes Sinead Ryan

Safety first: Don’t hand over money until you’ve checked the Vehicle Registration Cert
Safety first: Don’t hand over money until you’ve checked the Vehicle Registration Cert
Sinead Ryan

Sinead Ryan

Getting on the road is harder than ever for young drivers. Whether it's the cost of insurance - which is set to rise with yet another levy - or trying to find a car you can afford, along with tax, NCT, servicing costs and rising fuel prices, it can be tempting to punt for an online 'bargain' or an import from the UK.

But warnings from the gardai and AA Ireland have shown it's all too easy to lose your shirt if you get it wrong. Scams abound, and the old adage that if it looks too good to be true, it probably is, applies probably more to car purchases than anything else. Given for most of us it's a huge outlay, it's worth making sure you're getting the real deal.


AA's Conor Faughnan says: "Importing a second-hand car can be very good value - about 100,000 people do it every year. UK cars are often well maintained and the sterling differential is playing in our favour. The big disadvantage is that you are moving away from any after-sales support. If you buy locally from a SIMI dealer in Ireland, you can generally get good support in the event of any minor issues."

The equivalent of this in the UK is SMMT, which provides quality assurance and reputable garages.

Buying on or privately via one of the many car sales sites can cause even greater problems down the road. "If you see a small ad to ring 'Nigel' on a mobile and meet him at a motorway service area, you are asking for trouble both here or in the UK," says Faughnan.

You must pay VRT if you're importing a car immediately on arriving back to Ireland. Revenue has an online calculator for this at so you'll know in advance how much the car is actually costing.

Buying privately

If you do see a car you like and it's being sold directly by the owner, take some basic care before you part with your cash. Firstly, get a history and mileage check based on the registration number. There are plenty of providers (including AA, and and expect to pay about €20 - €25. Among other things, this will tell you if there is any hire purchase finance outstanding; it may be the case that the seller doesn't legally own the car and has no right to sell it to you. Secondly, don't part with cash until you have the Vehicle Registration Cert (VRC) and NCT disc first and both match the car.


Unfortunately car buyers (and sellers) get scammed all the time, mainly with private (side of the road) sales. Here are the most common, and how to avoid them...

  • The fake NCT: A great car is advertised at a low cash price. You go to look at it and hand over the cash while the 'owner' goes back to his own car (driven by a pal) to get the 'paperwork'. He speeds off with your money, and it turns out the car is heavily financed (which you're now responsible for) or in some cases, stolen. Never hand over money until the VRC is in your hand and matches the serial number on the car.
  • Clocking: Research by found 14.5pc of imported second-hand cars had mileage altered (sometimes twice around the clock). It happens here too, of course, and a tell-tale sign is a worn clutch pedal, or a brand new (replaced) one.
  • The forged bank draft: You're selling, and an interested buyer rocks up to make an offer. He's keen and has a bank draft made out to you for the right amount. It's like cash, right? Wrong. He drives away and your bank later tells you the draft is forged and worthless.
  • The mismatch: The car you're buying looks fine - there's an in-date NCT and tax cert on the window. Unfortunately, they're for a different car, which you only discover when you drive away.

Irish Independent

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