Roadworthy? We need to look at our own cars as well as imports
New regulations mean we now accept 'NCT' certs from other countries, explains RSA expert
Imports. To buy or not to buy? It's a lengthy debate which has dogged many a potential car buyer for a long time.
We've all heard the horror stories about imports being written off in a previous life or clocked 'on the boat over'.
Yet we can't resist a bargain. Especially if the exchange rate is in our favour.
To add to that, the recent changes to the European Roadworthiness Testing Directive now stipulate that Ireland must accept roadworthiness certs from other EU countries.
In simple terms, this means if you import a car, say from the UK, which had its MOT six months ago, its cert would be valid in Ireland until the vehicle is due to be tested again.
That is, six or 18 months from now, depending on its age.
And while you may be thinking that the UK will soon no longer be in the EU, it won't matter because this rule has already come into effect (May 2018), and the mutual recognition of certs will stand, both retrospectively and into the future, regardless.
Previously, imported cars would have had to undergo an NCT before they could be registered here.
So how does everyone feel about the mutual recognition of roadworthiness certs?
Some people have complained that we're potentially allowing unroadworthy cars into our country.
But every roadworthiness test in Europe, regardless of whether it's an NCT, MOT or TÜV (equivalent in Germany), must stick to the same basic standards that have been set out by the EU.
Okay, the directive does allow for more stringent testing should individual states wish to apply them.
And yes, Ireland is one of those countries up there with the best of them applying higher standards.
But I think we may be missing the point here.
No roadworthiness test across Europe, including Ireland, is a detailed mechanical diagnostic of a car.
Why? Simply Because dismantling the car is prohibited by law.
This means that only the parts of your car which an MOT, NCT or TÜV tester can see and get to, without so much as unscrewing a bolt, can be examined.
The only way to guarantee that an imported vehicle hasn't been clocked, crashed, stolen or written off is by getting it independently inspected by a mechanic who can pull the car apart to check for these things and by carrying out a history check online.
Worryingly, some people think they'll be fine if they buy a car with six months NCT without ever having it checked by a mechanic.
If a pilot came on air before take-off and told us the plane hadn't been put through a full mechanical inspection, we'd be charging down the aisle quicker than he could say "doors to manual and cross check".
There's no doubt that the roadworthiness test is a vital aspect of road safety in Ireland and Europe.
But the sad truth is that the vast majority of motorists maintain their cars in good condition - purely to be able to pass the test.
In the last five years alone, the NCT has successfully picked up more than 25,000 dangerously defective vehicles.
Perhaps owners don't realise that legally it's their responsibility, and no one else's, to keep their car in a roadworthy condition.
And this applies 365 days a year - not just when it's due an NCT.
Buying a used vehicle is no different.
Import or no import, we have a legal and moral duty - not just to ourselves but to our families as well - to make sure that any car we intend to purchase undergoes a thorough mechanical inspection before we take to the roads.
I think this is something we can all agree on.