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Second Hand Cars - What to Know Before you Buy

Car 5 min read

07 Jul 2019

Buying a second-hand car can be a great decision for the consumer. New cars depreciate so quickly, realistically the moment you drive them away from the dealership! A second-hand model can be kinder to your wallet. With so many dealers selling premium brand and top-quality second-hand cars, it can also be very convenient. Likewise, a lot of people are opting to buy second-hand cars from the UK with the savings to be made.
There may even be more savings to be made if you go with your car finance already sorted. That way you are effectively a cash buyer and may have more leverage with price negotiation. For more on this, check out our blog on credit union car loans.
One drawback with buying a second-hand car of course can be the absence of peace-of-mind. There is a wealth of additional considerations with a second-hand car. If you are prepared with the necessary information and checklists, you’ll have nothing to worry about.
So, we’ve taken a detailed look at buying second-hand for you below. We’ve also provided a section on buying second-hand cars from the UK.


Where to buy your second-hand car 

The first decision you will need to make is whether to buy second-hand from a car trader/dealer or privately. You should be aware that the rights you have as a consumer will vary depending on your decision. If you buy from a franchise or independent dealer, you will be protected under consumer law. You won’t have the same protection if you buy privately.
If you decide to go with a dealer, you can check if they are registered on the Society of Irish Motor Industry (SIMI) in the Republic of Ireland. Ask directly if in any doubt. In Northern Ireland, stick to mainstream dealers, or check the car manufacturers’ list of approved networks. If you opt to buy privately, don’t go on your own. Bring someone who has experience buying cars with you.
Regardless of who you buy from, you should ensure that the car matches the verbal description and/or advertisement. Both private sellers and dealers should provide you with all necessary second-hand car documentation. See the next paragraph for more on this.


Paperwork for second-hand cars

No one likes paperwork, but it would be a big mistake to skip over the paperwork with a second-hand car. Carefully read the documents provided and ensure they accurately match the second-hand car.
One of the most important documents is the Vehicle Registration Certificate (VRC) or logbook. If you are buying a UK car, or a UK import, you will need the V5C document. Both a private seller and a dealer must provide you with these. Both should also provide you with the car’s warranties. If the car is older than four years, there must be an NCT certificate (in the Republic of Ireland). When buying from a dealer, they must also provide you with the car’s service history/booklet. 

If you decide to buy the car, ensure you get a sales receipt. You should photograph this and also photograph the seller’s ID, if going privately.


Questions you need to ask about second-hand cars 

second hand cars checklistThere are a number of questions you should ask and have answered before you buy. You need to ensure the car is roadworthy. Your safety on the road is after all paramount. Ask if the car has ever been crashed before. If so, what damage was down and to what extend was it repaired.
In general, you should always ask if there has been any large-scale mechanical work done to the vehicle. Also ask if bodywork has been carried out. There may be underlying issues, such as rust, which could have been covered up. Ask if the mileage is accurate and for the mileage confirmed in writing.
Other important questions with second-hand cars are whether there is any outstanding finance. If you are buying privately and there is finance outstanding, then the car still belongs to the finance company. The seller has no right to sell it. If you are buying from a dealer, then they should settle the outstanding finance for you if you buy. However get them to confirm this in writing for you. There are several online companies providing checks to establish if there is outstanding finance on a second-hand car.
The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) also have this downloadable checklist for second-hand car buyers.


Test drive the car 

second-hand car test driveIt goes without saying that you need to test drive a second-hand car. First things first, the engine should start immediately and smoothly. Likewise, there should be no issues at all when turning the steering wheel.
Drive the car in every gear, and also reverse it. Don’t drive with the radio turned up as you need to be vigilant to any strange noises the car might make. Take as long as you want, and drive a reasonable distance, and on a number of different surfaces. Ensure there are no strong smells of oil, petrol or diesel. Test the brakes, ensure they are immediate and don’t screech. Ensure you are happy with how the brake pedal feels when you apply pressure.
Don’t let the dealer or seller distract you by talking during the test drive!


A second look  

There are a number of checks you can carry out yourself with a second-hand car. You should look under the bonnet, check the engine and the oil. Ensure there is no rust, and also check the body for rust. Satisfy yourself there are no cracked lights or serious dents/damage. The CCPC website provides a checklist for everything you should examine as a second-hand car buyer.
You should also have it checked independently before sealing the deal. Bring the car to a mechanic you trust and get them to do a complete check. Don’t hand over any money until you are fully satisfied the car is in good enough condition to be roadworthy.


Best way to pay for a second-hand car

Even if you bag a great deal on your second-hand car, there will still be a substantial sum of money to hand over. The most straightforward way to pay for this is the traditional car loan. Credit union car loans are the most upfront loans you’ll be likely to get. This is because there are never any hidden fees or charges. The credit union will work with you to structure repayments in a way that best suits your financial circumstances.
In the event you wish to pay off the loan earlier, you can do so without any penalties. You may also benefit from a loan interest rebate at the end of the year. Not to mention the fact your loan is protected and won’t be passed on to your family in the unlikely event of death. Check out our blog for more info on the benefits of a credit union loan.

Buying second-hand cars from the UK


second hand cars in IrelandSecond-hand cars imported from the UK continue to rise in popularity with the Irish consumer. In fact, the latest Consumer Market Monitor (CMM)* says second-hand UK imports will overtake the number of new cars sold in Ireland for the first time ever this year.
There are a number of factors to consider before making the decision to buy a UK imported second-hand car.

  • Buy from a recognised car dealership in the UK and avoid buying privately if possible. Shop around online and ensure you are getting the best value possible. Choose your car before you go.

  • Inform the UK authorities that you are exporting a car by obtaining and filling out the V5C document

  • Make an appointment for a Vehicle Registration Tax (VRT) inspection once back in Ireland, and you will also need to make the VRT payment. 

  • You may also need to pay VAT if the car is less than six months old or has less than 6,000 kilometres clocked up.

  • You will need to purchase new registration plates. 

  • Ensure you are fully up to date with all requirements and documents needed for importing a car by consulting the Citizens Information and Revenue Commissioners websites. 

  • Don’t forget to check out your local car dealership. There is often great value to be found right on your doorstep. Don’t forget you have to factor in the cost of VRT, possibly VAT, new registration plates and fuel to get you home from the UK when importing a car. 

* Published by the Marketing Institute of Ireland and the UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School.