Making it safety first when it comes to buying secondhand car
Our Road Safety Authority expert outlines the key areas to watch out for when purchasing
I've written recently about the European New Car Assessment Programme (Euro NCAP) and recommended using it if you are thinking of buying a new car. Of course this also applies if buying a secondhand vehicle.
Euro NCAP independently rates the safety performance of a car. But what else should you be looking out for?
You should get the vehicle independently checked by a mechanic. If you do not know the person you are buying the car from then you cannot be sure of its history. So certainly have it checked by a mechanic.
If you are buying from a garage, and they are not willing to give you a warranty on the vehicle, this should ring alarm bells.
It is a good idea to do a comprehensive background check. This may uncover details which the buyer is deliberately trying to hide, such as whether or not the vehicle was ever written-off or involved in a crash, the true mileage of the vehicle or if there is outstanding finance on the vehicle.
If you are buying privately always meet the seller at their home address in daylight and check the documentation matches this address to ensure they are not a dealer trying to disguise a sale.
Ask the seller for identification to confirm it's the same person on the Vehicle Registration Certificate.
Always take the car for a test drive before you buy it. When driving the car, turn off the radio and air con and make sure there are no strange noises or rattling. Check for a strong smell of oil or petrol and that it accelerates comfortably and the brakes don't squeak or squeal.
Make sure the vehicle's odometer hasn't been clocked. Compare the odometer record on the NCT disc with the vehicle's current reading.
All Society of the Irish Motor Industry (SIMI) dealers have access to a car history check service. They should be able to guarantee the mileage of any car they sell, as well as other details on the car's history. For those who aren't SIMI members there are other services which provide similar information for a fee.
Make sure that all documentation, including NCT, VRT, motor tax and car handbook relate to the car. But a word of caution. An NCT or Commercial Vehicle Roadworthiness (CVRT) certificate is a check on a set of minimum requirements at the time of the test and does not confer any warranty. A valid NCT certificate confirms the vehicle was in a roadworthy condition on the day of the test only.
Buying a car with a valid NCT certificate does not guarantee the vehicle is in a roadworthy condition at the time of purchase.
It should not be considered a substitute for a comprehensive technical examination of a vehicle before buying.
Watch out for a car that seems cheap or costs less than others on the market of the same age/mileage. The car is unlikely to be as good value as it seems and was probably involved in a crash at some point in its life.
Such cars are more likely to be bought by young people to just get on the road and using the NCT as a reference is not enough, as it's only a basic check. You should get the car independently inspected before buying, to check roadworthiness and whether its components are at, or near, the end of their lifespan.
You also need to consider that, in addition to having fewer modern safety features, you'll probably end up paying out more in maintenance costs, because older vehicles with high mileage need more frequent maintenance.
Check the NCT certificate is not fraudulent and that the vehicle has genuinely passed the test. There are some cases where fake discs are used in an attempt to raise the value of the vehicle. You can check this out by visiting www.ncts.ie or www.cvrt.ie.