Beware abuse of NCT as a basis for the sale of secondhand cars
Our Road Safety Authority expert outlines many of the dangers involved in buying used vehicles
Never was the saying 'buyer beware' more true than when buying a used car in a private sale. There is no limit to the lengths unscrupulous sellers will go to just to make a buck. The 'Golden Rule' is to always get the vehicle independently checked by a qualified mechanic before buying and make sure you do a comprehensive background check.
Some sellers are using the NCT as a selling point, a warranty. Cars with "six months left on the NCT" are considered roadworthy "bargains". Yet the NCT is not, and was never meant to be, a detailed mechanical diagnostic of roadworthiness. It isn't a substitute for a full service. The NCT is a general health check on such safety features as lighting, brakes and tyres, at a set point in time (every year or two years, depending on vehicle age). NCT vehicle inspectors can only inspect what is visible and accessible on a vehicle during the test. That's what a mechanic does as part of a regular service.
So the NCT will only tell you that an item checked on a particular day meets a basic condition and even where a car passes that basic condition test, it cannot tell you about the remaining useful life of the car or its components. So the NCT does not convey a warranty or guarantee of future reliability. Indeed, the reality for anyone buying an older car with higher mileage, is that the components are going to be well used and worn and that car is going to require more frequent maintenance and servicing to keep it roadworthy.
Something else to think about is that the car you are thinking of buying could have been in a crash and repaired since its NCT or that the original parts could have been replaced for poor quality or worn ones. Sellers also go to great effort to hide serious issues, such as corrosion, by the use of sealants or masking agents.
If you do not know the person you are buying the car from then you cannot be sure of its history. Before buying a used hand car, you should get it checked by a qualified mechanic to avoid any unpleasant surprises. If you are buying from a garage, get a warranty for the car - if they are not willing to give you a warranty on the vehicle, this should ring alarm bells.
Some vehicles are being stolen and then sold on to unsuspecting customers with fake registration certificates. It is only when the buyer applies for a change of ownership that they find out it has been stolen, but by then it's too late. Fake NCT discs and Motor Tax discs are also in circulation and are used to increase the sale value of a car.
Always check the paperwork before buying. Make sure all the documents are original - don't accept photocopies. Look for: The Vehicle Registration Certificate (VRC), NCT details and a valid tax disc
The VRC has a 10 digit number on the top right hand corner of the first page. It should look like C061234567. For 2009 this would be C091234567 and so on. Take down these numbers and match them when getting your car history check. If the number does not match, the document could be forged and the car may be stolen.
You can find out whether an NCT cert is valid by going to www.ncts.ie and entering the vehicle registration number.
A car history check will show if the vehicle's road tax is current in Ireland as well as expiry dates of existing or previous discs.
Motortax.ie also lets you see if the car has changed hands within the last three months.
If you are thinking about buying a car that has low mileage for its age, it may be a sign that it has been 'clocked'. Before paying for a car, ask the seller to write the mileage, as displayed on the odometer, on your receipt. That way you have a record of the mileage the seller claimed was on the car if you find out later it has been clocked. If they are unwilling to do this, walk away.