One in 10 UK imports had previously been written off
The risk of buying a potential death-trap car from the UK can be highlighted today as new research shows that one in 10 vehicles imported this year had previously been written off.
The research, which was undertaken for the Irish Independent by consumer car-history check experts MyWheels.ie, also shows that the number of imported write-offs is rising month on month.
Sources claim that unscrupulous sellers - not legitimate businesses - are increasingly using Ireland as an easy route to 'wash' cars with dubious histories.
The MyWheels.ie study, covering the first six months of 2015, found:
- Out of 33,486 vehicles imported, 2,963 (8.85pc) had previously been written off.
- These cars had been in crashes so serious that, at best, they required major repairs and, at worst, they should never have been allowed back on the road.
- The risk for buyers lies not just with older vehicles. A number of two-year-old cars with potentially dangerous defects had been brought in for sale too.
- All classes of vehicles are included - cars, vans and even motorcycles.
- A total of 22 cars reported stolen in the UK were also imported and registered here in the first six months.
The MyWheels.ie report is based on an analysis of the complete database of UK market write-offs - providing an extensive insight into the movement of cars to the Irish market.
It is believed that it is much easier to sell a used import under the regulatory radar here than it is with Irish-based cars.
MyWheels.ie spokesman Niall Kavanagh said that while there were good controls to manage Irish write-offs, those for imports were not nearly as effective. He said: "We are seeing a disproportionate number of vehicles (that were) written off in the UK being imported into Ireland."
He urged the Government to bring in strict, mandatory cross-checks.
The term 'write-off' covers a multitude, but essentially there are four categories.
A and B are also known as 'mechanical' write-offs. These have been so badly damaged that they should not be put back on the road under any circumstances, although some parts from category B cars can be re-used.
Categories C and D are known as 'economic write-offs', where an insurance company decides that the cost of repairs is higher than the worth of the car. But they can still be viable for repairers to make roadworthy and sell profitably - provided the work is carried out to specific standards, is fully inspected and the cars' histories are recorded.
Mr Kavanagh said he was worried at the rate and level of imported write-offs.
"We are concerned about the safety of some of these cars for those who buy them. Many category C and D write-offs are back on the road, but anyone planning to buy needs to take precautions to avoid ending up with an unsafe or uninsured vehicle."
Weeding out the scammers
- When an Irish car is written off, insurers notify the National Vehicle and Driver File office in Shannon.
- A 'lock' is put on those vehicles.
- The registered owner is told the vehicle needs a major mechanical check-over before being passed.
- With used imports, cars go through an NCT test if they are four years or older.
- The NCT test is reckoned to do a good job, but by its nature it is not designed for detecting all write-offs.
- According to the Department of Transport's own memo, detecting write-offs requires specialist engineers taking a lot of time to assess a vehicle's repair history and structure.