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Let the car buyer be aware

For most consumers, unless they're buying a house, the purchase of a car is the largest financial decision they will make all year. Purchasers this year are once again holding all the cards as dealerships, garages and private sellers try to offload new and old stock.

Despite this, consumers still want to squeeze as much value out of their purchase as possible and many of them are prepared to go anywhere, literally, for that bargain.

As we report today, the gardai are growing increasingly concerned about so-called "cloned'' cars that are cropping up regularly on the market. These are not cloned per se, but stolen vehicles fitted with fake identities and plates, which thieves try to pass off.

Car-cloning gangs are now netting profits of more than €200,000 a month. Many of the vehicles are being offered for sale on internet sites in particular, and in specialist magazines. The best way to deal with these individuals is to collapse their market, by going only to recognised and approved dealers. It is also advised that cars bought in a private sale are properly vetted and paperwork validated before being exchanged. Cash purchases are not advised.

We are warned that the more desperate a seller then the more suspicious a buyer should be. So the old advice remains the best advice -- if something is too good to be true, then it probably is.