Sunday 18 March 2018

'I saved at least €2k buying my car up North' - A winding road to a used car bargain

You could save thousands by buying a vehicle imported from the UK, says John Cradden

Shopping around: A shortage of used cars in Ireland has led people to go up North and to Britain for more choice and a better deal
Shopping around: A shortage of used cars in Ireland has led people to go up North and to Britain for more choice and a better deal

John Cradden

Paddy Lombard from Dublin was looking to buy a used VW Golf diesel estate, and took the opportunity late last year to look at several in Northern Ireland while on business.

The car he eventually chose, a well-presented year 2013 model with 46,000 miles and a fully stamped dealer service history, was found at a garage not far from Newry.

"The garage had a VRT printout available, so I could work out an accurate estimation of the final cost." He paid £7,250, and the €1,750 VRT brought the total price to just over €10,000.

"Similar-aged VW Golf estates were listing at €13,500 in Republic of Ireland dealerships and with much higher mileages, so I reckon I made a saving of €2,000 minimum," he said.

He did look at prices in Britain, but Northern Ireland "was every bit as good, plus there were no flights or ferry charges". The car has a six-month guarantee. "If I had to call on this, a trip back North would not be too much hassle."

The VRT process was fine, although he had to make a second visit to the VRT centre over a minor issue. "All in all, I feel I've got a better deal, as the car has some factory-fitted extras that you wouldn't get on similar cars here."

The winding road to a used car bargain

If you're in the market for a used car, the chances are you will have thought about buying one up North or in Britain rather than at home.

Motorists in Ireland have been importing used cars from the UK for years, but last year it reached record levels. According to the Central Statistics Office, we imported 92,508 used motors in 2017, up a massive 32pc on the previous year.

Michael Rochford of car history-checking website Motorcheck says the current boom in imports has been boosted by the exchange rate, but also the lack of used car stock here from when sales of new cars plummeted during the recession.

He says the trend looks set to continue judging by the 17pc growth in registration in the first 20 days of 2018 compared with the same period last year.

But he also notes that many motorists here are choosing to take advantage of the slump in demand for diesel cars in the UK following the 'dieselgate' saga, which in turn has hit residual values over there.

"This is not reflected in Ireland where demand for diesel is still very high. This will likely throw more fuel on the fire for cheap diesel imports," he says.

However, he expects that demand for used imports will peak soon, as the recovery of new car sales in the last three or four years means the stock of 'indigenous' cars will be replenished. Indeed, some are predicting a bit of a glut thanks to the popularity of PCPs - most of which are three-year deals and many of them due to finish this year.

But for now, if you want better value from your next used car, importing from NI or GB remains very attractive, but much appears to depend on the model, so you'll need to do your homework to be sure of achieving those savings.

We spoke to several punters who had all imported their current used cars from either Northern Ireland or Britain over the past six months, and who had saved between €2k and €11k (on cars ranging in age from six months old to five years old) by doing so. Most of them went up North, but some travelled to England because they felt there were more cars to choose from and better value to be had.

Besides the convenience, one advantage to buying in the North is that if you purchase from a dealer and get the usual six-month guarantee, you are more likely to be able to avail of it should something serious go wrong.

Our punters report that the whole process of paying the dreaded VRT and re-registering was relatively straightforward enough, but you might run into trouble if you opt for an unusual model that is (or was) not officially sold in Ireland.

There's certainly little loyalty to the Irish motor market given the value on offer across the border or the Irish Sea. The Irish Independent spoke to folks who had imported used cars recently but also had connections to the motor trade.

One of them bought a 2015 BMW 5 Series diesel from England with just 21,000 miles on the clock, paying a total of nearly €26,000 after costs, including VRT and re-registration. Similar cars on the Irish market were fetching €35,000 or more, he said. "I was calling into local garages in Dublin and watching transporters pulling up outside with yellow reg plates," he says. "I thought, if you can't beat them, do it yourself."

Another imported a low-mileage, high-spec 2014 Mazda CX5 for €17,500 all in, compared with similar cars ranging in price from €20,000 to €24,000. He bought the car from Charles Hurst, a major dealer in Belfast that actively markets to customers in the Republic, and was impressed with the customer service.

"The weekend that I collected my car, the salesman told me they sold 36 cars to southern customers," he says.

Irish Independent

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