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Saturday 17 February 2018

Exhausts fume! How to avoid common car scams

Make sure you don't be left feeling 'used' when buying your next second-hand car, writes Sinead Ryan

Karolina Matczak from Midleton, Co Cork who was the victim of a scam when she bought a car, later proved to be stolen. Photo: Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision
Karolina Matczak from Midleton, Co Cork who was the victim of a scam when she bought a car, later proved to be stolen. Photo: Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision

Second-hand car salesmen come with a bad rep - the Del Boy of the motor market. But even with new car registrations up 35pc on last year so far, it's easy to forget the very vibrant used-car market. Indeed, for most of us who can't afford to select our colour, feel the unused leather or see 'zero' kilometres on the clock, we're left in the lot out back trying to decide which car might see us through the next few years after we trade in our current banger.

Whether you call it 'Pre-loved', 'Second-hand' or just plain 'Used', you have to exercise a lot more caution buying in this space and the first rule is to be careful who you buy from. The safest option is a reputable garage which is a member of the Society of the Irish Motor Industry (SIMI). It has a rule of ethics for all members and an excellent dispute resolution process should things go awry with the sale. Second-hand cars should be thoroughly checked and inspected and sold for a price that reflects the condition.

Although your consumer rights are exactly the same when you're buying a car as they are for a new toaster or a pair of shoes, the outlay is significantly more and you want to make sure of redress if something goes wrong down the road (literally, in this case).

While you can't expect a 10-year-old car to have a perfect interior or be un-scratched, it doesn't mean the engine should fail as you drive off the forecourt. The provenance of the car should be known and the mileage verified in writing. This is your right.

Buying from a private individual off the internet does not confer the same, or any, rights. It is entirely your responsibility to make sure you're not buying a pig in a poke and the best way to do that is to bring a mechanic to look over it for you and undertake basic checks and research (see table).

Never buy at a neutral venue, such as a car park or pub. Visit the seller at their home - they won't mind if the car is genuine. And as ever, if the price appears too low, it probably is. Current scams, according to Garda Crimestoppers, include:

Bogus Motor tax/NCT

The seller states the car has a valid NCT certificate and road tax. The buyer signs the appropriate documents and hands over their cash. A number of weeks later he is stopped by the Gardaí at a routine checkpoint to be told that the NCT and Motor Tax disc are counterfeit.

Bogus Deposit

A bogus seller uses a fake Ebay page to advertise a Ford Fiesta, on sale from a country in mainland Europe. An interested seller pays a deposit of €3,000+ to a bank account in another EU member state and hears nothing more from the bogus seller. Ebay has no record of the bogus sale item.

Bogus Transfer

An online seller receives an email from a prospective buyer confirming they are happy with the car but are currently living abroad and would like to send a bank transfer for more than the advertised price and request that the seller return the over pay i.e. if the car is advertised for €10,000 a transfer would be sent for €10,500 and request the seller return €500. The bank transfer or draft will bounce but as this can take two weeks to actually clear, the seller could have already sent the €500.

Bogus Shipping Fees

A seller advertises a vehicle for sale but says the car is not in Ireland as he is working abroad. The seller requests a deposit off the interested buyer to ship the vehicle to Ireland. He says he won't look for full payment until the vehicle has arrived, however once the deposit is paid, the vehicle never arrives.

A few simple checks can save you a small fortune


Around 20pc of cars sold have outstanding finance on them; you'll be responsible for it once you become the owner, so you need to be certain it's free of debt before you buy. A small outlay to check is money well spent.


If the car is a UK import (7.5pc are), you may not know it and having the check extended is worthwhile. The last thing you want as the new owner is to have a bank calling you looking for repayments on a loan you didn't take out or find out your car is a write-off from a different jurisdiction.

While there's nothing inherently wrong with an import, it must have VRT (and sometimes VAT) paid on it within 30 days of landing in Ireland - a reputable seller will show you evidence of both.


If you're buying at auction, it's a good idea to visit one before you plan to buy to get an idea of the quality available and how the system works. You may not get much time to check out your car, so it's invaluable to have an expert on hand. AA Ireland provides them and it can be money well spent. 

Irish Independent

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